2015 Best EMBA: Stacey Mueller

Stacey Mueller

Stacey Mueller


Purdue University, Krannert School of Management

Stacey Mueller knew it was time. Growing up, she’d witnessed her father losing his business. As a professional, Mueller has steadily built her business toolbox, earning a CPA and now an Executive MBA. Despite working in Montana, Mueller made an impression on her classmates in Indiana, even graduating with a near perfect GPA. Considered a “quiet leader” and a “team player,” she was best known for tutoring her peers in her areas of expertise. Outside of class, she served on several boards in Missoula, including the United Way and the Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to her MBA degree, she was recently promoted to CFO of Blackfoot Telecommunications Group.

Age: 47

Location: Missoula Montana

Family Members: Mike (husband), Bryn and Jacey (daughters), Jessica, Ben and Lennea (stepchildren), Anya (Ben’s wife and my daughter-in-law)

Undergraduate School: University of Montana

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Business Administration – Accounting

Where are you currently working? Blackfoot Telecommunications Group, CFO

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I experienced and saw with my own eyes what happened in my family when my father lost his business. As a young high school kid, I wondered what I would have done to help him had I had training. My Father is extremely smart, and entrepreneurial, but his formal education was in History, Art, and Spanish. I was good at math, had grown up working in my dad’s business, and knew at that time I was going to go to business school so I could help other business owners succeed. Hence, my lifelong pursuit of business knowledge, with an undergraduate degree in Business, CPA license, and now an Executive MBA.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still pursuing my education in in-formal non-degree programs yet longing to go to business school. I being 47 years old, and just finishing my MBA, have longed since my late 20’s to pursue this education. I am thankful to have finally been afforded the time and opportunity to do so.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I am currently in a new role as CFO for a telecom company, which I pursued and landed as a result of the MBA experience. So currently, I plan to stay with this company and utilize my talents to help drive value here. Long-term in this company, my goal would be to replace our current CEO when he retires, and lead from that chair. I also still have goals about leading a company with global reach. Depending on where life takes me and my family, I would pursue such opportunities to work and live abroad for a time and/or help a company expand its markets globally, either through a CFO role, or a Strategy role.

Favorite Courses: Hard to pick – I enjoyed SO many of them – but most favorite would be the two strategy classes (Strategic Management and Developing Global Management Strategies), Risk Management, Advanced Finance, Leadership & MIS, and M&A.

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? Early in my professional life the accomplishment of getting my CPA license and being hired to work for, at the time a Big Eight firm, (Deloitte & Touche) were major accomplishments that I am proud of. These accomplishments, I believe, set me up for a successful and interesting career. The accomplishment that I have just completed, graduating from Purdue University with an MBA, I am equally proud of. Going on to get my MBA has been a long time goal of mine, that I have always wished I was able to do earlier in my career as I could see the value in it for leading an organization. However, due to family commitments, job commitments along with the lack of a program in the area I lived, I was not able to continue my education. With kids grown and the flexibility of the new distance learning programs, I was able to pursue this goal of getting my MBA from a highly regarded institution, and still continue in my career. Working full time and not only earning my MBA, but graduating with a 3.98 GPA is a fulfilling accomplishment, and one I am very proud of.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? For my success in life in general, I would of course have to thank my parents, who encouraged me to always keep learning – by a dad who was extremely smart and intellectual to a mom who was also very smart, but was never able to go to college. I was raised to pursue dreams, no matter what the obstacles, and “by gosh” we were going to college – it was never an option or a thought in our household of anything other than that. For my success in the MBA program, I would have to thank my husband and family because without their support and encouragement I wouldn’t have been able to endure working full time, full time studies, and juggling the needs of a household, husband and family without them pitching in and giving me the freedom and time to pursue this.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? There were several reasons I chose the Purdue MBA program – first on the list was the reputation and the accreditation of the program. Purdue has a reputation for and history of being a very strong academic program. The other factor is the structure of the program.  Being from Missoula Montana, selecting the school I wanted with a great program and reputation while not being able or willing to quit my job and move to a program, made the structure of the program a critical element for me. With distance learning now so prevalent, and the ability to combine this with a limited amount of trips to campus through the six module approach at Purdue, was an ideal solution for my situation. And lastly, it was the people. From the time I started to inquire of their program at Purdue, I received personal, engaging, and responsive communication from the Director of the program on down. And the people element spilled over into the other students that were recruited and in my cohort. I knew with the structure of the program, that it would attract people from all over the world who were in a similar situation as me, which is a huge benefit to me not only on a personal relationship level, but also a professional one as well.

What did you enjoy most about the executive MBA program? I greatly enjoyed the whole experience. With my personal love of learning, the academic rigor and challenge was invigorating. I enjoyed very much getting to work with and personally know my cohort and many of my professors and staff at Purdue. Some of my greatest learning and challenge came from the knowledge shared in the classroom and in the study rooms with my classmates. The exposure to people from different walks of life, different cultures, and different professional backgrounds was inspiring and mind opening. And of course the international immersion was an experience I will never forget. Being my first trip abroad, it added such a depth of experience to the program on so many levels.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? Oddly enough, my most memorable moment was experiencing a tornado warning. Being from Montana, we have severe weather, wild animals in my backyard, and forest fires, so one would think a tornado wouldn’t faze me, but it did! I have never lived around such a phenomena and the whole experience was seared in my brain.  From walking back to the Krannert Center after lunch with one of my classmates (who is tornado experienced) on a warm, still, sunny day, and then hearing a siren go off. I of course had no idea what it meant, and my friend said “oh that’s a tornado warning we had better head to the building”, as she so calmly continues our walk as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Of course I must act calm as well but underneath I was freaking out a bit. As we get to the Krannert Center, the skies turn black and the wind starts whipping like I have never seen, and we are ushered to a tornado shelter in the basement. Where my classmates start showing up one by one until most are in the shelter. Then the lights go out, which the locals had predicted would happen just moments before. So we sit there in the dark for a few minutes until the emergency lighting kicks on, and we sit, and we sit. Until maybe an hour or so later, we head back upstairs, as we are told it’s safe. The ironic part of this story is that a few of us were gathering for a planned meeting. I, being a CPA, was going to tutor a few of my classmates to help them prepare for our accounting quiz the next day. Well, I guess word got out about it, and virtually the entire cohort was showing up for this “tutoring” session. So after we were all ushered out of the tornado shelter and up the stairs, I proceeded to give an accounting lesson on a white board, in a hallway, under emergency lighting, while the skies remained dark and the winds howled ever so loudly outside the window. Maybe this was the penalty for God creating accounting – I don’t know – but it’s an experience that is seared in my memory banks, and one I can now share with my husband, a Kansas boy. He told me stories of tornados but until this, I had never experienced the reality of one. Tornados did touch down all around the area that day, causing severe damage and taking out electricity, along with damaging severely the Subaru plant not far away, and delaying our class planned tour of the facility to another time.

Fun fact about yourself: I found out recently that I am a Daughter of the American Revolution

Favorite book: The Bible

Favorite movie: Dances with Wolves

Favorite musical performer: Chris Tomlin

Favorite television show: Mad Men

Favorite vacation spot: Maui, Hawaii

What are your hobbies? Hiking, camping, canoeing, rafting, skiing and traveling.

What made Stacey such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015 for your executive MBA program?

“Stacey Mueller is our nominee based on her intellectual capacity, leadership, and personality. From an intellectual perspective, she was an excellent student. Her work quality was high across the range of courses offered in our general management MBA. Statistics, finance, leadership, strategy, risk management, and more – she was always at the top of the class. Her background is in Accounting and Finance and she works as a CFO, yet she was the top student in the class in Organizational Behavior. Her GPA was the highest in the cohort, resulting in her being selected as this group’s Honors Scholar.

While strong academically, Stacey was also always willing to share her own knowledge and expertise, thus improving the experience for others. In the classroom, she was always engaged, contributing to class discussions and strengthening the insights for others. In her global strategy course, she was able to take her insights in local alliances and cross-border NGO work and apply to the challenges that others may face in similar circumstances. Stacey’s initial strength was accounting and she helped many of her peers in that course during the first module. But that willingness and leadership continued – it continued through the team’s consulting project for an NGO client and continued during our foreign residency as she helped fellow students focus on the experience at hand. As a mark of her leadership, some of her best moments helping others (tutoring during tornado weather; keeping fellow students relaxed during international travel challenges) were when she was most out of her comfort zone. Stacey is a quiet leader, she is not loud and visible. She is the consummate team player and her teams consistently looked to her for leadership and support.

Finally, Stacey is a very nice person. Any engagement with her, over coffee or a meal, by email or phone, was always constructive and positive. If improvements were needed, she provided ideas. If something was not going well for her, she would reach out and discuss the challenge. She had a smile on her face at all times. Having a student like Stacey in the program certainly made all the challenges of running the program worthwhile.”

– Dr. F. David Schoorman, Associate Dean of Executive Education

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