St. Olaf College | News

Liberal arts education prepares students for business success

St. Olaf College seniors (from left) Erin Kelly, Ryan Johnsrud, and Rachel Turbeville will join UnitedHealth’s corporate development group.

As the manager of corporate development at UnitedHealth Group, St. Olaf College alumnus Bobby Hunter ‘08 can attest to the business world’s reliance on individuals who are able to think quickly, critically, and creatively.

“There is no better preparation for future success than a well-rounded liberal arts education,” says Hunter. “All of those attributes are developed and refined through the diverse curriculum and experiences that students receive at St. Olaf.”

That’s why he regularly recruits Oles, this year hiring Erin Kelly ‘14, Ryan Johnsrud ‘14, and Rachel Turbeville ‘14 to entry-level positions as analysts for UnitedHealth’s corporate development group.

Hunter has long been involved in on-campus recruiting efforts and was instrumental in building a successful relationship between UnitedHealth and the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career. It was with his previous position at the investment banking firm Piper Jaffray that Hunter saw firsthand St. Olaf students’ potential to thrive in the challenging, fast-paced environment of the corporate world.

“When I transitioned to UnitedHealth Group, where we operate in a similar environment that features immense responsibility and high exposure to senior-level executives within an ever-evolving health care industry, I knew the same abilities that allowed individuals from St. Olaf to excel at Piper would apply at United,” says Hunter.

An education that goes beyond the classroom
While all three share a double major in mathematics and economics, each of the St. Olaf students Hunter hired this year is involved in extracurricular activities that they believe helped extend their education beyond the classroom and into the office. Both Kelly and Turbeville act as co-captains and coaches of the St. Olaf dance team, while Johnsrud is a forward on the soccer team.

Turbeville’s involvement with the St. Olaf Board of Regents Student Committee as a representative for the Class of 2014, along with working in the Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation on campus, prepared her for the rigors of analyzing data for businesses like UnitedHealth.

“Both of these roles have given me valuable experience in research,” she says. “I was able to develop my analytical and communication skills, as well as prepare data for national dissemination through publications, conferences, and data-sharing organizations.”

Furthermore, Johnsrud and Kelly experienced the business world hands-on through summer internships that helped strengthen their interests. Johnsrud took part in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, which encouraged him to apply the following summer as an equity research intern at Hunter’s previous firm, Piper Jaffray.

“The people I was working with showed me the ins and outs of analyzing a company’s financial performance,” explains Johnsrud.  “The whole experience gave me an extremely valuable foundation in real-world finance, but it’s also exciting to know there’s so much more to learn.”

Between tutoring, serving as a teaching assistant, and acting as a research fellow assistant in St. Olaf’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Kelly, too, spent her summers immersing herself in the medical business world. After interning as a Rockswold Health Scholar at Hennepin County Medical Center, Kelly spent her most recent summer as a financial planning and analyst intern at UnitedHealth.

“It showed me the type of company UnitedHealth Group is, and that it was a place I wanted to work,” she says.

“St. Olaf does an unparalleled job of equipping students with the ability to learn quickly while keeping an open mind,” says Hunter. “I have extreme confidence in each of their ability to hit the ground running at United and become long-term valued contributors to the organization.”