Upper Iowa graduate finds inspiration to change life at UIU


When Kelly Yessa applied for a new position within the company for which she worked, she was told by the personnel department that her application would not be considered because she lacked a bachelor’s degree. Yessa said she was infuriated. “I had been with my employer for 20 plus years,” she said. “When they wouldn’t even consider me, it prompted me to get my bachelor’s degree.”

Yessa chose Upper Iowa University and began taking classes in 2007 at the Wausau Center to pursue a degree in accounting. “I chose UIU because of its strong accounting program and because of the variety of learning modes it offered – classroom, online and courses through the mail. I loved the flexibility attending classes at UIU offered.”

Immediately, Yessa was impressed with the faculty, both their quality and level of experience. In addition, her peers in class often held high level, managerial positions, and she was able to learn from them as well. “I have had classes with presidents and other high ranking executives of companies, people who have served as consultants to the government, individuals who manage overseas companies, as well as having the wonderful opportunity of having classmates from other countries and being able to experience the diversity offered by an online classroom setting,” she added.

While attending classes at the Wausau Center, Yessa befriended many of these valuable business connections, and one day, out of the blue, one of her classmates called Yessa and asked if she’d consider taking a position at her company. “After working for the same employer for 27 years, I took a huge step and changed jobs. This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life, however, going to school at Upper Iowa made me realize that I was capable of so much more than my current employer could ever offer me. I knew I had to switch jobs in order to continue to grow.

“In hindsight, this was one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and I wish I would have done it sooner. This job exposed me to an entirely different aspect of the business world that I had never experienced and has been a pivotal point in my life because of the knowledge and experience I’ve gained with this company.”

Another pivotal point in Yessa’s life actually happened on the Upper Iowa University Fayette campus. She attended a one week summer short course program on campus, where students have to option to earn up to three credits in one week, plus attend school on the scenic residential Fayette campus. Prior to coming, Yessa had selected another college where she intended to pursue her master’s degree.

While on campus, she took the International Business short course taught by UIU Board of Trustees president Bob Firth, and his wife, Betty. “This was probably the most memorable class I’ve attended,” she said. “Bob and Betty exude a love and passion for UIU in everything they do, and that passion was absolutely contagious for those of us in their class.”

On the last day of class, the Firths took the entire class to breakfast and Betty sat across from Yessa. She encouraged Yessa to continue her education and to get her master’s degree at Upper Iowa. “I’m very glad I listened to her,” she said.

Yessa graduated from UIU in May 2012 with her master’s degree with an organizational development emphasis. Already, her degree has allowed her to move to a new managerial position at a company that develops assisted living facilities throughout the Midwest.

“I have been so impressed by the high caliber and quality of the Upper Iowa University instructors,” added Yessa. “This has truly been a life changing experience for me.”

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