There lies a steely grit beneath the pleasant and affable personality Janet Sichterman presents. Easy to say she's disciplined, but that would be an undersell. Sichterman takes discipline to a whole new level.
She has three – yes, three – master's degrees from the St. Ambrose University College of Business, each obtained over the course of a rewarding 24-year career in executive management.
She earned a Master of Business Administration degree in 1989, followed that accomplishment 15 years later with a Master of Accounting degree, and completed a sweep of College of Business master's programs in 2013, earning a Master of Organizational Leadership.
Raised primarily in New York and New Jersey, Sichterman traveled to central Iowa to pursue an undergraduate degree in textiles. Her plan was to return to New Jersey and launch a career in the clothing industry.
"I was going to get my degree and go back east," Sichterman said, "but when I graduated I was broke."
Sichterman followed an acquaintance to eastern Iowa and found work in customer service with Bandag – a manufacturer of tires in Muscatine, Iowa, that now is a part of Bridgestone. As she rose in rapid fashion beyond an entry level position, "I quickly realized I wasn't in textiles," Sichterman said with a wry smile. "And I realized I really didn't know anything about business."
She turned to the St. Ambrose H.L. McLaughlin MBA program, where the determined-to-succeed novice businesswoman found precisely the learning environment she needed. Night classes to accommodate a working adult's schedule. Available professors with real-world business experience.
Today, Sichterman is the executive vice president for enterprise innovation for the Kent Corporation, also in Muscatine. Kent is a privately-held firm in the food ingredient and agriculture industry with revenues of more than $1.4 billion.
Her impressive résumé includes executive roles in myriad sectors for Bandag and then Kent, including sales, human resources and communications, public relations and accounting.
"I do like business," Sichterman said, "and I love learning. I really wanted to learn about the business world and apply it to my job."
Sichterman said St. Ambrose not only offered first-rate graduate degrees, the school also accommodated her hectic schedule with a broad offering of night classes on the SAU campus and at regional junior college satellite sites. That's something other graduate programs didn't offer.
But Sichterman said St. Ambrose offers more-much more-than accommodation for busy professionals.
"It has always been very important to me to work in and for an organization with core values like my own," Sichterman said. "St. Ambrose is all about that. St. Ambrose is all about teaching you how to reach your absolute potential, strive for the top, and learn how good leaders lead."
Sichterman is passionate in her assessment of not only what is taught at St. Ambrose but also how it is taught.
"When I started my Master of Accounting, that was a whole new world," Sichterman said. "I still remember my first class and saying to myself, ‘I don't know how I can do this.'"
But Sichterman said Allison Ambrose, PhD, a professor of accounting and director of the program, offered realistic encouragement and persistent assistance.
"St. Ambrose is absolutely and without a doubt way up on the list in terms of accessibility and personal relationships between students and professors," Sichterman said. "St. Ambrose sees greatness in the student. At St. Ambrose, it's not about the professor; it's about the students, and that was a core value I shared with St. Ambrose."
– Steven Lillybeck