K-State graduate alumnus, Dave Hartman ’87 and ‘89, a vice president of Sentry Insurance in Plover, Wisconsin, discusses his experiences with his graduate degree, career transitions, and why he stays connected with the Graduate School.
Why did you decide to pursue a Master’s degree (JMC/Public Relations option) at K-State?
My final undergraduate year, I became interested in the business side of communications and how corporate campaigns and research are effectively deployed. I also alw
ays knew I wanted to pursue a graduate degree and the JMC Public Relations option fit really well with everything I was looking for.
Description of your career progression since completing your master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations (Positions held and key responsibilities)
I turned in the final materials to complete my degree at Fairchild Hall on a Friday in the late spring of 1989. The very next Monday morning I was on a plane to the west coast for the first time to begin my career. I started working for Zurich Insurance in Portland, OR in account management and after five years accepted a position as a market development manager for John Deere at their insurance company in Moline, IL. I was later promoted to region manager for seven northwest states and moved back to Oregon. John Deere eventually sold all insurance operations to Sentry Insurance and after a short transition, I was promoted to division manager and moved to Davenport, IA. I then relocated to our company home office in Stevens Point, WI and I have held positions in operational management in various Sentry business units over the last decade. I am now Vice President and Segment Executive for our Dealer Operations business unit. In current my role, I manage an organization with associates nationwide that is focused on business insurance and 401k plans for equipment, automotive and related businesses. With five corporate moves, being based in four different states and working for three great companies, it has certainly been a rewarding career.
How your degree and experiences at K-State prepared your for these opportunities?
I believe my master’s degree experience gave me an added advantage over the course of my career. During my graduate studies, I certainly had to hone my critical thinking, research and communication skills and I often think back to experiences and situations I worked through to complete my degree that I still use today. When you are in head to head competition in the business world, those are the skills that will carry you to success.
What advice you would give to current graduate students to prepare them for diverse career opportunities?
Focus on your specialty area and related research, but never forget that you must also have solid communication abilities to succeed in most fields. Your professors may push you in this area, and I can tell you that they need to. I have seen many great ideas or presentations get tossed aside based on someone’s inability to make a clear or compelling point.
What are of your favorite memories as a K-State student?
I always loved the campus at K-State and especially enjoyed the fall with the cool weather, changing leaves and football Saturdays. I really enjoyed the relationships I had with my fellow students and it is also impressive thinking back on how much our professors in the graduate program were invested in making sure we succeeded. I do occasionally smile today when I look at where technology is and think back to when I was a graduate assistant with duties that included monitoring our new Apple Macintosh computer lab. That was definitely cutting edge technology back in the late 1980’s.
Why you support the Graduate School and K-State through your philanthropic gifts?
My graduate studies really put the finishing touches on my education and the development necessary to succeed in business. I received the support I needed to complete the program and want to give back so the next generation of graduate students can have that same opportunity. The future is very bright for K-State and enhancing graduate program opportunities across the university helps strengthen our foundation.
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