2017 Sioux Award honorees set

Designation is highest for UND alumni and traditional part of annual UND Homecoming celebration

2017 Sioux Award honorees are (clockwise) Tim O'Keefe, Al Royse, Lucy Dalglish, Jack Muhs and Jeanne Pfeiffer. Images courtesy of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

2017 Sioux Award honorees are (clockwise) Tim O’Keefe, Al Royse, Lucy Dalglish, Jack Muhs and Jeanne Pfeiffer. Images courtesy of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

As part of the 2017 Homecoming celebration at UND, the Alumni Association & Foundation has named seven honorees for the Sioux Awards Banquet set for Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the Alerus Center.

This year’s honorees are Tim O’Keefe, former vice president and CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation; Al Royse, retired national chairman of the American Heart Association; Jeanne Pfeiffer, an internationally recognized public health nurse; Jack Muhs, president of FedEx Express’ Middle East, Indian subcontinent and Africa division; and Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Also set to be  honored are this year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award recipients Eric Trueblood, co-owner of World War II aircraft restoration company AirCorps Aviation; and Jules Kotrba, global trade and customs manager with Pandora Jewelry.

The Sioux Award is the highest honor given by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation for achievement, service and loyalty. Since its inception in 1962, this distinguished award has been presented to leaders in government and business, high achievers in various professions, and alumni who have dedicated their lives to service for others.

The Young Alumni Achievement Award was established in 2002 to recognize recent graduates of UND who have made a mark in the short time since they attended the University.

The Sioux Awards Banquet traditionally has been part of the UND Homecoming celebration on campus and throughout the Grand Cities. Check out a complete rundown Homecoming events in the Alumni Association & Foundation’s 2017 calendar.

Tim O’Keefe

When someone shows uncommon loyalty for the University of North Dakota, it is said that they have UND in their blood. Sioux Award recipient Tim O’Keefe, ’71, no doubt bleeds Kelly green.tim-mug

Tim’s UND roots are much deeper than just his own time on campus as a student-athlete or his second career as head of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. Tim’s grandfather, Henry O’Keefe, graduated from UND in 1908, and still holds the record for most points scored in a single basketball game (56). His father and siblings attended as well, as have Tim’s own children.

O’Keefe was a four-year letterwinner with the UND hockey team. Following graduation in 1971, he was an educator and coached hockey at Fargo North High School. He then spent 23 years as a franchisee of McDonald’s restaurants and four years as a senior manager with Alerus Financial before being recruited to take over the Alumni Association & Foundation from the legendary Earl Strinden in 2002.

“I came and interviewed as a finalist and when I was offered the job it didn’t take long to accept the opportunity,” O’Keefe said. “I have, from birth, been raised as a part of this institution.”

At the encouragement of the board of directors, O’Keefe said he was tasked with creating a more focused approach to fundraising. That direction led to the creation of North Dakota

Spirit  |  The Campaign for UND, a $300 million fundraising campaign that was more than four times more ambitious than the largest campaign ever before attempted in North Dakota. The campaign launched its silent phase in 2006, and by the time it ended in 2013 it had raise more than $324 million in support of UND.

O’Keefe credits the hard work of his staff at the UND Foundation and the commitment of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation Board of Directors and the National Campaign Steering Committee for the campaign’s success. But the people who really made it happen, of course, are the University’s passionate donors.

“To be involved in philanthropy, you have to have a heart. You have to have passion for the cause. It was just so much fun to be in the center of the tornado, so to speak, that became the North Dakota Spirit Campaign and see the satisfaction that our staff achieved, that the University achieved, but especially that the donors achieved. It was just wonderful.”

A hallmark of the campaign and highlight of his time as Vice President and CEO was the fundraising for and construction of the Gorecki Alumni Center, the home of the UND Alumni Association and front door to campus for potential students thanks to the presence of UND Admissions.

“I smile every time I come here. It’s the same smile as when I go to Ralph Engelstad Arena,” he said. “I pinch myself every time I walk in either one of those places.”

O’Keefe is particularly proud of the team he built to handle the new emphasis on fundraising. He said he immediately began preaching the need to embrace change as his central philosophy.

“In order to be the best, you have to have that sort of embedded in your culture. It took time, but I think we accomplished that.”

Tim says working for the Alumni Association & Foundation was the “best time of my life.” He got to know so many accomplished people on and off campus, and helping alumni and friends of the University make an impact with their gifts was incredibly rewarding.

“At the end of day, it’s all about the people,” O’Keefe said. “The metrics are what they are and there’s a great sense of accomplishment in that. But I don’t reflect on the numbers, I reflect on the people and really take tremendous pleasure from that — especially in the great joy that donors have in giving back.”

Al Royse

Al Royse, ’72, ’73, ’76, was born to lead.

The retired partner from Deliotte & Touche and national chairman of the American Heart Association has an impressive resume. al-mug

But before he served as University of North Dakota Alumni Association & Foundation Chair — even before he was elected to the North Dakota Legislature — he was selling fruits and vegetables at his family’s business, Royse’s Watermelon Kingdom (now Royse’s Twin Cities Produce) in Mandan, N.D. Al, the oldest of five siblings, has always done what needed to get done.

“I remember selling watermelons when I was 5 years old,” he said. “I’m not sure that’s leadership, but it taught me how to interact with people at an early age.”

When Al came to the University of North Dakota in 1970, he planned to join the wrestling team, but a knee injury derailed that plan. So it was time to put his people skills and work ethic to use. From 1972 to 1976, he finished up his Bachelor of Business Administration degree, his master’s, and a Juris Doctor at the UND School of Law. He also spent time as a graduate teaching assistant – and still teaches as a guest lecturer the past six years through UND’s Executive in Residence program at the University of Shanghai.

While on campus, Al was elected president of the SAE fraternity, State Chairman of College Republicans, and, at age 22, became the second-youngest lawmaker ever elected to the North Dakota Legislature “at a time when nobody got elected under the age of 30 in North Dakota” – and was selected as the Outstanding Freshman Representative. He was also honored as his hometown’s Citizen of the Year by the Mandan Jaycees, an impressive honor for someone so young.

“Having a number of leadership roles develops your ability to go beyond just the norm and gives you experience that’s invaluable later in life,” Royse said. “What I think is really unique about UND grads is we have grit. We’re used to hard work. And you find that’s a significant distinguishing attribute in professional life. If you’re prepared to do the work and go the extra mile, it gives you a big advantage.”

Al is proof of the advantage of North Dakota grit. Midway through his 34 years with accounting firm Deloitte, he served four years as the Managing Partner for the Tax Practice of Northern California (including the San Francisco Bay Area and the Silicon Valley) — in a position that, though not the highest he served, he called the most rewarding. During that time, the practice quadrupled its revenue, leading all Deloitte firms in revenue growth and overall quality. Later, when he served as the first national managing tax partner of its Clients and Markets Group, Deloitte Tax was named the highest-ranked tax service organization in the world by International Law and Tax Review. He is still considered the godfather of many of Deloitte’s most innovative ideas and practices, and he is proud of his role in quadrupling the size of his practice, dropping the attrition rate to the lowest in the country, and improving Deloitte’s national reputation.

“I had the opportunity to lead and develop a vision for a large number of professionals, and I found that really rewarding,” he said. “There is very little more satisfying than helping people succeed.”

When Al retired as Senior Partner in 2010, a letter was sent to all of the firm’s partners, describing him as “a rare talent, a true leader, and an innovator.”

After retirement, Al dove into nonprofit work, making the decision to serve organizations with a history of getting results and directly impacting people.

He began by serving as board member and Chair of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. During that time, the organization underwent its largest fundraising campaign ever (the $324 million North Dakota Spirit campaign), tackled a divisive nickname and logo issue, and opened the new Gorecki Alumni Center. “The University has given so much to so many people, and it was nice to have the opportunity to give back,” he said.

In 2015, Al was elected to serve a two-year term as national chairman of the American Heart Association, the largest health care nonprofit in the country with over 32 million volunteers and donors. “When you think of the impact this organization has made on saving lives and improving people’s quality of life — it is incredibly rewarding, satisfying, and humbling,” he said.

He’s proud of the fundraising work he’s led with the AHA, opening doors for transformational research initiatives on heart health and stroke prevention and care. “We changed our vision from being a dispenser of information to being a catalyst for change,” he said.

He still serves on the board, and recently accepted the position of chairman of Voices for Healthy Kids, an alliance between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the AHA, with more than 30 national charities involved, designed to improve the health of all our children.

He also has found time to serve on his town’s city council, a number of other regional Bay Area boards and councils, and chair the Peninsula Family Services for Northern California.

Even in retirement, it doesn’t appear that Al Royse plans to step down from leadership anytime soon.

“I’m not a perfectionist, but I like to do things well. And when you do things well, leadership opportunities present themselves.” As Gandhi once said, “You need to be the change you wish to see,” and there is no better way to impact change than to lead it.

Jeanne Pfeiffer

Alva “Jeanne” (Kingzett) Pfeiffer, ’69, has served on international infectious disease response committees as an expert in infection control, but her greatest claim to fame may be a poster you’ve likely seen hanging in your doctor’s office.jeanne-mug

Back in 2003, during the worldwide SARS scare, Pfeiffer and a colleague came up with the Cover your Cough campaign. Working with a photographer/artist from the Minnesota Department of health under a tight deadline, Jeanne says they started on a Friday afternoon and had a poster and accompanying pamphlet nailed down by early the next week.

It quickly became ubiquitous in Minnesota and then took off beyond the state’s borders.

“It was the Monday of Thanksgiving week in 2003,” Pfeiffer recalled. “They did the press release at Hennepin County Medical Center, and that week 25 states and three Canadian provinces and Northwest Airlines picked it up. It’s gone all over the world. It’s still active today, and it’s 13 years later. The beauty of it is it doesn’t show sex, it doesn’t show gender, it doesn’t show race, it doesn’t show age. It’s easy to put your languages up there. I’ve had people send it back from Africa. Our soldiers in Kuwait saw it. It just took off because it was needed.”

Jeanne could not have imagined having an international impact as a child growing up in the small northern North Dakota village of Sarles. She loved to learn, but suspected the education she was receiving in her small school wasn’t adequately preparing her for the rigors of college. It was one reason that she didn’t consider going to the University of North Dakota to pursue her dream of being a nurse. But her mother, who had a two-year teaching degree, encouraged her to dream a bigger dream, so she went to the “big city” to attend UND.

“It was basically not because I got any counseling in school that way. It was because my mother had greater vision than I did at the time, and she wanted to see me there.”

After getting her nursing degree from UND, Jeanne was recruited to work at Abbott Hospital and then Hennepin County Medical Center, where she was soon taking on additional responsibilities. One “life changing” opportunity was to fill a new position as hospital infection prevention and control practitioner.

“Every day was kind of an adventure, and for me I didn’t get bored one minute.”

Jeanne says infection control was a new field in the early ’80s so she decided to obtain a master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis on environmental health including environmental microbiology and toxicology. So while working full time and raising a young family, Jeanne spent the next five years earning that degree.

“Every course I took, Hennepin County Medical Center was like my field experience because I immediately applied every one of the courses to the work I was doing there.”

Jeanne would spend the next 25 years as the director of the infection control program at Hennepin County Medical Center. She would become known as an expert in her field, serving as national president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control, representing the U.S. on the International Federation of Infection Control and editing a series of textbooks on prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections that is used in almost every hospital in the country.

When Jeanne reached retirement eligibility from Hennepin County Medical Center in 2005 she decided to pursue a new challenge working on an emergency preparedness grant for the University of Minnesota. When the grant ran out in 2008, this lifelong learner pursued a doctoral degree in order to work with the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing, where she was recently promoted to Clinical Professor.

Despite all her accomplishments, Jeanne said she is surprised to be honored with the Sioux Award by the school she wasn’t sure she was prepared to attend. “I would have never guessed in my lifetime. I realize that in order to receive it, you must have made a contribution [to society] and I said, ‘Did I have a contribution?’ I looked back over my history and I said, ‘Yes, you made important contributions,’ and I guess what it means to me is that the contributions were significant and it meant something and it’s inspired others. I’ve lit the fires of other people who are carrying it on.”

Jack Muhs

A college internship set up James “Jack” Muhs, ’87, to work his entire career with one of the biggest companies in the world.

While an aviation major at the University of North Dakota in the mid-’80s, Jack interned with Federal Express and now, 35 years later, he is the president of FedEx Express’ Middle East, Indian subcontinent and Africa division.jack-mug

Following his college internship, Jack worked part time loading planes on the FedEx ramp at Grand Forks International Airport. After graduation, he took a full-time job with the company in global management control, then came back to manage the ramp he once worked on as a college student. After two years back in Grand Forks, Jack returned to global management control and worked his way up the corporate ladder. In 2014, he was named president of FedEx Trade Networks, considered among the top 23 leadership positions at the $60 billion a year, 400,000-employee company. Just this summer, he accepted his latest role with FedEx Express, which had him relocating to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

“For my 31-year career, 23 or 24 of it was heavily involved in the aviation side,” said Muhs. “What I learned from the University of North Dakota in aviation has served me extremely well.”

Jack knew from an early age growing up in Towner, North Dakota, that he wanted to study aviation. His older brother Bob was one of the first students in UND’s new aviation program.

“My brother took me flying when I was 12 years old and I knew I wanted to be involved in aviation from that point. With a strong family history at the University of North Dakota [his parents and all but one sibling attended UND] and, besides, they had the best aviation program in the world — still do, in my opinion. So really it was easy for me to decide to go there. John Odegard had done just such a wonderful job of setting up the program.”

Jack says he received a lot of encouragement from the faculty and others he crossed paths with at UND. “They all knew what you could do. They opened up your eyes to the possibilities.”

During his time at UND, Jack was active in Delta Tau Delta fraternity and served as president of the interfraternity council. One of his initiatives was to emphasize leadership as an important aspect of Greek life.

“Those times at UND when I got that opportunity to take leadership roles were invaluable to me later on when it came to managing people and just trying to find a way to create win-win solutions for all the people that were involved.”

Jack carried that “team” attitude into his career, saying he measures success by the fortunes of those who work with him.

“I hope I never define my success by my title or by the money I make, but hopefully more by the people I supported and families that I’ve supported. A lot of people that work for me have families and they want to send them to college and they want to take care of them. I get more excitement and joy about that; that we made good decisions to help them do things that could support their families and make them grow and become bigger. Those are the big successes.”

Jack’ s two sons followed in his footsteps and earned aviation degrees from the University of North Dakota. Oldest son James is a second lieutenant in the Air Force and works with the 177th Intelligence Squadron of the North Dakota Air National Guard in Fargo. Son Thomas is a ramp manager for Federal Express in Fargo.

“When they both decided that they wanted to go into aviation, then the decision became very easy for them. They had family up there, they knew the school, they met people that had gone to UND. They’d seen the success that they’ve had, not just with their aunts and uncles, but also with friends that I had when I was in school there.”

Jack says it is humbling to receive the Sioux Award from his alma mater. “You do a lot of things in your career, not so much for the notoriety of it, but for the love that you have for doing your job and taking care of your family and those sorts of things. Then to have this come up and to be recognized with such a prestigious award, it’s not expected, but it’s very humbling.”

Lucy Dalglish

Lucy Dalglish, ’80, grew up three blocks from the UND campus. She says everything her family did seemed to be tied to the University of North Dakota in some way — from swimming lessons at Hyslop to sporting events to babysitting the children of faculty members. It’s those memories of childhood that make the Sioux Award such an honor for Lucy.lucy-mug

“I was astonished,” Dalglish said about the moment when she heard she would be recognized. “I am just truly humbled with this recognition.”

Dalglish is the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Prior to taking that position in 2012, Dalglish spent 12 years as the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. She’s also been a media lawyer and started her career as a newspaper reporter.

While at UND in the late ’70s, Lucy was managing editor of the Dakota Student campus newspaper. “That, for at least a couple of years, formed the basis of pretty much everything I did, having the opportunity to work for the Student,” said Dalglish. “And you grow up. You have the opportunity to run something. I learned how to run an organization by my experiences, and they can be endless if you allow them to be.”

After asking some pointed questions of Grand Forks Herald editor Tom Schumacher during a classroom visit, Schumacher called and offered her a summer job. Lucy credits Dr. Vernon Keel, head of the journalism department, with helping her land such opportunities.

“I was presented with one opportunity after another. And having gone to other universities and lived in other parts of the country, one thing about people in North Dakota is they’re happy when someone they mentored or someone they knew does well, and they get a sense of pride in helping others. And I just found one mentor after another at UND.”

Lucy graduated from UND in three years and started working at the St. Paul Dispatch (later merged with the St. Paul Pioneer Press). During her time at the paper, she took a fellowship at Yale Law School in which she completed the first year of studies. Upon returning to the newsroom, she was the paper’s federal courts and justice reporter.

Perhaps surprisingly, Lucy says it wasn’t a love of writing that drew her to journalism. “Writing’s OK and I’m reasonably good at it; [but] I just wanted to know what was going on. And if they would send me out on a story, I would always try to figure out what made people tick, what made an organization function, how the news affected people, and I just loved getting it right and getting it first.”

After tackling several editor jobs at the paper, Lucy decided to pursue a law degree. She moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt Law School. She found part-time work at the nonprofit First Amendment Center, and upon graduation decided to become a litigator rather than return to the newsroom.

Lucy went to work for Dorsey and Whitney in Minneapolis doing general litigation, but also specialized in media and first amendment cases.

“It was libel cases and reporters’ privilege cases, freedom of information cases,” said Dalglish. “I really, really enjoyed that.”

When the Washington, D.C.-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was looking for an executive director, Lucy was invited by the search committee to apply. In 2000, Dalglish took over as head of the organization, which provides pro bono legal representation and other resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and newsgathering rights for journalists.

“The First Amendment has been important to me since I was in sixth grade and I was writing editorials and we were selling the Lake Agassiz Hotline to people all over the neighborhood every Friday. Educating the public in an informed democracy is my passion, and I have been able to do things to further that interest in every job I’ve ever had. And that is really thrilling.”

In addition to her passion for the First Amendment, Lucy found that she also enjoyed mentoring interns that worked for the Reporters Committee. She figures she hired more than 150, and has followed their success. “To see them doing these things and furthering the cause just brings me enormous pleasure,” she said.

Dalglish, as the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, now gets the same thrill from seeing her students succeed.

With the fast-paced changes in journalism – some negative like the decline in newspaper jobs – Lucy says her college has had to rise to the challenge. That includes more skills classes to get students up to speed on the technology they’ll need to be multi-media journalists, while balancing the need for critical thinking classes. Overall, Lucy says she’s encouraged by what she sees in the attitudes of those entering the field.

“They’re not concerned about the future of journalism because they know it’s vibrant, and they’re fearless, they’re absolutely fearless,” said Dalglish.

That fearlessness is being instilled by the dean of their college, who has spent a career preserving the principles of free speech and an unfettered press.

Eric Trueblood

Out of 16 million World War II veterans, only slightly more than 500,000 are still living. Eric Trueblood, ’06, is doing his part to help tell their stories and preserve the memories of those lost.

Eric is co-owner of AirCorps Aviation, which specializes in the restoration, maintenance, and rebuilding of WWII aircraft for clients worldwide.eric-mug

“We are fortunate to have a wonderful team and to have found our niche working on some of the most historic aircraft in the world. When an airplane flies away from our shop it is as if they were flying off of an airbase in service during WWII,” Eric said.

One long term restoration project currently in the AirCorps shop is a P-47 Thunderbolt WWII fighter, abandoned in 1944 by U.S. Forces and recovered from the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Recently, upon inspecting the airframe for restoration, the names Eva and Edith were found written in grease pencil inside the wing. When the company wrote a blog post titled “Who are Eva and Edith?,” their phones started ringing incessantly. Eva and Edith were certainly Rosie the Riveters. Were they sisters? Could they still be living? CNN and other news outlets picked up the story, sending AirCorps into the national media spotlight. While they haven’t yet confirmed the identities of Eva and Edith, the story of these “Rosies,” a symbol of a unified and committed nation that built these aircraft, has helped to spread and preserve a piece of World War II history and the example of those who served.

The craftsmen at AirCorps dedicate 20-30,000 hours on a single aircraft restoration and are passionate about the authentic restoration work — restoring, repairing, and fabricating required parts for aircraft. But what Eric loves most is interacting with veterans, listening to and connecting their stories with clients and helping them mutually share their stories.

“We’ve been so fortunate that our planes have had a unique story to tell, but more importantly we have been able to align our business with those we work to honor. When you drill down to the true motivation of our clients worldwide, it is to honor veterans, and their service or sacrifice — that is a great honor and responsibility bestowed upon us,” Eric said.

At a manufacturing symposium several years ago, Eric happened to sit down next to a Duluth man named Hans Wronka, who told him the story of his grandfather, who had been shot down and killed in action during the waning days of World War II in the same variant P-47 Thunderbolt that AirCorps is restoring. Wronka was on a 12-year quest to find his grandfather, 1st. Lt. Loren E. Hintz, and Eric offered to support them as best they could. Eric was surprised, after a couple years of assisting, when he received a call announcing that ground scanners had found what they believed to be an aircraft matching the description of Hintz’s plane.

Eric was invited to travel to Italy and assist the archeology team with the excavation of the WWII fighter buried 18 feet down. The story broadcast worldwide as the search was successful in locating the airframe but more importantly located the remains of Loren Hintz, along with his dog tags. The remains will be interned in Florence, Italy, at the American Cemetery next summer.

“It was a really poignant story, and I was honored to be a part of it,” Eric said. “There are so few of those people that served our country during World War II left, and even fewer whose stories will be told. I think it’s really important that we to honor them and preserve their legacy.”

When Trueblood and his three business partners started AirCorps, a main value of their business was to act as a steward of the World War II story, and they began building their client base: mainly collectors of vintage aircraft.

“Our story is not unlike the numerous entrepreneurial stories coming out of UND — we bootstrapped the development of our business from the ground up, and it wasn’t easy. When we started out, we were basically airplane roadies. We would travel for work on what people wanted when they wanted,” he said.

Eventually, the four partners had enough capital to move into a building, and today they’ve grown to 35 employees in three locations: Seattle, Bemidji, and Minneapolis.

Eric received his bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of North Dakota, and says that while the academic part of his college career was challenging and enjoyable, his extracurricular involvement that taught him softer fundamentals of business such as building a team, accountability, instilling ethics and values, and how they treat employees, clients and anyone enthusiastic about their work has served him best.

“I’ve had and continue to rely on wonderful mentors from UND,” Eric said, and credited his work with Student Government, Phi Delta Theta, and helping to open and develop the Student Wellness Center as major events that have helped shape him.

“I had these people who kind of took me under their wing and invested their time. It wasn’t a curriculum that I was being tested on, but I think that they taught a lot of skills that are necessary outside of business operations.”

Eric uses those skills to serve his state and communities. Recently, Governor Doug Burgum reappointed Eric to the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation, and he finished his term on the Bush Foundation a year ago.

After growing up in Minot, coming to UND as “just a regular North Dakota kid,” Eric has built a world-renowned business.

“I work daily with fascinating clients all over the world. And it has never seemed out of reach. Thanks in part to my experiences at UND, I never felt that I wasn’t prepared.”

Jules Kotrba

Julianne “Jules” Kotrba, ‘07, loves to travel and her job as Global Trade and Customs Manager with Pandora Jewelry allows her to scratch that itch to explore on a regular basis.

“Whether it is for work or personal travel, the more you go,” she said, “the more you want to go.” Even though I just got back [from a trip to Chile and Argentina], I’m like ‘Well, when’s my next trip?’”jules-mug

Jules travels so much because she leads a team that handles all imports and exports for the company. Pandora Jewelry sells jewelry in more than 100 countries and has more than 22,000 employees worldwide.

Jules, who grew up in Grand Forks just 10 blocks from campus, says, though it took her five years to graduate from UND, that fifth year was crucial to helping her find her career path.

“In that fifth year I found what I really loved, which was international business and Chinese business and culture at the time. I had a really good relationship with Ken Mellem before he passed away. He was quite a big mentor of mine and took me under his wing when it came to the Chinese business program and his work that he did over there with the University of Shanghai.”

Jules also did work study all through college at the Center for Innovation. She says being around all those entrepreneurs was inspirational as well. When she finished her degree, she headed to China to teach English at the University of Shanghai.

With the thought that living abroad would “get it out of her system” and allow her to do a “regular” job, Jules returned to the U.S. to work for Target Corporation. The job of sourcing shoes from China for Target stores was a little too repetitive and basic though, so Jules was preparing to turn in her two-week notice when a coworker suggest she apply with the Global Trade Department.

“I fell in love with global trade and customs, I became a Licensed Customs Broker through them and through the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. I fell in love with the subject; I would read about it on the weekends. I even have Global Trade Magazine, something I read every month. I’m kind of a nerd.”

Jules was put on a team in charge of starting up a Canadian department for global trade, but then the company decided it couldn’t make the division profitable, so she was laid off. She says it was the best thing that ever happened to her, because she got a call from Pandora Jewelry to lead their trade and customs division for North and South America. It was exactly the international scope she dreamed about as a UND student.

“What is it that your brain trails off to think about?” Kotrba said. “What are you daydreaming about? Are you daydreaming that you’re outside all the time, wearing a suit all the time, what space are you in? What are you doing? Because most often if you’re going to be daydreaming about it, then you probably should be doing it.

“Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. I did when I was sitting in a classroom at UND when someone came into the room to talk about the Chinese Summer Study Abroad Program. Again, when I was getting my MBA, I thought ‘Heck, why not go on a consulting assignment in Nepal to work on a rabbit farm?’ Go, and do something and gain experiences!”

Jules says receiving the Young Alumni Achievement award brings home to her that she has done just that in pursuing her dream job.

“I really didn’t think I was doing anything out of the ordinary. Even though I think my job is really cool, and I love what I do and I’ve had some really amazing experiences, I figured, everybody does. I guess I’ve been so lucky to find an industry that I love and that it has become a success for me.”