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Rothbardt brings business experience to teaching position

Barry McNamara
08/30/2018
MONMOUTH, Ill. – During the course of her career in management, Monmouth College faculty member Julie Rothbardt realized she wanted to pursue a path in higher education.

Now, the recently promoted associate professor hopes her students approach their college education as though they’re already in the workforce.

“I believe in stressing time management,” said Rothbardt, who teaches in the College’s Department of Political Economy and Commerce. “One way for students to do that is to treat school as their full-time job – get up, get breakfast, and then go to work or, in their case, go to class. And if they don’t have a class until 11 a.m., use that time in the morning from 9 to 11 to study. In the afternoon, work until 5. Get their academics done in that time frame, and then have time for sports or student activities or Greek life – whatever they’re involved in.”

Rothbardt, who joined Monmouth’s faculty in 2012, said she stresses “practicality” in her classes, which typically focus on human resources and global corporate social responsibility.

“I want them to think about how the things they are learning apply to the business world,” she said. “For example, consider the focus on data analysis. I want them to understand how managers are using data to make good business decisions.”

A recent real-life example came in her “Human Resources” class, after a major company made headlines for unethical business practices.

“It was almost like a gift,” she said of the valuable teaching lessons the company provided. “I was able to show the students, ‘These are things you shouldn’t do.’ They were able to take what they were learning in class and apply it to the contemporary world.”

Rothbardt has also spent time covering the Family Medical Leave Act and other employment laws.

“We talk about the benefits that come from the law and why we have the law,” she said. “Some of the topics we discuss have been the focus of recent political rhetoric. I try to facilitate discussion without giving my political view. I want the students make their own informed decisions. ... I like the interaction I have with my students, as well as with my colleagues. We learn from each other. Students often have a different perspective. As generations change, there can be a different way of looking at things.”

Catching the teaching bug

Rothbardt did her undergraduate work at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Penn., where she studied chemistry and Russian. That degree led to work as a process and environmental chemist for Lafarge.

She became interested in how people are motivated in the workplace, so she completed a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Iowa while working for Deere and Co. at its headquarters in the Quad Cities. Among other duties, she was responsible for the recruiting of the company’s interns and benefits administration.

She also “did quite a bit of corporate training” for Deere and for MRA, an employers’ association in the Midwest. The more training she did, the more she realized she liked teaching.

“I always liked school – teaching, learning, keeping up on current issues,” she said. “While I was at Deere, I really caught the bug to teach, and I was hired as a visiting professor at St. Ambrose University,” where she also earned a doctorate of business administration.

Practicing what she teaches

It’s clear that Rothbardt understands how to manage time. In addition to teaching at Monmouth, she owns two businesses with her husband, Greg.

“We started Sagecar Solutions, Inc. from scratch in 2010,” she said. “It provides safety and HR training and consulting to industrial and construction companies, helping them protect their most valuable asset – their employees.”

The other company, Hanson Industrial, services and sells industrial pressure washers, pressure washer parts, generators, heaters and air compressors.

“We do a lot of work with agricultural customers and construction companies.,” she said. “My husband and I like to joke that we have our board meetings at 11 p.m.”

In addition to talking shop at home, another trick to juggling her occupations is multitasking. Rothbardt drives an hour each way from the Quad Cities to teach at Monmouth, listening to “many, many books” on her commute. Among her recent favorite “reads” are Pachinko, by the College’s 2018 Commencement speaker, Min Jin Lee, and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

“And sometimes it’s just complete brain candy,” she said of her other choices.

Rothbardt also spends a lot of time “in bleachers and auditoriums” watching her three children, Sam, George and Callie, play sports and perform music.