Don Mueth in recent years has logged significant volunteer hours for various committees at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
A member of the UMSL Business Leadership Council and the Finance and Legal Studies Advisory Board, Mueth has focused his efforts on helping his alma mater better prepare students for the workforce. But little did he know he would soon reap some of the educational benefits he helped refine.
Mueth, who has spent the past 17 years as the chief operating officer for Asset Consulting Group, returned to the classroom in December as a candidate in UMSL’s Doctor of Business Administration program. He’s one of 12 practitioners involved in the inaugural cohort hoping to gain practical knowledge and tools to help solve complex business problems.
“It’s been a long time since I have been in school, so picking up some new skills and new knowledge that apply to our business was really the selling point of the DBA versus a PhD or other programs,” said Mueth, who earned a BSBA from UMSL in 1984. “It’s very focused on practitioners.”
This sentiment is one he’d heard in conversations he’d had over the years with Thomas Eyssell, associate dean for the College of Business Administration, director of graduate studies and now co-director of the DBA program. Mueth has come to know Eyssell well through their mutual involvement on the Finance and Legal Studies Advisory Board, so enrolling in the DBA program was an easy decision when applications opened for the first cohort.
“He’s been talking about this program coming for a long time, so I’ve been paying attention to that,” Mueth said. “I really respect the work that he does, so I knew it would be a good program. I am also on Dean [Charlie] Hoffman’s leadership council, and he too has talked about this program. I greatly respect him and the work that he does for the university. He has been a big proponent of the program and that also influenced me.”
A father of four, Mueth was additionally inspired by his children’s recent college experiences. He said watching them leave home one by one for various universities encouraged him to keep learning himself. Now an empty nester, Mueth decided the time was right to return to school both for personal growth and to bring fresh ideas to the 50-person team he helps lead at Asset Consulting Group.
“As a managing director of our firm and part of the management team, I saw the program as a way for me to learn something new,” Mueth said. “I know that I am going to be able to take the information and knowledge that I gain and bring it back to our business and hopefully help make us a better firm.”
Part of that growth is already noticeable through coursework, particularly lessons focused on blockchain technology. The decentralized system behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has wide-ranging applications but is of particular interest to financiers. Mueth was eager to learn about the developing technology from Mary Lacity, the Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Information Systems at UMSL.
“For the financial services industry, we just have a toe in the water,” Mueth said. “We are not quite sure what it means or where it is going to go or what impact it will have on our business. Learning about that whole area and how it might apply to a business such as ours is important.
“There is new technology, new theories, new trends, new ways of running a business and working with clients. All of that is new knowledge for us. I’m certain that there will be a number of other things I will learn that will apply either directly or indirectly to our business.”
Developments in technology have also been some of the biggest changes in teaching methods since Mueth’s undergraduate experience at UMSL. He says he is still learning how to navigate current classroom models but has settled in quickly.
“Getting back to school work was initially a shock to the system,” Mueth said. “Anytime you start something new, you are trying to figure out expectations and settle into a routine. Now that I have done that, I’m really enjoying it.”
So far he has particularly enjoyed collaborating and learning with the other members of his cohort. In addition to online learning, the group gathers one weekend a month at UMSL, but Mueth says he doesn’t mind exchanging his days off for intensive learning sessions with his peers.
“They are a great group of people – the kind of people you would want to hang out with anyway,” Mueth said. “I applaud the administrative team for getting this group together. I think everybody works hard, is focused and really engaged in the class. Everyone pretty much comes from different professional and educational backgrounds, so I have learned as much from them as I have from the professors.”