The magazine for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at
Iowa State University

DAC Spotlight: Judy Ralston-Hansen

What she does: I am the Executive Vice President of HR and Administration at Homesteaders Life Company in West Des Moines, Iowa. I oversee all HR functions including employee relations, legal compliance, salary and benefit administration, organization development, and training and development, along with administrative services and facilities. I spend my days helping our employees be as productive, developed, engaged, and content as possible. I’m also a member of our executive team that sets and manages the strategic direction of the company.

The best part of her job: Without hesitation, the variety. As part of the leadership team in a smaller company, I have the opportunity to go beyond a more “traditional” HR role. While I thoroughly enjoy the HR element of my job, being part of “running the business” is equally fulfilling.

Her proudest accomplishment: I’m proud of the on-going contribution I make to Homesteaders’ success though the coaching and mentoring I provide to our new and tenured leaders through the development of a comprehensive training program for our agents.

Current philanthropic activities: I have a passion for life-long learning and I’ve been able to channel my “philanthropic energy” primarily in this area. In addition to serving on the Dean’s Advisory Council for LAS and being a member of the Order of the Knoll, I currently serve as board chair for the Iowa College Foundation. I also serve as board chair for Employee and Family Resources, and am on the Board of HCI Care Services (formerly Hospice of Central Iowa). Finally, I am an appointed commissioner on the Planning and Zoning Commission for the city of Urbandale, Iowa.

Get involved and don’t restrict yourself to an “obvious” path.

The impact her LAS education has had on her career: A degree in liberal arts and sciences provided me with a strong foundation for not only my career, but my life in general. It gave me the opportunity to experience a multi-faceted education with very diverse perspectives. My LAS course curriculum included a little of everything – from literature and history to science and engineering classes. Best of all, it taught me how to learn and has inspired me to continue to do so throughout my life.

Remembering influential faculty and staff: Dr. Roy Parks was an instructor for two of my industrial engineering classes. What makes him standout in my mind was, not only was he an excellent instructor, he had “real world” experience prior to joining the teaching staff so he made the course work come to life. He also made it very clear what I would be getting in to if I chose a career in human resources (and I still chose it!).

Another impactful staff member was my advisor, Mary Lees, who was the one who suggested I pursue a degree in industrial sociology (ISU’s answer to a degree in HR at the time). I was floundering my junior year as to what I wanted to focus on. I had “test driven” multiple majors and was still undecided. I was considering counseling or social work as an option and Mary asked a life-defining question: “Have you ever thought about getting into Human Resources?” She said it was “sort of like counseling for adults in the work place (and it pays a lot better than social work!).” It truly was one of life’s turning points.

Advice for current LAS students: Get involved and don’t restrict yourself to an “obvious” path. For example, a history major doesn’t necessarily just need to be a history professor. While that is a very honorable and excellent profession, a history degree could also prepare you for many roles in the corporate world, such as research, communication, or marketing. As mentioned, an LAS degree prepares you not only for a career, but for life!

Favorite ISU tradition: Veishea.
Favorite class: Industrial engineering. It was the first insight to my future reality.
Most memorable experience: Walking across campus in the fall – there is no campus in the country that can beat it!

Connect with Judy:
Judy Ralston-Hansen