Beth Redfearn came to Iowa to coach the Hawkeye women’s rowing team. She left with a business degree and a new career as a technology consultant.
Story and photography
Tom Snee

As the coxswain on a collegiate rowing team, Beth Redfearn was adept at keeping the hull of her shell straight and true, cutting a clean line through the water while always moving forward.

Her career, though, has meandered about like a canoe caught in a current. 

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Beth Redfearn stands in front of the U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C. The Department of the Treasury is one of her clients as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton.

“I tell people I’m on my third career now,” says Redfearn, who earned an MBA from the Tippie College of Business in 2015 and moved on to become a lead associate with the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm in Washington, D.C. 

Redfearn took up rowing while a Chicago high school student and competed as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was the coxswain and co-captain for the Badgers while earning her journalism degree. She returned home after graduating for a career in advertising, but the lure of the water called her back: She went on to earn a master’s degree in exercise and sports studies from Smith College, starting a new career as a rowing coach. 

That’s what brought her to Iowa in 2011, as the assistant coach of the Hawkeye women’s rowing team. 

“I saw that boathouse and I thought, ‘That’s it, this is where I want to be,’” says Redfearn of the Beckwith Boathouse, a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of the university’s campus. But after a couple of seasons as an assistant, she started to think about what might come next. 

“Coaching is a dream job, but it’s also hard work,” she says of all the time that coaches put in at practice, on the road recruiting, and at competitions. So she applied to the Tippie College of Business’ MBA program, thinking it might start her on a path to athletic administration.

“Giving up rowing was tough,” she admits. “It was my hobby and my passion, and I was making a living at it, so that was hard to let go. But getting my MBA opened up so many opportunities for me that I had never considered.”

Her academic work focused on marketing and business analytics, and one discovery she made about herself is that she really likes working with technology.

“I didn’t know that,” she admits. She worked on several student-managed marketing and technology consulting engagements with real-life business partners. One client was a financial services firm looking to get millennials interested in retirement investing. Another, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, needed to market a telemedicine program that was rolling out to rural areas. 

“Getting my MBA opened up so many opportunities for me that I had never considered.”

Beth Redfearn
Iowa alumna and a lead associate with the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm in Washington, D.C. 
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Tom Gruca, professor of marketing, oversaw Redfearn’s work on some of those field projects. He remembers her as hardworking and willing to learn about new concepts and new tools on her own. She also easily adapted to a project’s constantly changing parameters, something that not all students can do.

“Her ability to learn new tools and techniques is so impressive,” he says. “Change is constant and only those who can learn things on their own will prosper. More than many students, Beth learned the key lesson of graduate business education; it’s not what you learn that is important, because all business knowledge has an increasingly short shelf life. What is key is that you learn how to learn fast.”

Redfearn also interned with the university’s Office of Strategic Communication and with the Associated Press’ digital strategy group in New York City. When Tipple’s career services connected her with a posting for a digital strategy consulting role with Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation Group, it seemed like the perfect blend of business, technology, and communications that she was looking for in her next career. 

They hired her after she graduated in 2015, and the shell finally started to straighten out. She’s now a part of the firm’s Finance Energy and Economic Development (FED) group and helps manage the team that works with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to implement the Digital Accessibility and Transparency Act (DATA). The 2014 law requires federal agencies to post all spending data online in forms easily accessible by the public. Her team manages all aspects of the treasury department’s public-facing website,, and the Data Lab. 

She also seems to have opened a pipeline of sorts between Iowa and Booz Allen. One of the few Hawkeyes working there when she started, she’s seen two or three new Iowa graduates hired each year by the firm and has served as a mentor to many. 

Redfearn doesn’t row much anymore. She’s content to admire the teams practicing on the Potomac from shore. When it comes to team-building, escape rooms and kickball have proved more popular among her junior teammates. 

But so much of what she learned as a competitor and coach has helped push her career along. She says that working together as a team, being a servant leader, removing barriers, and building a strong team culture are vital skills to success, whether plying the Iowa River or working with the treasury department.