Experiential Learning and Professional Development

A hallmark of Iowa graduates is their ability to “hit the ground running” when entering their first position upon graduation. Throughout the two-year program, the Department’s coursework provides students with individual and group experiential learning experiences as well as opportunities to develop professional skills, allowing students to be fully-prepared to enter the workplace upon graduation.  Many of these experiences are provided by alumni of the program. These opportunities provide students with insights into the healthcare field and their professional development as well as the opportunity to complete a project that contributes to the organization’s effectiveness.

Experiential Learning

On-Site Visits (Class Trips)

The Department of Health Management and Policy conducts annual on-site visits to exemplary health care organizations across the Midwest. Students meet with key executives from the organizations, and learn about most current issues in health care and policy. Recent visits have been to Des Moines, Omaha, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.

Consulting Projects

After the first semester, many MHA students take an elective course during which they work in teams with a local healthcare organization on a current initiative. In the past, students have worked with leaders at both Mercy Iowa City and The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Recent projects included developing the specifications for an electronic medical record system and improving patient and staff satisfaction with nutritional services.

Graduate Assistantships

Students who are awarded graduate assistantships have the opportunity to gain additional practical experience in various healthcare settings while also receiving a monthly stipend and a scholarship that is applied to the student’s tuition. Learn more about Graduate Assistantships and other Financial Aid.


Students complement their academic training with an administrative internship between the first and second year. Interns benefit from observation, direction and evaluation by a preceptor, contact with diverse health care practitioners, attendance at various management meetings, and direct participation in projects. Past students from the department have participated in summer internships at such diverse organizations as community-based hospitals in both urban and rural settings, academic health centers, children’s hospitals, medical group practices, insurers, and medical device companies. Learn more about the MHA Summer Internship Placement.

Administrative Practicum

After the first semester of the program, students have the option of taking a for-credit course to gain additional experience with healthcare related projects. A practicum is a semester-long project within one of the area healthcare organizations where a student works with a local healthcare executive on a current initiative within the organization. Recent students have completed practicums in revenue cycle management, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance and strategic planning.

Case Competitions

Each year, groups of students in the department elect to participate in case competitions to find the best solution to a healthcare-related problem. Past case competitions the University of Iowa MHA students have participated in include the University of Kansas Regional Case Competition, where Iowa students took first place in 2013, and the University of Alabama in Birmingham Health Administration Case Competition where Iowa students were finalists in 2014.

Interdisciplinary Program for Graduate Students in Aging

IPGSA is a two-semester sequence of weekly learning opportunities, led by faculty from five different colleges, designed to improve graduate and/or professional students’ understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by the aging population, interdisciplinary approaches in providing care to older adults, professional and scientific literature striving to educate and improve the lives of older adults, and experiential learning opportunities by visiting area agencies, organizations, and institutions in Johnson County that focus on care of older adults in the following settings: institutional care, community care, and community service settings.

Professional Development

Career Development Seminar

The University of Iowa and executive search firm Witt Kieffer partner annually to provide a professional career seminar. The purpose of the seminar is to prepare students for successful entry into the healthcare field and to help them begin long-term career planning for their future as health administration leaders. The seminar includes a panel of experts addressing career planning, networking, and work and family life balance, and opportunities for students to develop phone and in-person interviewing skills.

Speed Networking Seminar

Each fall, several alumni return to campus to present a seminar on effective networking in the healthcare field. The seminar includes an opportunity for students to ask questions related to networking and several opportunities to practice networking with the attending alumni.

ACHE Congress on Healthcare Leadership

Each year, a high percentage of program students attend the annual ACHE Congress on Healthcare Leadership. Congress events includes a special student track, professional development, opportunities to network and learn from peers and executives, and the latest information for career enhancement and addressing healthcare’s challenges in innovative ways. The Department and the Iowa affiliate of the ACHE’s Higher Education Network, ISAHL, provide partial funding support for student attendance. Learn more about the American College of Healthcare Executives and ACHE Congress.

Mentorship Program

The Program facilitates a formal mentoring program designed to facilitate individualized and meaningful experiences for and between students and mentors.  The program includes an online portal that allows students to match with alumni that share their interests and experiences.  Many of these relationships last long after the student has graduated.

Presentation Skills Seminar

Annually, two program alumni hold a presentation skills seminar for current first-year students. During the seminar, students practice their formal presentation skills while being video-taped and receive direct feedback on presentation skills and style from the alumni and classmates.

Professional Development Seminar

Professional Development Seminar is a one-credit course students are required to take each semester that brings health care managers and policy makers from across the nation to the Iowa campus. Authorities in the field discuss current issues such as competition in the health care industry, quality assurance, management of specialty group practices, service for the medically indigent, ethics, career paths in health care, resume building and interview preparation. Student also engage in case analyses based on management situations alumni have had to resolve. The Seminars enable students to interact with both faculty and practitioners in the field.

Other Opportunities

Interaction with Local Professional Healthcare Associations

Students have the opportunity to participate in several area professional healthcare membership organizations as members, board members, or event attendees. Organizations include, but are not limited to the Healthcare Financial Management Association – Iowa Chapter (HFMA), Iowa Association of Healthcare Leaders (IAHL), and Chicago Health Executive Forum (CHEF)

Hourly Work and Other Projects

Some students seek out additional paid and unpaid opportunities at University of Iowa Healthcare and other healthcare organizations to increase their experience in the healthcare field during their time in the program.

Student Leadership Positions

Within the program, students have the opportunity to add several student leadership positions to their resumes. Students can compete for positions in the Iowa Student Association of Healthcare Leaders (ISAHL), the Program’s affiliate of the ACHE Higher Education Network, or for positions on the Department’s Student Leadership Council. Positions within the department include class representatives and positions on the recruitment, alumni, and faculty liaison committees.


Students within the Department choose to gain additional healthcare experience by volunteering with local healthcare organizations. Students can volunteer with The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy Iowa City, and the Iowa City VA Health Care System, among others.