UNI Wilson Business students dominate Iowa Excel competition

UNI Wilson Business students dominate Iowa Excel competition

UNI students on Excel spreadsheets
Left to right: Lauren Osborn, Kailey Novak, Megan Aulwes and Joel Powell
Not pictured: Carter Miller

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – In a remarkable achievement, students at the Wilson College of Business at the University of Northern Iowa swept the top three scores for Excel certification in the 2023 Fall Qualifier Microsoft Office Specialist Iowa State Championship. UNI students captured five out of the top six positions among the 500 students who took the exam in Iowa. This accomplishment positions them in the top 1%, solidifying the Wilson College of Business as the leading institution for Excel certification. 

Lauren Osborn, a sophomore business management major from Johnston, claimed the top Excel score in Iowa. She’ll represent the state at the 2024 U.S. National Championship held in Orlando in June. 

“I am excited to represent UNI and to meet people across the United States. Florida will be a great experience to network and show off what I have learned,” said Osborn. “Computers and tests are not my strong suit, so being able to see my hard work of studying pay off is such a blessing. I am definitely nervous about taking the test, but I am currently taking Business 3000 to get my expert Excel Certification.” 

Megan Aulwes, a family services major from Chariton, and Joel Powell from Waterloo, studying business analytics and finance: financial management, round out the top three scores. Kailey Novak of Cedar Rapids, an accounting major, earned fifth place and Carter Miller, a construction management major from Albert Lea, Minnesota, earned sixth. 

“We’ve learned over time that Excel is one of the top two skills necessary in entry-level business positions, regardless of major,” said Betsy Ratchford, instructor of management information systems. “Employer demand for graduates with Excel skills is why the Wilson College places such an emphasis on providing opportunities to learn the program.”

The Wilson College of Business places a strong emphasis on equipping students with in-demand skills. Not only are courses on Excel and other programs offered through its Professional Readiness Program – some of which are required for business students to take – but they are often intertwined with regular coursework. 

The mastery of Microsoft Excel has become an indispensable skill, evidenced by the fact that 80% of middle-skill jobs now demand Excel proficiency. Last year alone, Iowa saw nearly 22,000 unique job listings that specified the need for Excel expertise, with an anticipated growth rate of 18% over the next two years. This highlights Excel's crucial function across various industries but also underscores the necessity for current and future professionals to master Excel to meet employer expectations. In recognition of this essential skill set, the Wilson College of Business has incorporated Excel training into its academic offerings.

“Wilson College's focus on Excel proficiency in our Professional Readiness Program and integrated into our more traditional curriculum is a direct response to what we hear from employers. Their employees need this skill,” said Leslie Wilson, dean of the Wilson College of Business. “We want to ensure our graduates are ready for business, exceeding the expectations of their future employers. I’m so proud of what our students have accomplished and excited that Wilson College is leading the state in Excel proficiency.”