Dave Koch '21 races into the MSL program after 30 years in public health

Dave Koch ’21 MSLDave Koch '21 MSL

After working in public health for 30 years, Dave Koch ’21 MSL decided to come to Mount Mercy in order to attain a master’s degree in strategic leadership.

“Thirty years is a long time, but it has gone fast. I started taking classes at the University of Nebraska for my MPA, and I stumbled upon the Master’s in Strategic Leadership (MSL) program. I was naturally drawn to the strong leadership component of the curriculum,” Koch said.

Koch currently works in a local, county-level public health department. Every day, he hopes to be challenged to meet the increasing health needs of the people they serve, whether it be from providing health care to the uninsured or underinsured or preparing for the next public health emergency.

“We have a very rewarding career when we can prevent a major outbreak that the general public was not aware was a threat,” said Koch.

Koch’s typical day mostly resembles an administrator’s day—meetings, emails, planning, and securing funds to continue their work. Mount Mercy’s MSL program was a perfect fit for helping Koch lead his staff and inspire them to open their minds to different possibilities.

“The format of the MSL classes is a huge benefit to a busy life,” said Koch. “Meeting one night per week is ideal and not overwhelming. The five- or 10-week blocks, compared to an entire semester, are another benefit to the structure of the MSL program.”

Most MSL students work full-time and have family responsibilities. Taking classes on top of a busy schedule demands a certain level of drive and perseverance.

“My advice would be to really understand what it is you want and why you want to earn an MSL degree,” said Koch. “I think without a clear purpose the long days are even more challenging to get through. I believe the MSL program is beneficial to anyone, at any level in their organization—whether you're a formal leader with a title or an informal leader that leads a work team. The courses and discussion are relevant to our day-to-day work.”

This commitment to one’s purpose is paralleled in Koch’s commitment to triathlons. Being in an office for 10 hours a day drives Koch outside as much as possible on his days off. Work-life balance is important for everyone, and Koch does the best he can.

“My daughter and I biked from Canada to Mexico eight years ago and had a fantastic time!” said Koch. “Since that ride, I’ve been dreaming and planning to cycle the perimeter of the U.S. after I retire.”

When he turned 40 and realized he still didn’t know how to swim, he signed up for a spring distance triathlon. After his first triathlon, Koch was hooked. Fourteen years later, he is now training for his first half Ironman in Texas this fall. Next November, Dave plans to compete in the full Ironman distance in Arizona.

“I often think of a line from The Great Debaters, where the father tells his son, ‘Do what you have to do today, so you can do what you want tomorrow,’” said Koch. “I remind myself of this quote often when I’m writing a paper or on a four-hour training ride.”

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