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John 'Andy' Anderson: Climbing to heights in classrooms and on mountains

John 'Andy' Anderson: Climbing to heights in classrooms and on mountains


First in a series on this year’s 20 Under 40 winners.

CEDAR FALLS – John R. “Andy” Anderson doesn’t think twice when given the choice between doing something the hard way or the easy way. “I’ll choose the hard way every time. It’s just who I am.”

He was pleased to be named one of the Courier’s 20 Under 40 recipients. “It’s nice that people thought of me for the award. It’s great recognition for the hard work, and I work hard at everything I tackle.”

That’s not surprising to anyone who knows Anderson. He’s an avid mountain and rock climber, an entrepreneur and an academic who believes in “practicing what I teach.”

At 35, Anderson is an assistant professor of management and John Deere Faculty Fellow at the University of Northern Iowa. He also is owner of TransChina Solutions LLC in Cedar Falls.

His experiences as a businessman and climber give him “real-life examples to use in the classroom,” he said.

UNI President Mark Nook nominated Anderson for the 20 Under 40 honor. “He is one of UNI’s exceptional instructors who bring international experiences into the classroom while inspiring and encouraging students to explore opportunities to make the world and the university a better place.”

Anderson is the first Iowan to climb the treacherous east face of Mount Everest. He has reached the top of Alaska’s Denali, the tallest mountain peak in North America, and climbed to the top of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

In July, he successfully climbed the granite “Nose” on El Capitan in California’s historic Yosemite National Park.

Altruism also is at the heart of Anderson’s avocation. The Kilimanjaro climb, for example, was part of the Radiating Hope climbers, a nonprofit raising money to build a cancer treatment center in Moshi, Tanzania. His wife and UNI business instructor, Yi Cheng, and his cousin and climbing partner, John Anderson, a certified rock climbing and mountaineer guide, also made the trek.

Together Andy and John launched Iowans for Everest to take veterans on outdoor adventures. “I take a holistic approach to health and wellness, and I enjoy helping people. Bringing together my love for climbing and my compassionate nature is bringing together the best possible worlds,” Andy Anderson said.

“For me, climbing is a way to mentally take myself out of daily life for a while. All the trivial things melt away, and you’re left with time to think. Just go and climb. Every time I realize that what matters most in life are relationships with other people,” he explained.

The Everest climb took 52 days. When they reached the “death zone” above 26,247 feet where most of the 200-plus climbers who have died on Everest succumb to the high altitude, the Andersons were the first to discover another climber’s newly deceased body. Many bodies are left as a reminder of the dangers inherent in the climb.

“You think about those things, but being preoccupied by it means you’re not focused. You have to be focused, sure of your training and preparations, and you have to come to terms with death. You convince yourself that you’re better prepared. You have to believe in yourself,” Anderson said.

How he handles climbing challenges is a good example to his two children, he said. They sometimes run or climb with their parents.

Anderson’s own parents introduced him to the outdoors while living in Alaska. “Then I began rock climbing and got really passionate about it. I built a rock climbing wall when I was in middle school. It went from there,” Anderson recalled.

When he graduated a year early with his bachelor’s degree in supply chain and operations management, Anderson had a good job lined up in Salt Lake City. Instead, he took a year’s unpaid internship in China.

“I’d never been there before and couldn’t speak the language. It was a challenge, and it really broadened my horizons. I grew up.” He stayed for four years.

Anderson earned his master’s degree in management science at University of Lancaster, and his doctorate in management at the University of Durham, both in the United Kingdom. He taught in the master of business administration program at Drake University in Des Moines and at China Agricultural University in Beijing before accepting the post at UNI.

“I take a holistic approach to health and wellness, and I enjoy helping people.”

“I take a holistic approach to health and wellness, and I enjoy helping people."

John Anderson pull quote

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