Strategic Finance Degree Aids Housing Inequality Change-Maker
Chris Stemm has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and dreams of owning his own business. So, after the Ohio native went to college for his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at Ohio University, he started building houses and developing land for a trial period while deciding between jobs and professional schools .
The experiment, he said, turned into three decades.
“Owning a business offered a favorable work-life balance, and I worked outside frequently – both important merits when I was younger,” Stemm explained . “Later, I began feeling like I was spending way too much time thinking about fashionable designer kitchens and sales while I wanted to solve problems. I am a lifelong learner, and I felt the same as when I was in my 20s, seeing endless possibilities. I wanted to start a new career and go back to college.”
That college ended up being Bellevue University, where Stemm, who currently resides in Zanesville, Ohio, recently earned a master’s degree in strategic finance. He’s now pursuing a Master of Professional Studies degree – a career-focused interdisciplinary program at Bellevue University that enables students to design a degree plan. For Stemm, this means he’s studying a mix of data science, business analytics and finance.
“I believe the combination of these skills with my background in engineering are the competencies needed to make an impact in the field,” he said.
One big reason Stemm chose to further his studies at Bellevue University was the university’s commitment to social awareness and public service, which aligns with his personal mission.
“During years of real estate development, I witnessed a growing crisis in housing affordability and quality, and I decided that my second career would be tackling housing inequality – a problem with enormous social consequences,” he said. “As a graduate student, from the first week of my first class to the last week of my capstone course, an emphasis on social responsibility and ethics guided our studies.”
At Bellevue University, Stemm added, students are taught to lead by example.
“I learned that corporate social responsibility is good business,” he said. “Business leaders who exhibit ethical behavior promote a risk-aware culture in the company resulting in an enterprise that is more resilient. Small indiscretions by individuals can collectively bring down the whole organization. Transparency and open channels of communication are the keys to effective management.”
One standout staff member for Stemm has been Sandy Styles – his “North Star during my time at Bellevue.”
He added, “She checks in with me multiple times each quarter with reminders, to see how my classes are going and just to offer encouragement.”
In the future, Stemm hopes to expand on his career by working at a government agency, non-profit organization, investment fund or startup company, where he could put his degrees to use and do innovative work in real estate analysis and finance.
Ultimately, Stemm illustrates how graduates from Bellevue University’s Strategic Finance program can apply their degrees in a range of professional fields. According to Program Director Dr. Kevin Schieuer, Bellevue University’s strategic finance graduates work across industries ranging from financial planning to risk management.
And for Stemm, there was no better place to enhance his career trajectory.
“As an online student, my favorite part of attending Bellevue University was working with students from all over the world having diverse backgrounds and careers,” he said. “I learned a lot from my classmates in addition to the class materials and instruction. In hindsight, Bellevue University was the obvious choice for me, and I am looking forward to the journey ahead.”