Alumni Conversations speaker series kicks off with UMSL alumnus Joseph Stieven

A man stands at podium on a stage with an audience while another man stands to the side.

UMSL alumnus Joseph Stieven kicked off the Alumni Conversations speaker series with a talk entitled “Ethics: A Foundation for Success.” (Photo by August Jennewein)

Last week the University of Missouri–St. Louis Alumni Association presented the first in a six-part speaker series called Alumni Conversations, featuring distinguished alumni sharing wisdom from their career experience on a different theme.

The series is a collaboration between the Office of University Advancement and the College of Business Administration, and it was developed to allow students to connect with and glean professional insights from UMSL alumni who’ve had impact in the region.

The inaugural event took place on Ethics Day and was entitled “Ethics: A Foundation for Success,” UMSL alumnus Joseph Stieven, the chairman, president and CEO of Stieven Capital Advisors, L.P., in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater in the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

The series was conceived by Stieven and his wife, Mary, and inspired by Stieven’s relationship with his mentor, St. Louis businessman Elliott Stein, who he regarded as a pillar of ethics. It aims to assist students in their professional and personal development.

Stieven explained how the series was created and its intention to the audience.

“We thought it would be a great way to help our young students understand the importance of ethics,” Stieven said. “We want this to inspire you, letting you hear real life stories of UMSL graduates on how important ethics are to success on the road of life. And all of this, while providing you with a great chance to interact and network with these people.”

More than 100 students attended the event, which also included remarks from UMSL graduates Warner Baxter, executive chairman of Ameren; Orvin Kimbrough, chairman and CEO of Midwest BankCentre; Marcela Manjarrez, former executive vice president and chief communications officer at Centene; and Sandra Van Trease, former group president at BJC HealthCare.

Dan Lauer, the founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate, introduced Baxter, Manjarrez, Van Trease and Kimbrough, who all spoke briefly before Stieven addressed the audience. Each recounted experiences from their professional careers that centered on ethics, with Manjarrez noting that it only takes one misstep with integrity to break public trust.

Stieven spoke about his career and Stein, who served as an example of not only ethics but also humility. The talk was anchored in Stieven’s “top ten list of guiding principles,” which included “always tell the truth” and “pressure is privilege” as from his perspective, it puts one in a position to be expected to excel.

One point Stieven repeatedly drove home for students was “excellence attracts attention,” encouraging them to always put their best foot forward in life and in business.

In relaying how ethics are central to his business, Stieven discussed the tight code of ethics at his company, which demands integrity professionally and personally to remain in good standing at the firm.

After finishing his talk, Stieven took questions from the audience. One attendee asked him what he’d learned about ethics at UMSL, and he recalled that the lessons on ethics weren’t taught to him directly but rather through observing the attention, support and kindness professors gave students and peers. Stieven learned by example of what ethics looks like and how it’s implemented in daily life.

Students also had an opportunity to chat with the alumni at the end of the event. Many found the conversations and the general event to be impactful.

“I thought it was super interesting to hear from a lot of the CEOs of large companies and their experience at UMSL,” sophomore accounting and finance major Breanna Trail said. “Then to hear their story and the advice they have for us – I thought it was super insightful and definitely helpful as I start my career. I related to a lot of things they talked about.”

Another student, Devin Womack, a business major, left the event feeling inspired.

“I think one of my biggest takeaways,” he said, “is the fact that if we just believe in ourselves and others around us, there’s so much we can build and create within the community.”

Alumni Conversations will continued to be held during both the fall and spring semesters through 2025.

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