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Chris Stuessy

Two Paths Converged in an MBA

by Christopher Stuessy Friday, March 9, 2018

With the ice on the lakes soon to thaw and the official first day of spring only a few weeks away, it is now the time of year when the 1st year Bolz students begin considering their 2nd year applied learning project scholarship placements (formerly known as the PA). The applied learning project offers students the ability to partner with a campus or local arts or cultural organization while pursuing the MBA, and was a major part of my decision to come to UW Madison. It is also one of the vehicles in which this program can be “customizable” for the different paths that each Bolzie may take, allowing us to pursue our individualized passions within the non-profit arts sector. Thinking back to this time last year, where I would be placed for my 2nd year was a difficult decision after having had such an amazing experience with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in my 1st year, but ultimately helped to guide me to my current placement. 

I did not necessarily follow a traditional path on my way to the Bolz Center. My background often provided comic relief during Arts Seminar in our first year as I introduced myself to guest speakers, telling them I had degrees in Opera Performance and Accounting and leaving most perplexed as to how those two disciplines managed to be thrown together. However, that is precisely why the Wisconsin MBA has been ideal for me, allowing me to merge my passions and providing me with new experiences and ideas on where the two disciplines can intersect. Of all of those experiences one of the most impactful has been my placement this year working within the finance department at the Overture Center for the Arts.

The Overture Center is a long-term supporter of the Bolz Center and regularly offers opportunities to students, but when I joined the finance team last September I was the first Bolz student that they knew of that had asked for a finance placement. From the moment I arrived I was treated as part of the team and was able to work directly with the CFO as well as every member of the finance department. During my first semester my role was primarily as a Financial Analyst, engaging in special projects that allowed me to see different aspects of the organization. The CFO tasked me with projects ranging from research into form 990 filings of arts organizations across the country to provide a comparative analysis to Overture to analysis of internal organizational structures and procedures to help increase efficiencies. These projects showed me that there is a way I can pursue a career in finance while still offering support to the arts and being able to help provide access and inclusion to the broader community.

Being able to work with the Overture Center this year has been truly rewarding and I am greatly appreciating the experience.  I hope that I can be a resource to any future Bolzies who might want to follow a similar career path.