8 a.m. with the Coffee Man

By Christine Cox | Fall 2014

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Madeleine Witt (’16), a management consulting and peace studies major, mastered the skill of writing a business plan in Stevens’ class, which helped her land a summer internship with SoDE, a nonprofit that assists victims of human trafficking through business solutions. She wrote a sample business plan for the interview process that won her the internship. Witt later sent Stevens a business plan she was working on for his opinion. “He gave me some excellent pointers,” she says. “He just can’t do enough for his students.”

An ardent supporter of many nonprofits in his personal life, Stevens connects his MBA classes with local nonprofit leaders to assist with areas they’re looking to improve.

Nancy Owsianowski, director of development for RiverBend Cancer Services of South Bend, worked with some of his student groups, who provided marketing ideas and strategies to effectively incorporate volunteers. RiverBend has provided free counseling, education, programs, financial assistance and more to cancer patients and survivors and their loved ones for more than 70 years. 

Owsianowski at first figured that students would approach this as an academic exercise. But she was soon impressed with the level of attention from the students, from the thorough examination of the organization and its challenges, to the formal presentation of potential solutions. She says the organization has incorporated some of the steps already, and plans to implement even more of them in the future. 

“The level of detail they went into with their solutions and their thoroughness was probably from getting direction from Chris,” she says. “He’s a fantastic listener and is able to distill issues by listening very carefully. And he has such a caring spirit.” 

Invested all the way

ND MBA student Jordan Karcher (’15) was looking to start an online coffee business when he first heard about Stevens last fall. Though he hadn’t taken classes from the Coffee Man, Karcher’s friends urged him to get in touch with Stevens for advice. 

“He told me, ‘I love your idea. You should definitely do it,’” Karcher says. “He gave me contacts in the coffee industry, too, that have been invaluable. The fact that he came forward with his expertise and helped me push my business forward meant everything. Professor Stevens was the last catalyst we needed to get this company off the ground.” Grounds & Hounds, which donates 20 percent of sales to no-kill animal shelters, launched in March and is seeing greater success than expected (see back cover).

Malik Zaire, a sophomore quarterback on the Irish football team, also never took a class from Stevens, but met with him last fall to discuss his dream to launch a nonprofit to help disadvantaged middle school students explore career pathways. “I explained my idea to him and he helped me clean it up and understand what I need to do in my next steps,” he says. “He even put the foundation proposal on his final exams for students to brainstorm. I came to him with this urgent passion for this foundation to help kids and he was on board from day one. ”

Zaire was not expecting the level of support he got from Stevens. “He knows what it’s like to take risks, to be in a secure place and step out of that comfort zone. He knows how to gauge an idea and how to take that next step. And he’s not afraid to fail,” Zaire says. 

During Mendoza’s undergraduate commencement ceremony in May, student after student stepped out of line to throw Stevens a quick hug before heading across the platform to receive their diploma. “I love my kids. For them to want to hug the old man is something that really warms me,” he says. 

Stevens received the University’s Frank O’Malley Award and Mendoza’s 2014 Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau, C.S.C., Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. “The mission of Mendoza is to Ask More of Business, and it’s something I take to heart,” he says. “I want it to be part of my students’ DNA.”

Though Stevens has guest lectured at several institutions, he’s clear that Notre Dame is the only place he’d teach.

“Half the world’s population goes to bed hungry every night, and 50 percent of the U.S. population will live in poverty by age 65. So business has got to do more, share more, drive more.

My goal is to help students not only learn to solve business problems, but also to help prepare them for life and to help others. That’s the Notre Dame way, and that’s why this is the
only place I’d ever want to teach.”  


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