Economics major discovers new path at UMSL
Derek Steiner’s love for baseball, eye for detail and passionate focus led him to the University of Missouri–St. Louis and a career path he did not plan.
Steiner grew up in Belleville, Ill., and graduated from Belleville East High School. He attended Lincoln (Ill.) College on a baseball scholarship and received numerous academic accolades.
It wasn’t until a call from Jim Brady, the UMSL baseball coach, that he started thinking about crossing the river.
“They had interest in me,” said Steiner. “I explained to him that I had torn my rotator cuff and was getting ready to hang up the spikes, but he told me to come to UMSL, rehab and get ready for the season.”
Steiner did. He started working out with the team, changed his major to business and found his home at UMSL. But a class with Susan Feigenbaum, professor of economics, helped him discover his place.
“She pulled me aside one day and said, ‘Is this easy to you?’ and I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ She told me then this is what I needed to be doing. I took the chance, became an economics major and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
He enrolled in the Department of Economics’ BS/MA Dual Degree Program, which allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years. He also became very involved with the baseball team, serving as a utility player and designated hitter for two seasons.
“Derek is a prime example of a student who has taken advantage of all that UMSL economics has to offer,” said Anne Winkler, professor and chair of the Department of Economics. “As with most economics majors, he did not enter UMSL with our major in mind but quickly discovered it was right for him. He has availed himself of the strength of our department — the many data-oriented courses offered and then added to this skill set through an internship and by working as a peer tutor and teaching assistant.”
Steiner credits the department’s strong cohorts and resources with helping him to be successful – mainly the Economics Resource Center — which also serves as one of the computer labs on campus and offers students a residential experience. It is a place where students can collaborate on projects and assignments and get help from peer tutors.
“It’s all about collaboration, and it’s been invaluable to my success,” he said. “It’s something the Department of Economics does very well to create and establish a collaboration among its students. Having a place to work with my peers, talk over problems and really help each other to better understand the material has been a huge part of what’s made me successful.”
Steiner will complete the program in May 2016 but has already landed a full-time job, which started in January.
“I did an internship last year with AT&T, working in the technology development department. At the end of the internship, they had all the interns team up and compete in an intern coding challenge,” he said. “My team took third place for our product, but first place overall for our pitch, which I presented. After that, they offered me a full-time position.”
Juggling his last semester of college and his first few months of his career will be a challenge, but he’s confident that he’ll be able to handle it.
“It’s something I think being an economics major here has prepared me for,” Steiner said. “The classes are challenging and demanding, but they teach you valuable skills.”
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