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Spencer Stires

The program’s value extends beyond the curriculum; I learned just as much outside the classroom as I did inside

Finance - Student

Spencer Stires, a graduate of Haslam’s class of 2019, is currently pursuing a Master’s of Financial Mathematics at the University of Chicago, where he seeks to uncover the complex relationships that underlie and govern movements of market prices.

“I began at the University of Tennessee as a Psychology major," he says. "Finance, to me, was just another responsibility imposed by adulthood. It wasn’t something I was getting excited about, and especially not something I wanted to dedicate my life to studying. That changed when I realized how quantitative and multidisciplinary finance can be.”

He attributes this change to a spark of curiosity brought on after a family-friend enticed him to read a book on financial derivatives.

“The book went over my head, but it left me intrigued enough to reorient and explore this other career path,” he says. From there, he credits Haslam’s professors for fostering his potential.

“My professors were exceedingly generous with their time," Stires says. "I would regularly hang around after class to further discuss ideas with them, and often I visited their offices for advice on a research project or job hunting tips."

His professors also encouraged him to get involved with student organizations, like the Tennessee Capital Markets Society and Torch Funds.

Reflecting on his experience in Haslam, Stires says, “The program’s value extends beyond the curriculum; I learned just as much outside the classroom as I did inside."

One thing he learned is that careers in finance can take many forms, and while Stires says he chose the most quantitative, he still finds opportunities to be creative.

"That’s a consequence of finance’s multidisciplinary nature," he says. "The best creative ideas come from an uncommon insight or unconventional thinking, but any creative idea one has should be tested, validated, and optimized. Consequently, finance presents an opportunity to be both imaginative and rigorous.”

Stires has spent two years working as an intern and analyst at a wealth management firm in Memphis. There he was able to apply what he had been learning to real-world problems.

“My work experience vindicated my interest - I saw firsthand how real-world problems can be solved with the tools and techniques I was learning in Haslam,” he says.

For his academic research, Stires is investigating the extent to which text data can aid in predicting corporate distress and bankruptcy.

“Today, I am committed to my career choice, and that allows me to lean in,” Stires says. “I attribute my conviction to the UT community. The people of Haslam were actively invested in my development and success. That’s the Volunteer spirit everyone talks so much about.”