CSUF finance professor Mark Stohs and his wife, Joanne, on a board at the coast of Antarctica.

Mark Stohs and his wife, Joanne, in Antarctica

Mark Hoven Stohs has taught finance at Cal State Fullerton since 1996. His background, which includes teaching both philosophy and finance, provides a unique emphasis on business ethics.

A University of Wisconsin–Madison Ph.D. alumnus, Stohs’ research has appeared in such publications as the Journal of Business and Financial Management.

Stohs discusses how students can succeed in finance careers and why business ethics are so important.

What advice would you give to students on what it takes to succeed in finance careers?

Do well in your courses. Take an internship (or two). Get to know your professors. Learn to read, write and present your ideas, if you want to “get ahead” in the sense of being a manager. There are so many different ways of having a career in finance, it helps a lot to take a broad variety of finance courses (corporate finance, investments, real estate, insurance, financial planning and so on). And every company needs someone who knows about accounting and finance, so you have to find what particular area within or near finance that you like and try to do well. But it doesn’t all have to be in college. You have a lifetime to explore what you may like if you don’t have a passion right now.

What is one of the main things a business owner or young professional needs to know about business ethics?

That integrity, honesty and treating ALL people with respect and kindness, and with the rights that we all have, should be number one. If you make a lot of money and forget about that, you won’t have a happy, fulfilling or meaningful life. And if managers forget about these basic principles, they most likely either won’t succeed in business or will end up making serious mistakes. Many of the past business problems, the Great Recession for example, occurred in part because too many people ignored these basic principles of living.

Making money at business is great (and the manager’s job is to create value for the corporation) – but money alone doesn’t bring happiness. A college degree is great, because the large majority of graduates are able to obtain good jobs that provide the basis for a good life, whether in business or any other field. And understanding that virtually ALL jobs are within some form of business (even a school or a social work agency has a budget with revenue and expenses) is important for everyone to know.

What is your favorite travel destination and why?

Ireland. My wife and I lived in Ireland (before CSUF) and it was wonderful – the people, the history, the culture and the geography. Even learning about the “troubles” (conflicts between Catholics and Protestants) was amazing. But after living in Southern California for more than 20 years, we doubt that we could live in Ireland again (at least for more than a year or so). Aside from that, every place we’ve traveled to is worth visiting.

You have a double Ph.D. in philosophy and finance and previously taught philosophy. How did you gain expertise in both disciplines, and where do the two intersect?

They intersect, for me, with business ethics. I earned an MBA largely because I was teaching business, and I thought it would be important to know more about business while teaching business ethics within philosophy departments – and I had already earned three philosophy degrees and earned tenure in philosophy just after I finished my MBA.

What do you like best about being a college professor?

The combination of teaching, research and service. I like all three, and I’m pretty good at all three. It’s great to be in a career where you like what you are doing and can do the job well. Over the longer term (a whole career), a faculty member’s interest in those areas can change – one might start out having a passion for teaching, for instance, and then later it may turn into a passion for service, etc. I still like teaching a lot, but I’ve been doing it for MANY years, and at the moment I have a stronger desire to focus on the service and research sides of being a college professor.

For More on Finance

For more on the undergraduate and graduate academic programs in finance, visit the Department of Finance online. Or read more of our articles on the college’s finance education and related careers.