Reinventing Myself – Stephen Lewis ’86

Reinventing Myself – Stephen Lewis ’86

Interviewed by Brooke LePage ’19

BL: What have you done since leaving Trinity?

SL: I ended up getting a job offer at the Connecticut General Assembly right after I graduated. I happened to be in a situation where I was interning on the Public Health Committee, and the person for whom I was interning became the chairman, and he wanted to hire me. That was a fortuitous event.

I was thinking of going to law school or business school, but I ended up loving it and staying there for 13 years. The pay was pretty low, but I really, really enjoyed it. That was probably why I was a political science major in the first place—because I wanted to be in government. And being in the legislative arena was even better because I was helping people make policy and working on really interesting issues and making a real difference.

When I did get to law school, at UConn Law, I met my future wife. Well into our first year, we both realized we didn’t want to be lawyers, so I applied to UConn’s MBA program. If I was going to break out of working in the government and the legislature, I needed some kind of business credentials to get myself out in the private sector and have a chance to really demonstrate more value for the salary.

As soon as I got my MBA, I went to work for a consulting firm called American Management Systems that works for a lot of private and governmental clients on health care technology integration.

I ended up doing projects at Cigna and at Illinois Medicaid Agency. I commuted out to Springfield, Illinois for two years, managing a giant project there. I worked in Virginia on the centers for

Medicare and Medicaid services when they were implementing Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit in Medicare. Eventually I got tired of being a road warrior consultant, so I made a play to get a local job in the health insurance industry, and was hired by United Healthcare in Hartford. I’ve been there for 13 years now, and kind of reinvented myself for a third time, moving into sales strategy and analytics for the client management organization for their national accounts business.

It took me quite a long way away from being a political science major at Trinity, but the path was using a governmental and political science background to get into health policy, then moving into the private sector on the healthcare side, then moving into the health insurance business itself, then getting onto the sales side and the client management side and doing more with analytics.

BL: That’s great. It sounds like a lot of your political science courses helped you get those first few jobs and take your first few steps. Are there any skills that you think have been really important throughout your career?

SL: A liberal arts degree is really important for being able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing, to do analysis and understand the big picture, and be persuasive. I’ve hired people and you can tell the difference between people who have a solid liberal arts background, and how good they are at reading, analysis, writing, and speaking.

Now computers and technology are everywhere, but when I was at Trinity, it was just becoming a thing. I knew about computers from Trinity before the state government was even using them. It’s funny, I did my honors thesis at Trinity on a word processor and that was revolutionary at the time. I was able to bring technology skills into the legislature. I was the first one there to push to put everything online when the Internet first came out. Here I was, this young guy out of Trinity. Lo and behold, that’s what they ended up doing.

BL: That’s amazing. It’s funny how much we take for granted, the luxury that a computer is. I’m writing a senior thesis this year and I cannot imagine writing it with anything but a computer.

SL: My first couple years of college, I was using a typewriter because there wasn’t really a personal computer. That’s pretty shocking.

One of the great things I did after Trinity was take a trip with Trinity alumni and professors to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It was the summer after the Berlin Wall came down. The political science department and the economics department got some alumni together that wanted to tour East Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw, Minsk, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and Moscow, so I jumped at the chance to go and it was fantastic. It was one of the best things I’ve done, one of the highlights of my post-Trinity career as an alum.

BL: That sounds absolutely incredible.

SL: It was designed to be a political and economic tour of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. We met with political and economic leaders in every country, and were in Prague for the inauguration celebration for Vaclav Havel when he became the first democratically elected president of the Czechoslovakia. We went to Budapest and met with economic leaders who were bringing in economic reforms as the country was moving away from communism. We went to the Soviet Union and talked with political people who studied American government, for at that time it was still the Soviet government, and we were able to ask them questions. It was really interesting, a great experience.

BL: That’s an awesome story that I think is really cool to share. These stories show that your Trinity career really doesn’t end after four years, that you can keep in touch and continue to be involved with the campus community after graduation.

SL: I’m a political junkie and I can’t get over it.

BL: You’re preaching to the choir!

SL: At Trinity, I read a lot of newspapers every day. And when I was in the legislature, I had to stay on top of everything that was happening, especially in health policy, but in politics in general. Then Joe Courtney ran for Congress and I helped get him elected, and he’s been in Congress over since. Yeah. Chris Murphy was also on my committee; he was actually a staffer with me for quite a few years and now he’s our U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

BL: We were fortunate in the fall—Ned Lamont had a rally across the street at the Magnet School. Chris Murphy and Johanna Hayes, who recently was elected, were there, and Ned Lamont and Joe Biden. It was awesome.

SL: I was the treasurer for South Windsor Democratic Town Committee for four years, so I got into the details of how campaigns are regulated and financed, just kind of on the side, as a volunteer. I’m the chairman of Hockanum and River District in the Boy Scouts in Connecticut. I have a responsibility for the programming for 1,000 adult volunteers and 2,100 youth, and I do a lot of training of adult volunteers in conservation and computers in scouting. My Trinity background of being a teaching assistant for international law was an important experience, foundational experience for me both professionally and personally and helped me become a better trainer and presenter.

BL: You’ve answered a lot of the questions I had through your conversation, but is there anything else you would like to mention or would like Trinity to be aware of?

SL: I’m on the Legislative Committee for the Sierra Club, Connecticut chapter. I’m also working on a state legislation relating to renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions. That’s kind of my passion right now, environmental activism. And I got that from Trinity, too, because when I was at Trinity, I took environmental law with a very distinguished visiting professor, Russell Brenneman, who was one of Connecticut’s leading environmental lawyers at the time. I credit my Trinity experience for a lot of the things I do today because a lot of my papers in the political science realm were around environmentalism at the time.

A political science major or a major in history or the classics or any other Liberal Arts program is still a very worthwhile investment. Employers are looking for well-rounded, articulate, well-read, curious, self-motivated people, and the degree that they have in a specific educational focus is probably not as important to them as the type of person and the general skills that they have when they come out of college. I fully think a Trinity education is highly relevant and valuable.