Two men in front of wildcat statue


Honestly, I never thought I would live in the Upper Peninsula. I started my college career in Dallas, Texas for the warm weather and sunshine.  Originally, I had ideas of doing a pre-med program. I started out in hopes of taking over my grandfather’s dentistry practice. It was in that pre-med program I got my first “F” grade–I wasn’t passionate about pre-med, so I didn’t put in any effort. I realized my ideas about my future had shifted, and as my dreams changed, I decided that I needed to find a school that would best help me achieve that vision. So, I enrolled at Northern Michigan University and began my business degree.

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One of the most unique things about NMU is the amount of one-on-one attention you receive from professors and faculty. I was able to translate the skills and knowledge I acquired in the classroom to my role in a management position at Best Buy in Marquette. One memory of NMU that will always stick with me is when I graduated with my Masters in Business Administration. I had chosen to work that weekend so my employees graduating would have the opportunity to walk for their diplomas. When then-NMU President Fritz Erickson heard about my plan, he and Dean Carol Johnson and Dr. Brunswick came to Best Buy to present me with my diploma. It was a special moment and really speaks to how much NMU values every single student, whether graduate or undergrad.

I always felt supported, and the mentorship I received helped me to translate classroom skills and knowledge into the real world.

After graduation, I continued to work at Best Buy until it closed during the pandemic. Just as I had changed my major from pre-med to business all those years ago, I had to change my ideas of what my future might look like–rather than working my way up the ladder at Best Buy, I made the difficult decision to move away from Marquette and moved back to my hometown. I partnered with my father to turn his passion for technology into a thriving business promoting smart technology and automation. Our business, Eco Smart Home Pros was born. We now have four full-time employees (three of whom are NMU alumni) and we’re growing and expanding to the point of establishing an office in Marquette. 

NMU has created a space where people can easily collaborate and build life-long relationships with other students, professors, and community members. It is this focus on community that pushed my desire for every Eco Smart Home Pros office to be an integral member of the community where it is located. I am proud to have a partnership with Innovate Marquette Smartzone and Invent@NMU where we can help other local entrepreneurs realize their dreams. We work with these up-and-coming businesses to supply them with all the technology needed to ensure their business is connected, safe, and sustainable.

If I was to give any advice to current or prospective NMU students, it would be to enjoy the journey and be open to new possibilities. Find something you enjoy and something that can give your life balance. Once you’re in the working world, use your time off, maintain connections with your friends and professors, and make mistakes. My plans, dreams, and goals have changed over the years, but throughout it all, NMU and the people I’ve met there, have been there to support me.


Alumni Author Information

Name: Steven Donley

Hometown: Muskegon, MI

Year graduated and degree earned from NMU: 2016 BS Business Administration, 2018 Masters of Business Administration

Current job title: Chief Operating Officer, Eco Smart Home Pros