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50-year-old’s winding career path leads him to MBA program at York College

Chriss Papayannis pictured with WellSpan

Chriss Papayannis '20 knows his career doesn’t follow the typical trajectory. After earning an Economics degree in 1992 from another institution, Chriss moved to Italy, became a chef, and spent 16 years pursuing that passion.

He later tried flipping restaurants, where he found a new love: real estate. “Once I did that first one, I was hooked,” he says. “I became enamored with the action that comes with buying and selling commercial real estate.”

He went on to get his license and today works as the Director of Real Estate for WellSpan Health. His one constant through the years: an unrelenting drive to better himself through education. It’s partly why you’ll find the 50-year-old on the campus of York College of Pennsylvania, where he’s studying to earn an MBA.

Advancing his education

It’s hard enough to change careers when you’re young, but attempting that feat when you’re in your 40’s and have a family to support? That’s a real challenge. “It’s like changing tires while you’re on the turnpike,” Chriss says. “It’s not an easy task. It requires a lot of planning and a lot of faith in yourself.”

After a few years in the real estate business, Chriss knew he’d need an advanced degree if he wanted to get ahead. To Chriss, choosing York College to earn that degree was a no-brainer. “York has a lot of strong ties in the local business community and because I’m in that network, that was important to me,” he says. Taking classes in person, rather than online, was a must for Chriss, too. “I like the interactions in the margins, meaning before and after class,” he says.

It’s been tough, juggling work, family, and class. It takes lots of late nights and early mornings to get everything done. “You learn to get your work done quickly,” he says. “There are times when I’m up at 4:30 in the morning to get my reading done before the house gets noisy.” But, he’s proud to be setting an example for his three kids about the value of education. “I hope that they see education as necessary as eating and sleeping,” he says. “It’s just something you do.”

Unlocking new doors

Chriss believes earning an MBA will have a big impact on his future. “It’ll unlock doors for me as I advance my career,” he says. He’s understood the “how” to a lot of things in the business world, but now he’s learning about the “why.” Already, he’s able to apply his new knowledge to his role at WellSpan.

Chriss is finishing up the last of his requirements for his MBA. But as a lifelong learner, this isn’t the end of his educational road; it’s a jumping-off point for more to come.

He says he’s lucky to have been able to follow his dreams and his heart—whether that’s been in the kitchen or the classroom. “I’m glad I’m doing it,” Chriss says. “I wish I would have done it sooner.”