A Liberal Arts Resume: By Gerry Boyle '78, Illustrations by Leo Pando


Colby Magazine: Winter 2003

Understanding people? Could something seemingly that simple be an essential skill in the corporate world?

Consider the thoughts of Professor Randy Nelson (Douglas Professor of Economics and Finance, chair of administrative science), who gives Colby students from various disciplines a foundation in business.

Over a Coke at the Spa one recent day, Nelson reeled off a long and seemingly open-ended list of his students who have gone on to success in finance. One recent graduate now works with an associate of Warren Buffet. Another is a rising star at Goldman Sachs. Several are at Cambridge Associates, the Boston financial consultants. Among them are M.B.A.'s from Stanford, Tuck and Wharton.

Some were economics majors; others studied history. One was a biology major and now helps manage the endowment of the University of Michigan.

While Colby isn't a traditional "target school" for Wall Street recruiters, Nelson and others do their best to get their students in the door for interviews that will lead to that first job. "Once they get that opportunity, they rarely blow it," he said.

In addition to the ability to think critically, and to have a broad body of knowledge, the business world wants something else that Nelson says his students have had. "They're very smart, but they also have good personalities," he said. "That's the one thing that I've learned never to downplay--the importance of people skills."

Though he may not have been thinking of Wall Street when he addressed first-year students in September, President William Adams did address the importance of civility in intellectual debate and discourse at Colby.

"We have to have . . . a respect and tolerance for individuals, not simply in the way in which they are like us but most especially in the ways they are not like us," he said. "Elemental to civility is the notion that it is basically about communication."

In the business world, where teams and departments often are made up of people from very different backgrounds, civility may be a cornerstone of the foundation a liberal arts education provides. Because, as Nelson plainly puts it, Colby liberal arts graduates tend to get along with others. "It's nice to be with someone you actually like, if you're talking twelve-hour days," he said. "I think our students do well in that area."

Diana Herrmann '80 doesn't think so.
She knows.

Herrmann is president and chief operating officer of the Aquila Management Corporation, which manages several affiliated municipal bond funds with total assets of $3.5 billion.






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