Financial Planners Need to Read Shakespeare

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Check out “The Enduring Value of the Humanities,” Craig Lee’s article about the humanities at St. Olaf College, a liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota.  Here is a small taste:

As the founder of GW Randall & Associates, a successful financial planning firm in Santa Rosa, California, Greg Randall ’96 spends much of his time in the fiscal weeds. He performs investment analyses, financial research, and future value calculations — all essential components of the full-scale financial plans he creates for individuals and families.

But what makes him successful isn’t just his facility with financial algorithms and investment formulas, though that’s essential: it’s the real, human connection he makes with his clients as they work through their entire financial picture. “All of my work with clients starts with questions,” he says. “What are your most deeply held values? What’s meaningful and significant to your life? What is your goal for your money?”

That connection is where Randall’s degree in the classics has proved to be indispensable. The readings of Plato and Seneca, for example, taught him to think about ethics, values, and what matters most in life. He uses those insights to help his clients uncover their own foundational beliefs and link them to their finances.

In fact, Randall believes learning from history’s most revered thinkers is so critical that he recommends it to all the young planners he meets. “Financial planners who are early in their career will ask me about what books they should read to know financial planning,” he says. “I say — only half in jest — ‘Go read Shakespeare.’ Our business is all about what motivates people: their dreams, their fears, and their deeply held beliefs. And that’s what Shakespeare’s [works] are all about.”

Randall is far from alone in finding lasting value in the humanities. Nearly two-thirds of Fortune 500 CEOs have degrees in the humanities, and in the past few years, Google has hired thousands of employees with humanities backgrounds.

Read the rest here.

Do Business Schools Belong in Universities?

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The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

For Miami (OH) University historian professor Steven Conn, the answer is clearly “no.”

Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Conn makes his case.

Here is a taste:

It is hard to shake the conclusion that business schools have largely failed — even on their own terms, much less on other, broader social ones. For all their bold talk about training tomorrow’s business leaders, as institutions they have largely been followers. “In reviewing the course of American business education over the past fifty years,” wrote one observer, “one is struck by its almost fad-like quality.” That was in 1957. Despite their repeated emphasis on innovation and “outside the box thinking” business schools exhibit a remarkable conformity and sameness. Don’t take my word for it. That Porter and McKibbin study from 1988 found “a distressing tendency for schools to avoid the risk of being different … A ‘cookie cutter mentality’ does not seem to be too strong a term to describe the situation we encountered in a number of schools.” Finally, while honest people can disagree over whether American business is better off for having business schools, they have provided scant evidence that they have done much to transform business into something more noble than mere money-making. Indeed, by the late 20th century, they stopped pretending they could.

Read the entire piece here.

 

Want to Get a Good Job and Be Happy?

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Go to college and major in the humanities.

A recent study from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences is positive news for humanities students.  It reports on something we humanities folks already knew:  humanities majors get jobs, make good money, and live fulfilling lives.

Here is a taste of the report:

This report, based largely on original research commissioned by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators, examines a broader range of measures about holders of four-year bachelor’s degrees, including graduates’ satisfaction with their jobs, finances, and lives generally. The evidence shows that humanities graduates earn less and have slightly higher levels of unemployment relative to science and engineering majors. With respect to perceived well-being, however, humanities majors are quite similar to graduates from other fields. The data cannot explain the disparity between the objective and subjective measures, but they should provide a starting point for a more nuanced discussion about the relationship between field of undergraduate study, employment, and quality of life.

Learn more here.

More Good Reasons to Study the Humanities

59c16-i_love_humanities_tshirt-p235524076469557183trlf_400These come from Ilana Gershon and Noah Berlastsky at The Pacific Standard.

Here is a taste of their piece “Studying Humanities Teaches You How to Get a Job.”

“If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set,” Kentucky governor Matt Bevin declared in September, at a conference about higher education. Bevin’s skepticism about the humanities and arts isn’t an anomaly; politicians regularly joke about the supposed uselessness of non-STEM training. In 2014, President Barack Obama told students to major in trades rather than art history. In 2011, Governor Rick Scott of Florida said that it wasn’t of “vital interest” to his state to have students major in anthropology. And so on. Math, engineering, science, trades: Those are practical, politicians agree. Literature, art, and anthropology? Those don’t help you get jobs.

In fact, the reverse is true: The skills you learn in the humanities are exactly the skills you use in a job search. The humanities teach students to understand the different rules and expectations that govern different genres, to examine social cues and rituals, to think about the audience for and reception of different kinds of communications. In short, they teach students how to apply for the kinds of jobs students will be looking for after college.

Read the rest here.

Hire a Humanities Major

StrossCheck out Scott Jaschik’s interview at Inside Higher Ed with Randall Stross, author of A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees.  Stross has a Ph.D in Chinese history from Stanford and currently teaches business at San Jose State University.  (Yes, you read that last sentence correctly).

Here is a taste of the interview:

Q: Many admissions leaders at liberal arts colleges report increasing difficulty in making the case for the liberal arts. What is your advice for them?

A: If it seems difficult to make the case now, imagine how difficult it would have been in the depths of the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate was 16 percent and headed for 24 percent and market demand for liberal arts majors had evaporated. The talk in the air was of the need for more vocational education. Yet William Tolley, in his inaugural address as the president of Allegheny College, did not falter. He made the case for a broad liberal education in 1931 whose contemporary relevance should hearten all of us who advocate for liberal education. “Specialists are needed in all vocations, but only as long as their vocations last, and vocations have a tendency now to disappear almost overnight,” he observed. He reasoned that in an ever-changing world the broad knowledge covered at a liberal arts college is “the finest vocational training any school can offer.” The argument is no less powerful today. But to make it seem well grounded, admissions leaders should have at their fingertips stories to share of graduates who left their schools with liberal arts majors and have gone on to interesting professional careers.

Q: Politicians seem to love to bash the liberal arts, asking why various majors are needed. How should educators respond?

A: Many politicians — perhaps most politicians — view the labor marketplace in terms defined entirely by “skills”: employers need workers equipped with specific skills; students either arrive with those skills or lack those skills. This is new, historically speaking. In a bygone era, 60 years ago, many large corporations hired college graduates in bulk, paying little heed to their majors, and spent the first years training the new hires themselves. So the defense of the liberal arts today must be delivered using the vocabulary of “skills.” Fortunately, conscientious students in the liberal arts can demonstrate great skill in many things: learning quickly, reading deeply, melding information from diverse sources smoothly, collaborating with others effectively, reasoning logically, writing clearly. I will resist the temptation to point out the apparent absence of these skills among those who are doing the bashing.

Read the rest here.

The Problem With Majoring in Business

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To be fair, Chris Gehrz‘s post at The Pietist Schoolman is actually titled “The (Potential) Problems with Majoring in Business.”  Gerhz responds to a Chronicle of Higher Education list of the most popular majors at the nation’s 40 largest public universities.  As you might expect, Business is the most popular major at 23 of these universities and is second or third most popular at seven more.

 

Here is a taste of Gehrz’s post:

…in the abstract, I don’t think that it’s a bad idea to major in business.

But I find it enormously troubling that that field is so disproportionately popular in American higher education.

First, a problem that should be familiar to any business major: at a certain point, the supply of any good or service will exceed the demand for it.

Yes, too many marketing majors can saturate the market.

At which point there’s very little that even gifted marketers can do to make attractive their college-trained, debt-laden product to employers who either need fewer employees with that training — or have recognized that the market has been overlooking other sources of the same labor (e.g., history majors who are trained to pick up field-specific skills as they go, but already have the scarce writing, research, critical thinking, interpersonal, and intercultural skills that employers claim to value above major).

Look, if you have a passion for marketing or feel a calling to management, that’s great. Business is a wonderful fit for you: you’ll enjoy and thrive in courses that will move you closer to your goals. Let me introduce you to my neighbors here at Bethel!

But that description fits only a tiny minority of 18-year olds. In my fifteen years of talking to those students and their parents, I’ve found that most are trying to make an important decision (college major) with too little information and too much anxiety. Desperate to ensure employment, they pick what seems like the most straightforward path to a job. But because their decision is only one of millions like it, they actually risk making their employment less likely.

Read the entire piece here.

Humanities in a “Tech World”

59c16-i_love_humanities_tshirt-p235524076469557183trlf_400Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist at North Carolina State University.  In this piece he explains why the humanities are needed in a “tech world.”

Here is a taste:

 

There’s another reason for the relevance of humanities in our current world. Some thinkers say the application of the next level of technology to human use will require a cultural change, and developers of new technology will have to understand this cultural shift in order to be successful.

Robots and driverless vehicles are good examples. Although it’s fun to think of these tools in abstract, when they become a reality, how will we react? Robots and driverless vehicles mean a shift in control and power from humans to machines that we have never experienced before. How will we react? Will robots and driverless vehicles be commercial successes or financial flops because people couldn’t adapt to them?

Obviously developers and manufacturers want to know, and who better than to guide them than individuals who have studied human culture – that is, those who have studied the humanities.

There have already been studies indicating a new found appreciation of humanities experts in today’s high-tech economy. Many companies have discovered humanities majors make excellent managers and decision-makers.

So in the race between the STEMS and the HUMIES (my short-cut for the humanities), it may be too early for us to decide who will come out on top!

Read the entire piece here.

“Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World”

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If you haven’t heard it yet, check out Episode 21 of the Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  We talk with Scott Hartley, a venture capitalist and author of The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World.

Thanks to Hartley’s twitter feed I just found this review of The Fuzzy and the Techie at the website of The Philippine Star.  Here is a taste of Bong Osorio’s piece:

While the parents of college-age children largely prefer degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the technical trades — collectively called STEM — there’s new evidence to suggest that value can still be found in the good old Liberal Arts degree. Hooray for literature, history, humanities and sociology subjects.

Alyse Lorber of Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) media wrote, “The advent of ‘Big Data’ has led businesses into what seems like a new age of reason. We have the technology now to quantify our world in endless rational ways. We see more, we know more and we have the algorithms to reach people with more precision than ever before. Choose the channels; decide on the message and press send. Relevance is guaranteed; success will surely follow. There’s just one flaw in this analysis: human nature.”

Real people don’t behave as rationally or as predictably. We are familial and emotional and the reasons behind the choices we make aren’t so easily measured.

Read the entire review here.

A Leading Silicon Valley Engineer: “I now wish that I had strived for a proper liberal arts education.”

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Borrowing from the late humanist David Foster Wallace, Tracy Chou wants to know what water is.  Chou is an entrepreneur and software engineer who has worked at Pinterest and Quora.  Knowing what she knows now,  she wishes she had a liberal arts education.

Here is a taste of her piece at Quartz:

At Quora, and later at Pinterest, I also worked on the algorithms powering their respective homefeeds: the streams of content presented to users upon initial login, the default views we pushed to users. It seems simple enough to want to show users “good” content when they open up an app. But what makes for good content? Is the goal to help users to discover new ideas and expand their intellectual and creative horizons? To show them exactly the sort of content that they know they already like? Or, most easily measurable, to show them the content they’re most likely to click on and share, and that will make them spend the most time on the service?

Ruefully—and with some embarrassment at my younger self’s condescending attitude toward the humanities—I now wish that I had strived for a proper liberal arts education. That I’d learned how to think critically about the world we live in and how to engage with it. That I’d absorbed lessons about how to identify and interrogate privilege, power structures, structural inequality, and injustice. That I’d had opportunities to debate my peers and develop informed opinions on philosophy and morality. And even more than all of that, I wish I’d even realized that these were worthwhile thoughts to fill my mind with—that all of my engineering work would be contextualized by such subjects.

It worries me that so many of the builders of technology today are people like me; people haven’t spent anywhere near enough time thinking about these larger questions of what it is that we are building, and what the implications are for the world.

But it is never too late to be curious. Each of us can choose to learn, to read, to talk to people, to travel, and to engage intellectually and ethically. I hope that we all do so—so that we can come to acknowledge the full complexity and wonder of the world we live in, and be thoughtful in designing the future of it.

Read the entire piece here.

Chou’s piece reminds me of our interview with Scott Hartley, author of The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts will Rule the Digital Worldin Episode 21 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  (Not familiar with The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast?  Check it out and then consider supporting our work at Patreon. Thanks. We need your support to get where we want to go with this project).

Harvard Finance Professor: We Need the Humanities

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Harvard’s Mihir Desai argues that we “all lose” when Wall Street is divorced from the humanities.

Here is a taste of Carrie Sheffield’s piece on Desai at Salon:

Mihir Desai, a Harvard finance professor, has a striking discovery he’s keen to share:  The world of finance has become totally walled off from the richness of the humanities and he thinks that ought to change.

With his new book “The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return,” he has strived to open up the world of money to a wide audience through stories — “without a single equation or graph,” he put it.

Desai considers the disconnect between these two worlds a tragedy of today’s society: “We all lose when they’re divorced,” Desai said during a recent episode of “Salon Talks.” “We in finance lose because we lose our humanity, and people in humanities lose because you’re not really speaking to people anymore; you’re speaking to yourselves more and more, and you’ve got to speak to people.”

Read the entire piece here.

Why Computer Scientists Should “Stop Hating” the Humanities

HartleyThis issue keeps coming up.

Yesterday during a faculty meeting I listened to a colleague explain digital humanities to a group of more traditional-minded humanists.  He discussed the digital humanities as an effort to bridge the divide between computer scientists and humanistic inquiry.

Last weekend we dropped Episode 21 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  Our guest was Scott Hartley, a venture capitalist who came of age in the Silicon Valley.  Hartley’s new book The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World argues that liberal arts graduates usually have the most creative and successful business ideas.

Now Wired magazine is getting into the act.  Check out Emma Pierson‘s piece “Hey, Computer Scientists! Stop Hating on the Humanities.

Here is a taste:

As a computer science PhD student, I am a disciple of big data. I see no ground too sacred for statistics: I have used it to study everything from sex to Shakespeare, and earned angry retorts for these attempts to render the ineffable mathematical. At Stanford I was given, as a teenager, weapons both elegant and lethal—algorithms that could pick out the terrorists most worth targeting in a network, detect someone’s dissatisfaction with the government from their online writing.

Computer science is wondrous. The problem is that many people in Silicon Valley believe that it is all that matters. You see this when recruiters at career fairs make it clear they’re only interested in the computer scientists; in the salary gap between engineering and non-engineering students; in the quizzical looks humanities students get when they dare to reveal their majors. I’ve watched brilliant computer scientists display such woeful ignorance of the populations they were studying that I laughed in their faces. I’ve watched military scientists present their lethal innovations with childlike enthusiasm while making no mention of whom the weapons are being used on. There are few things scarier than a scientist who can give an academic talk on how to shoot a human being but can’t reason about whether you should be shooting them at all.

Read the rest here.

 

Episode 21: Why We Need More Historians in the Silicon Valley

podcast-icon1The liberal arts vs. STEM. A degree in the humanities vs. a degree in business. The current conversation around higher education consistently pits the study of history, philosophy, or English against more “practical” pursuits like engineering or computer science. But both data and the insights of business leaders tell us that this is a false dichotomy. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss the value of the liberal arts within both the current economic and political climate. They are joined by venture capitalist Scott Hartley (@scottehartley), author of The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts will Rule the Digital World.

Business Majors Need Liberal Arts to Advance in Their Careers

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Over at The Atlantic, Yoni Appelbaum (see our interview with him in Episode 3 The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast) explains why business majors need the liberal arts.

Here is a taste:

American undergraduates are flocking to business programs, and finding plenty of entry-level opportunities. But when businesses go hunting for CEOs or managers, “they will say, a couple of decades out, that I’m looking for a liberal arts grad,” said Judy Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program.

That presents a growing challenge to colleges and universities. Students are clamoring for degrees that will help them secure jobs in a shifting economy, but to succeed in the long term, they’ll require an education that allows them to grow, adapt, and contribute as citizens—and to build successful careers. And it’s why many schools are shaking up their curricula to ensure that undergraduate business majors receive something they may not even know they need—a rigorous liberal-arts education.

They’re trying to solve a rapidly growing problem. Almost one in five bachelor’s degrees earned in the United States is a business degree, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Education. And that may actually understate the growth of business education—it doesn’t account for undergraduate minors, nor for the students who major in economics at schools where business degrees aren’t on offer. But a panel of educators moderated by Samuelson at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, emphasized the need to ensure that these degrees provide a robust education. (The panel was drawn from participants in the Aspen Undergraduate Business Education Consortium, an initiative that’s promoting the tighter integration of the liberal arts into business curricula.)

There’s good reason for their concern. Put simply, business majors seem to be graduating with some of the technical skills they’ll need to secure jobs, but without having made the gains in writing or critical-thinking skills they’ll require to succeed over the course of their careers, or to adapt as their technical skills become outdated and the nature of the opportunities they have shifts over time.

Read the rest here.

Why Historical Thinking Matters

If you still need to be convinced why the study of history is absolutely essential to American democracy, check out Mark Oppenheim‘s interview with Jim Grossman.

Oppenheim runs m/Oppenheim Associates.  He has a 30-year organizational consulting and search track record that includes managing transformation service groups for the Child Welfare Administration of New York City, Ernst & Young, Price Waterhouse, Oppenheim CMP, and the Oracle Corporation.

Grossman is Executive Director of the American Historical Association.

The business world and the world of historical thinking collide.  As they should.

If you want to hear more from Grossman, check out Episode 1 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.