Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blog Series Part III: How My Liberal Arts Degree is Helping Me in Graduate Business School

Part 3 of our blog series "How My Liberal Arts Degree is Helping Me in Graduate Business School" is written by CUA MSBA student Alexander Ruhling. (In case you missed them, read more about non-business majors turning to a business career in Part1 and Part 2 of the series).

Alex, who received his Bachelor of Arts in Music, writes about how his degree helped him become the dedicated worker he is today.

And now, calling to the stage, Alex Ruhling!

Music to Management: Finding a Career from an "Impractical" Major

Q: How many music majors have been asked what they want to do with their majors?
A: How many Popes have been Catholic? It's truly that simple.
I remember the first few times I told people I was going to major in music, and my immediate answer to their immediate question. "Ahh... well... ummm.... I'm not sure! I mean... I have plenty of time..." etc. etc.

The truth is, I still really don't know what I want to do with the big piece of paper somewhere back home that says "Bachelor of Arts in Music" on it. I'm not Dmitri Hvorostovsky or Anna Netrebko or any other of these big name opera singers that had a God-given voice far beyond their years and could walk onto international stages in their early 20's. I'm just an average 20-year-old trying, as they say, to "make it," singing gigs here and there for measly amounts of money, knowing full well that I cannot possibly make a living like this. The question, then, becomes: is it worth it to pour thousands of dollars, hours, and brain cells into a degree that lands me out of college seemingly no better off than where I was when I started?

The answer is: yes. Undeniably yes.

How many other majors force students to sit in a 6 by 6 room and push themselves to new physical and intellectual limits for hours in front of a mirror, a score, and a piano, only for a glimpse of "progress?" We have no textbooks, no documents, no case studies. All we bring is a feeble memory of whatever our voice teacher said the last time we met for an hour of confusing vocal boot camp, a backpack full of music by dead Italians and Germans, and a frustratingly limited understanding of the beautiful delicacies of the human voice. We sit in the practice room, we make horrible noises, we get frustrated, we throw our sheet music across the room in a monochromatic maelstrom, and then after an hour we finally find the single sweet moment we have been dreaming about. And then, it's back to the grind again.

That right there is more than enough of a reason to embrace the undergraduate music life. In business, we hear about the baseball analogy of management. If a hitter gets an official hit only one time and royally screws up another three, he's doing pretty well. If for every success he only blows it twice, he's at the top of his game. My voice teacher tells my frustrated perfectionist self that if his students retain a measly 1% of what they learn each week, they are golden. A manager will face difficult decisions daily, even hourly. How many bad decisions will he make? Probably most of them.

Even Hank Aaron, Bryn Terfel, and Jack Welch have had to toil brutal hours in the face of almost certain failure. But they all learned that the work and the frustration and the disappointment makes that one home run, that one high A, and that one lucrative venture all the sweeter, all the more joyous, and-most importantly- all the more powerful reminder of doing all for the glory of God.
So maybe that piece of paper with the big "B.A. in Music" on it doesn't say "B.A. in Specific Skills Required for Fantastic and Immediate Job Security."

Instead, it says: "Hire me. Because I may not be an expert in articulating financial statements or putting together an Excel spreadsheet, but as sure as hell as you're reading my resume right now, I know how to work. I know how to fight impossible odds for impossible hours and push myself for that one sweet moment of success. So hire me. Because when that moment comes again and again, you'll be glad you did."
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Thursday, October 22, 2015

"How My Liberal Arts Degree is Helping Me in Graduate Business School" Series, Part 2

Welcome to part two of our blog series "How My Liberal Arts Degree is Helping Me in Graduate Business School". In today's post, CUA MSBA student Dave Gogats let's us in on how majoring in English has helped him adapt to the business world. Take it away, Dave!
English, a Major of Adaptability 
by David Gogats

“How’s the job at Starbucks?” and “When’s your book coming out?” are two questions every English major loves to hear. Every one of us who has gone through four years of Shakespeare and Dickens knows the routine and how to combat people’s opinions of our seemingly useless degree. The statistics are usually on their side too. As an Atlantic article earlier this summer pointed out, as parents’ incomes increased, the practicality of their children’s majors went down, with English topping the list of uselessness.(http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/college-major-rich-families-liberal-arts/397439/)

No English major I’ve talked to has ever regretted his or her path though. They’ve gone into varying careers where every skill we have learned through undergrad has been used. One English major I met was a biology textbook editor at one time and now considers herself a “mini expert” in stomach diseases. The literature aspect of an English degree was just a means to an end by doing something we love. Through the many sleepless nights of researching Renaissance poetry that no one wants to read, except apparently my professor, to then writing about it has given me skills that I would not get from any other major. Although it is probably true that I may never find someone who has read what I have read during undergrad, it’s not about what I’ve read or written but that I know how to do it now. It’s not about researching, reading, analyzing, and writing it’s about how to do those well, even if you don’t like the subject.

When looking at the skills an English degree gives you, it seems that it might be more useful than it appears. Another article, from U.S. News, quotes a student who found that “his undergraduate major in political science at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill ‘unequivocally’ did not help prepare him for law school” rather it was his “minor in English, which required him to read ‘voluminous amounts of literature,’ that had better prepared him for the intense reading requirements of studying law. (http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/articles/2012/10/29/future-law-students-should-avoid-prelaw-majors-some-say)

As we fight to keep our English degrees useful and relevant it turns out that it might not be that hard. Now that I’m a business student, I find that my four years spent reading Hemingway and Hawthorne have better prepared me than I had originally thought. Whether it’s a reading a textbook on Quantitative Analysis or writing a business memo, being an English major comes with many skill sets, one of its most useful being adaptability and being able to change up how I use my skills learned from undergrad.

We’ve read things that are boring as can be, but as dull as it is, we can turn it into something. English majors everywhere can rejoice when reading and editing textbooks or speech writing that at least they’re not about Renaissance poetry (at least I do anyway).

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Studying History: Storytelling in the Office

In the first post of our blogging series by MSBA students about how their undergraduate majors are serving them in graduate business school, Joe Fiocco talks about the value of having a Bachelor's in History.

History looks like Dungeons and Dragons to people who don't enjoy it: a collection of lingo you have to memorize and regurgitate. What most don't realize is that a background in history has tangible benefits for a career in business though. Just ask Carly Fiorina or Martha Stewart.
I don't like stating my position without evidence, analysis, or context. Reading primary source documents and arguing my interpretation cultivates an attention to detail and the ability to track changes in behavior and trends over time. In a business context, employers desire employees who can detect nuance and analyze figures beyond what numbers express. A background in history lets an employee weave different factors of the environment together into a clear narrative, whether it’s assessing new technology, scoping out the competition, or organizing a marketing survey.
Studying history facilitates communication, for writing and presentation demonstrates understanding of the source material. The business climate places a premium on condensing information for those purposes. History majors understand the importance of a logical assembly and argumentation of the facts. That’s why businesses would seek out a history student to draft and prepare reports, memos, speeches, or presentations. In my new program and my internship, I intend to showcase my talents to the fullest.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Why Businesses Prefer A Liberal Arts Education

A lot has been written about the powerful combination of a liberal arts and business education, including this article from CNBC. http://cnb.cx/ZpH69o   While these articles are compelling, I find the even more compelling arguments come from the students themselves.  

Recently our Master of Science in Business Analysis students were asked to write a linked in blog post about how their liberal arts undergraduate degree would help them succeed in the business world.  I was optimistic they had given this some thought.  But I was amazed at the depth of thought and the practical applications they saw in their undergrad degrees in history, english, philosophy, music, engineering and more.  

I count myself among the skeptics when we started this program.  Now, 6 years and 120 students later, I can honestly and empiracally say the intersection of liberal arts and the business world is a formula for individual and business success.  We will publish some of these thoughtful articles in the coming days.

Stewart McHie, Director- MSBA 
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