A Chat with Alan Lafer

Yesterday, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with guest lecturer Alan Lafer of Neuberger Berman one-on-one when I gave him a tour of the Colgate campus. Besides our shared love for the New York Giants, I also learned that Mr. Lafer and I shared a common view on the value of a liberal arts education. When I told him that I was an economics major, Mr. Lafer responded with something along the lines of “So you know everything, and can answer nothing.” I found that to be an astute observation, and in many ways true. There were times last year when I walked into interviews for internships in finance and felt that I was at a disadvantage since I had not learned certain industry-specific information in the classroom. That being said, Mr. Lafer and I agreed that the liberal arts provide students with skills that are transferable to any career field, and in this day and age, it is important to have that flexibility when the job market is constantly changing. In essence, liberal arts students are learning how to think critically and argue their opinions intelligently, and when so many career fields operate on knowledge you can only learn on the job, it is those skills that truly matter. As for the industry-specific stuff, it’s just a matter of picking up the Wall Street Journal. As a senior in college who is inevitably on the job hunt, it was refreshing to hear that from a businessman like Alan Lafer himself.

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