A Finance Guy Walks into a Dean’s Office . . .

Liberal arts provide the skills that employers want
Ian F. McNeely

Some months ago, a recruiter for a financial services company in Portland visited me. He explained he was looking to hire new UO graduates who could help retirees plan how to draw down their nest eggs. I told him that he was in the wrong place: This is the College of Arts and Sciences, I said; the finance department is located in the Lundquist College of Business.

CAS-job-stats-Beyond[1]“I’ve got computers to help us with compound interest rates and amortization tables,” he replied. “What I need is a 22-year-old who can sit down with a 72-year-old to discuss their hopes and aspirations, their children and grandchildren, and the prospect of aging and decline.”

I’ll never forget what he said next: The ideal skill set for the position is someone who had majored in English literature—a student who has read about life and its seasons, who is a rigorous and adaptable thinker, who is a good communicator. That kind of person is able to approach problems in a way that someone who is only technically trained cannot.

CAS-job-stats-Earnings[1]This is the case across the board. The arts and sciences provide the skills that employers want—see the chart below for the Top 10 Skills Employers Want. The chart at the very bottom shows How To Get Those Skills.

Any arts and sciences graduate emerges with the skills needed to thrive in a job like the one I described above—and in all the other jobs he or she will hold over the course of a long and, we hope, fulfilling working life.

Ian F. McNeely (pictured), Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, College of Arts and Sciences