The reason why business needs the liberal arts

By: Ephrem Shaffer

(Photo courtesy University of Notre Dame)

By all accounts, I don’t have a typical MBA background. In high school, I was crazy about theater and competitive speech. In college, I joined a seminary and got a philosophy degree. To this day, one of my favorite pastimes is binge-watching the year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.

Yep, I’m a liberal arts guy. It runs in the family. My dad is a high school English teacher, my sister is a music teacher, my other sister is a writer, and the list goes on.

So why did I decide to get an MBA (other than to be different from my siblings)?

My interest in business first emerged during my three years at Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm. I found business to be a thrilling arena in which competition, collaboration, and problem-solving all collide. 

Then I started to study for the GMAT and began having second thoughts. I had to study math (yuck). Was I preparing to become a formulaic, data-reading robot?

As I prepare to graduate this May, I’m happy to report that the discipline of business is anything but formulaic. Businesses today collect vast amounts of data, but those data do not tell a story without an interpreter. I believe that businesses are increasingly going to need talent that can generate insights from data using creativity, courage, and vision. If you don’t believe me, ask Mark Cuban.

So as you liberal arts-types are about to close your GMAT prep books to explore the outer-reaches of Netflix, I have one word of advice for you: Don’t.

Please. Just stop. Open up the GMAT book again, take a deep breath, and go to work. The business world needs the liberal arts. And I’m telling you that it’s fun.

About Ephrem

Ephrem lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, prior to business school. He is concentrating in marketing and business leadership, and attended the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul) for his undergraduate studies. His favorite Notre Dame memory is college football gamedays. You can find Ephrem on LinkedIn.