Students, faculty, alumni, and sponsors gathered on the chilly Friday morning of September 14, to listen to keynote speaker Mark diss speech at Queens College’s Business Forum Breakfast, “From American Studies to Asset Management: The Value of a Liberal Arts Education in Today’s Business Environment.”
Shpizner serves as the Director of Financial Markets Advisory at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm. Many believe someone with such a high position in a corporate environment must have studied to be able to excel in such a job. However, Shpizner graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in American Studies in 2009. Some may consider a major in liberal arts an inappropriate background education for someone in the business field. Likewise, Suzy Kim, a junior majoring in psychology, shared her thoughts on the significance of a liberal arts degree in a corporate environment stating, “If I was the owner of a business, I’d be leaning toward [a job applicant] someone with a business degree, because they have more knowledge of business itself. ”
Kim’s thinking is common amongst those considering the business field, as Shpizner felt the urge to address the ideal at the breakfast forum—sharing why he believes a liberal arts degree holds a significant value in the corporate sector. Shpizner spoke about his love for the arts, along with his summer internships at different companies, which taught him about the careers he didn’t wish to pursue.
Graduating in 2009 after the Great Recession of 2008, Shpizner had difficulties finding a job post-liberal arts degree, working a job paying little over the minimum wage as a Corporate Trust Administrator at BNY Mellon. Shpizner worked diligently to move up the corporate ladder at BNY Mellon to prove his understanding of the business environment —crediting the skills he earned during his undergraduate courses as the reason he was able to stand out amongst the crowd. These skills included Shpizner ability to research and intellectualize data, connecting the dots, diagnosing big picture challenges, and creating and nurturing relationships. Skills a liberal arts curriculum teaches in classes such as psychology, history, and English all part of Shpizner major.
Leanmar Contreras, a senior majoring in corporate finance and economics, shared his opinion of working within the business field with a liberal arts degree. “For someone with a liberal arts degree being successful in the business field, it’s kind of an eye opener to the point that while you may graduate with a certain type of degree, you won’t necessarily go into that field, but it can help in a different field entirely. If we were both [Shpizner] applying for the same job, I would be really worried about him because it’s kind of a wild card when someone from an entirely different field comes in because you don’t know what he’s coming in with. It kind of questions what you’re learning,” Contreras shared.
Lena Zhang, a junior majoring in economics and international business, agreed with this sentiment, sharing her surprise on Shpizner success. “I thought it [Shpizner speech] was going to be the perspective of someone working in a company but it was actually more about a student who didn’t really know what direction he wanted to go in. That’s kind of like me right now because I didn’t know what direction to go with, but I knew I wanted to do something in business because my family background is business too,” Zhang commented.
Shpizner speech was an eye-opener for all students studying curriculum at QC, as though they may be receiving a degree in a field with a perspective career ideal— they may never know what’s in-store for their future.