Students find success in the ‘liberal arts career of the business world’
The growing field of consulting and a liberal arts degree might just be the perfect combination.
A number of St. Olaf College seniors have landed careers with well-known consulting firms like The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Deloitte — success that they attribute to the experiences they’ve had at St. Olaf.
“Through the liberal arts curriculum, I have learned how to approach problem-solving creatively and analytically, allowing me to look at complex issues with a different perspective,” says Tim Tuscher ’15, an economics major with an emphasis in finance who will start a full-time position with BCG this summer.
Those skills — along with others frequently associated with the liberal arts, such as the ability to communicate effectively and work well in teams — are central to a successful career in consulting.
“To me, management consulting is the liberal arts career of the business world,” Tuscher says.
Zihao (Daniel) Pan ’15, who accepted a full-time position doing risk consulting for Deloitte, agrees.
“The best thing about consulting is the breadth and variety of the work,” Pan says, noting that it’s not unlike the breadth of experiences a liberal arts education provides. “Today you may be working with a financial services company, next week you may be with a client in high-tech. It keeps the work exciting.”
Kirsten Cahoon ’98, the senior associate director for career education and coaching in the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, provided both Tuscher and Pan with guidance as they searched for careers that fit their interests.
She notes that they are the latest in a long line of Oles who have found success in this sector of the business world. Among recent graduates, for example, Nick Evens ’14 is a business analyst at McKinsey & Company, Cody Hedstrom ’13 and Austin Dressen ’13 are at Deloitte, and Shannon Cordes ’14 is at BCG. Cordes created a Management Consulting Club while on campus that has remained active. This school year, Tuscher is the current vice president for the club.
“Consulting is a great fit for the liberal arts, as it provides exposure to a wide variety of industries, companies, projects, and people,” Cahoon says. “The field requires adaptability, leadership, focus, and discipline — qualities commonly reflected within the St. Olaf student population.”
Finding the right career fit
Both Tuscher and Pan not only discovered their interest in consulting at St. Olaf, but they also began to gain experience early, facilitated in large part by the resources available through the Piper Center, internships, and classes.
Both went on Connections Program trips that gave them a better sense of what a career in consulting might entail and broadened their professional networks beyond Minnesota. The Piper Center’s Connections Program enables students to explore careers and interact with alumni in major metropolitan areas across the country.
The Chicago Connections trip provided Tuscher with an up-close look at management consulting. “I knew right away that it was what I wanted to do,” he says.
Pan also attended two Connections programs, to New York and Chicago, that helped him network in finance and consulting fields and learn more about what it takes to achieve success.
Tuscher also participated in the Chicago Booth Summer Business Scholar Program between his sophomore and junior year. He says the three weeks at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business “broadened my skillsets and gave me a feel for what the business world was like through corporate visits.”
Between his junior and senior years, Tuscher participated in St. Olaf’s Finance Scholars program, where students engage in site visits led by Ole alumni and parents in various finance occupations in the Twin Cities metro.
Pan was inspired by a marketing class he took with St. Olaf Entrepreneur in Residence Sian Muir, where he worked on a team to develop a marketing plan for a local nonprofit organization over the semester.
“It was a unique experience where I worked in a team-oriented environment and helped an emerging business grow,” Pan says.
Both Pan and Tuscher are looking forward to applying these experiences to their new careers.
“In consulting, I will be exposed to a variety of different industries and be asked to help solve some of the most challenging business problems,” Tuscher says. “I believe my liberal arts education has given me a good foundation to succeed.”