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Linking liberal arts and business

By Bradley West '13
September 6, 2012

"I've found that the liberal arts prepare you to learn quickly and excel in a new business environment," says Bobby Hunter '08 (right), a senior associate in UnitedHealth's corporate development group who has turned to colleges like St. Olaf to recruit new employees. One of his most recent hires is Michael Rahman '12 (left).

When Bobby Hunter '08 landed a job at UnitedHealth Group that involved recruiting and hiring new employees, he knew exactly where to look to find talented individuals with strong critical-thinking skills: liberal arts colleges.

A mathematics and economics major at St. Olaf College, Hunter had already proven to his colleagues that the education he received on the Hill had prepared him well for a career in finance. Now, as a senior associate in UnitedHealth's corporate development group, he wanted to find new employees with similar skills.

One of his first stops was Northfield, where he interviewed students at both St. Olaf and Carleton colleges. While on the Hill, Hunter met and interviewed Michael Rahman '12 — and went on to hire him as an analyst in the corporate development group.

Tapping into the alumni network
By hiring a fellow Ole, Hunter joined the vast network of St. Olaf alumni dedicated to helping younger graduates get their careers started. It was this very network that first set Hunter on the path to success. 

As a junior he visited the Harry C. Piper Center for Vocation and Career and learned about a summer internship at Piper Jaffray, an investment banking firm based in Minneapolis that features two prominent Ole alumni: B. Kristine Johnson '73, who serves on the board of directors, and Jon Salveson '87, the vice chair of investment banking. 

Hunter contacted Salveson to discuss the opportunity and to ask how an Ole would fit into the company's environment. Salveson was very supportive and helped Hunter land the internship. 

Hunter excelled as a summer intern at Piper Jaffray — so much so that the firm offered to hire him for a full-time position. He accepted the offer and stayed with the firm for three years before moving on to UnitedHealth Group, a health care company headquartered in Minnetonka. 

Finding talent on the Hill
When Hunter arrived on the Hill to recruit students for UnitedHealth Group, he met Rahman, who was then a senior finishing up degrees in economics and psychology. Hunter was duly impressed by the range of experiences listed on Rahman's resume.

As an undergraduate Rahman completed the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, a program founded by John Meslow '60, and took advantage of a summer internship at Lemhi Ventures, a venture capital fund co-founded by Tony Miller '89. He also worked frequently with Associate Professor of Economics Rick Goedde, who designed independent projects to provide him with the skills necessary to succeed in finance.

Having already worked in both health care and finance, Rahman knew that a job at UnitedHealth would be perfect for him. He was enthusiastic when he heard the company was recruiting at St. Olaf.

Rahman was invited for a second interview at UnitedHealth, after which he was offered a position as an analyst in the corporate development group. He accepted the offer in November — six months before graduating from St. Olaf — and began working alongside Hunter this summer.

"This job is exactly what I was hoping for," Rahman says. "Every day they are pushing me to do more and to learn more."

Making a case for the liberal arts
Having graduated from St. Olaf, Rahman is no stranger to doing more and learning more day after day. As Hunter explains, the daily and diverse challenges posed by the liberal arts prepare students to adapt to a new workplace. 

"People underestimate the liberal arts since there is less focus on finance and business, but I've found that the liberal arts prepare you to learn quickly and excel in a new business environment," Hunter says. "When encountering a new job, liberal arts students are like sponges, soaking up all the knowledge necessary to ramp up the learning curve just as fast as, if not faster than, business students."

How exactly does he account for these qualities in liberal arts graduates? What is it about a school like St. Olaf that prepares students to learn so quickly?

"It's a consequence of being exposed to so many things at once and creating a well-rounded skill set. Students develop the ability to learn really fast when they have to work hard in such a broad range of classes," Hunter says. "It takes an especially driven and well-rounded person to walk into a calculus class and get an A, then walk into an ethics class and get an A, and then walk into a Norwegian class and still get an A."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or