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Spring Career Panel <br>on Liberal Education in Evolving “AI” Economy

Spring Career Panel
on Liberal Education in Evolving “AI” Economy

Posted: April 9, 2018

“This is a fascinating time right now for liberal education, and I will tell you why,” said Rob Neal, a managing partner with Hager Pacific Properties, to an audience of Thomas Aquinas College students at a recent on-campus Career Forum. “Another Industrial Revolution is under way, and that Industrial Revolution is not one of hands meeting implements and machines, like the last one. It’s one of human cognitive ability meeting Artificial Intelligence.… That’s going to create some very interesting opportunities, especially for those who have a liberal education.”

How the College’s students can make the most of those opportunities — by applying the gifts of their liberal education and showcasing them to prospective employers — was the subject of the afternoon forum, sponsored by the College’s Office of Career Advisement. Over the course of 90 minutes, the students received expert advice and strong encouragement from a panel of three distinguished business leaders with deep ties to the College.

“The students who are best fit for this new Industrial Revolution are those who can reason and think synthetically and link things together to unpack really difficult concepts, students who can take the things that they have learned before and leverage them into a new understanding that perhaps no one else has seen,” Mr. Neal continued. “We’re looking for different types of employees than we looked for just a few years ago. … The very special skills that you received from Thomas Aquinas College are going to separate you from others.”

Joining Mr. Neal on the dais was his wife, Berni, a member of the College’s Board of Governors who also serves on the boards of the Catholic Leadership Institute, EWTN, Legatus, and the Magnificat Foundation; and alumna Jane Nemcova (’98), the vice president and general manager of global services for machine intelligence at Lionbridge, a global language services provider. The panelists each presented brief talks, discussing the rapidly changing nature of the modern economy and the role of liberal education in the marketplace. They also took students’ questions, offering advice and strategies about how to search for the right job and how to stand out during the application/interview processes.

“In the last three years that I have spent trying to lead the conversation on ethics and the bigger-picture ideas about what’s going on in AI, I see that the industry needs people who are well-formed in philosophy,” said Mrs. Nemcova, who at Lionbridge specializes in linguistic support for machine learning and artificial intelligence. “I say ‘philosophy,’ but it’s also math and logic and music — all of the things that give you a broad education — because they’re absolutely fundamental.”

A would-be employer is likely to be intrigued by a Thomas Aquinas College student’s educational background, she added, but it is incumbent upon the student to demonstrate how a liberal education will set him or her apart from other candidates. “You could talk about different projects or applications that you did in spatial recognition, or astronomy, or something that you might not traditionally think is applicable but conveys the value that you have,” she said. “The more details that you provide, the more it’s memorable for the employers. It stands out if you can talk about Copernicus at length, while other students barely know who he is.”

A veteran of the advertising industry who has since become a philanthropist and self-proclaimed “serial volunteer,” Mrs. Neal warned  students that, although their skills will suit them well in the evolving marketplace, they will face the burden of being ahead of their time. “It’s like the iPhone,” she began. “The world didn’t know it needed an iPhone. We didn’t even know what it was, this touch screen … yet now we can’t go anywhere without it.” In their professional lives, Mrs. Neal observed, the College’s students will follow a similar trajectory. “You’re doing things in a way that the world doesn’t know it needs — yet. But you’re that first class. You’re the transition. You’re the pioneers.” 

Patrick Nazeck (’19) -- quote 2

“Here I am surrounded by other people my age who share my interests, who value their education as much as I do, and whom I can have fun with while still learning about big ideas. It is an awesome experience that I have never found anywhere else.”

– Patrick Nazeck (’19)

Ridgecrest, California

“Thomas Aquinas College knows this — that the life of the mind involves the spiritual life as well — and that is why I have always thought of this institution as a college in the image and likeness of John Paul II.”

– George Weigel

Papal Biographer