MBA Students Spend a Day with Warren Buffett
MBA student Yasmine Rezai and a few of her colleagues in the Tippie MBA program recently had a lesson in life from the master of finance and philanthropy. In this first-person piece, written initially for the University Hygienic Lab's electronic newsletter, This Week at UHL, Yasmine shares her experience and a bit of advice from the "Oracle of Omaha." Yasmine is also a UHL graduate research assistant.
On October 17, students from six universities across the country met with one of the world's most successful investors: Warren Buffett. I was one of 27 representing the UI MBA program who met with Mr. Buffett in his hometown of Omaha.
Why would one of the richest men in the world want to spend time answering questions from a bunch of MBA students? Mr. Buffet said that he believes that audiences like ours are already engaged in his world and capable of changing the way we live our lives based on interactions with him. We started our adventure with a tour of The Nebraska Furniture Mart, which is partially owned by Mr. Buffett, then had a two-hour question-and-answer session where students were given the opportunity to ask Mr. Buffett questions on the topics of our choice.
To say that the Q-and-A session was inspirational does not do it justice. Mr. Buffett's answers to our questions ranged from the technical, such as why he believes that stock volatility is not always bad, to the philosophical, such as his belief that we should marry someone whom we perceive as better than us. Mr. Buffett said that he believes that we should respect "the draw" we are given in life, teach our children well, and identify and associate with "effective" people. To him, effective people are not necessarily the smartest people, or the prettiest, or the nicest, etc. They are the ones who are engaged, enthusiastic, smart, and resourceful. They are individuals who others want to please.
People may not realize that this man, who is known for his success in business, is also a philanthropist who has committed to giving away his fortune, recently estimated to be $60 billion, to charity. In particular, he's chosen to give away more than 80 percent of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving global health and educational standards. Mr. Buffett explained this decision by stating that he believes in meritocracies (people selected for leadership based on their abilities) rather than the hereditary system. Giving money to people who can spend it wisely is the best way to unleash human potential, he said. Mr. Buffett observed that he's good at making money and has identified the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as good at spending money wisely.
It was interesting to hear about his goals in tackling important societal needs that don't have a constituency that advocates for them. Examples include harnessing the problems that arise from weapons of mass destruction, reproductive rights, and curing AIDS.
It was truly inspirational to listen to someone with such clarity of mind. Mr. Buffett provided simple, elegant answers replete with illustrative analogies that framed complex concepts in a way that everyone could understand.
We were also amused to find out that this man, known as the "Oracle of Omaha," does not have a driver, and instead drives his own Cadillac that is several years old, and he parks it on the street.
I found Mr. Buffett to be an amazing man who is even more amazing for remaining so grounded despite all of his success in business.
MBA students who took part in the visit came from The University of Iowa, Florida State University, University of Missouri, University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Tulane University.
Contact: Tom Snee, UI News Services, 319-384-0010