Arts and Letters Students Explore the World of Business

Author: Joanna Basile

Arts and Letters Business Boot Camp

They won’t hear a drill sergeant shouting orders. They won’t crawl in the mud. And they won’t be scaling tall walls. At this boot camp, a select group of Notre Dame students in the College of Arts and Letters will instead learn to navigate the business world, analyze corporate data, and propose solutions to key management problems.

Held in Chicago during spring break each year, the four-day Arts and Letters Business Boot Camp allows liberal arts students to meet and network with employers and successful Chicago-area alumni.

“There are few educational opportunities that pack so much into so little time,” says senior Malcolm Phelan, a political science major with a minor in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program.

“It was one of my favorite academic experiences at Notre Dame, and I would recommend it to every single person in the College—even if you don’t want to go into business.”

Exploring Careers

Arts and Letters Business Boot Camp

Organized by The Career Center and funded by the College of Arts and Letters, the boot camp covers various aspects of marketing and business operations, business etiquette, and understanding and using financial analysis. Participants also investigate two case studies and make presentations proposing solutions to those challenges.

Lissa Bill, an assistant director in The Career Center and manager of the program, says the event also introduces students to some of the many different career paths open to liberal arts majors.

“These students have gone on to do a lot of different things,” she says. “Some use it as a way to narrow down what they want to do in business, and some use it to explore whether or not they want to go into business.

“We’ve had former program participants go to some pretty big companies, such as Goldman Sachs, Target, and Accenture.”

Phelan, for one, says his spring break experience helped prepare him to succeed in a recent internship—and then land a position as an associate at Boston Consulting Group’s New York office after he graduates in May 2012.

Building a Foundation

Malcolm Phelan

“In only a matter of days,” he says, “the boot camp gave me an invaluable look into an entirely new way of thinking and processing information. It will not suddenly give you a degree in accounting, but it will shed light on alternate ways of evaluating the world around you.

“It definitely came in handy when I began my internship with a consulting firm,” Phelan adds. “I had been given a foundation upon which I could start learning the specific skills that the firm wanted me to have.”

Senior anthropology major Lauren Walas, who attended the boot camp as a sophomore, says the experience helped her realize how her background in Arts and Letters would be an advantage in the business world.

“My liberal arts education enables me to bring a different perspective to the table,” she says. “Furthermore, it has really helped me to refine my communication, presenting, and critical thinking skills, which are the foundations of success in business.”

After interning in global procurement for Marathon Petroleum and in merchandising for Target, Walas plans to work as a buyer at a high-end retailer after graduation.

Springing Forward

Lauren Walas

Calling the boot camp a “fun and productive” way to spend spring break, Walas says she gained valuable insights during the program—and would recommend it to other Arts and Letters students.

“Going to the boot camp doesn’t mean you won’t have a fun spring break,” she says. “I had a great time and got the chance to meet people I might never have met otherwise. I still keep in touch with my marketing case study group because we had so much fun together.”

Phelan agrees. “Though mundane sounding at first,” he says, “filling in balance sheets and pitching products gave me confidence, and I would recommend the experience to anyone who would like to see how valuable they actually are as Arts and Letters majors.”

The 2012 Arts and Letters Business Boot Camp will take place March 12–15 in Notre Dame’s Santa Fe Building in Chicago.

There will be two information sessions about the program in LaFortune Student Center’s Montgomery Auditorium: October 25 at 5:30 p.m. and November 2 at 6:30 p.m. The deadline for applications is November 7, 2011. For more information, contact Lissa Bill at

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