by Kendall Cairoli ’20
On April 26th 2018, The Providence College School of Business hosted Carly Fiorina as the fourth annual Dean’s Symposium speaker. The Peterson gym was filled with over 800 student and faculty members anticipating a speech from Fiorina that detailed her success in the corporate world, her position as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and her 2016 Presidential candidacy. However, Fiorina spoke about the unexpected, her Philosophy and Medieval Studies degree.
The Fiondella Lecture was featured as part of the PCSB Dean’s Symposium, which aims to highlight the importance of a foundation in the humanities and the influences it has on the study of business and other disciplines. Fiorina’s lecture aligned perfectly with that message as she emphasized the power within humanities to think, communicate and transform an individual into a leader in their communities and corporate careers.
Fiornia said, “At my Stanford Commencement speech, I did not attribute my success to my Econ 101 course, but rather my Medieval Philosophy class”. As students who take Western Civilization, Fiorinias detailing of reading texts of the classical greeks and extracting significance or a new perspective from the work, “boiling it down to its essence” as she exclaimed, was a familiar feeling. Finding truth and importance within a work is what Fiorina credits to her critical thinking and problem solving skills. That skillset has guided Fiorina in both her corporate and public service work. She remarked, “That ability to think critically and understand how other people view the world is a vital component of a good career and a good life.”
Fiorina did not neglect to acknowledge the challenges and failures that are also encountered on the journey of success. Fiorina was particularly candid about fear. She urged the audience to choose to lead in every possible opportunity, but acknowledged the role fear and the risk of criticism play in preventing that goal. She remarked, “Criticism can be fierce, constant, and cruel, but keep going—fear can define you, or you can overcome fear and define yourself.”
An aspect of Fiorina’s speech that profoundly aligned with the PC message was her emphasis on the virtues of empathy and character, skills that are fostered and expanded through a humanities education. Humility is a principle that is becoming a theme in the corporate world as millennials are highlighting the importance of companies giving back to their communities. Fiorina explained that this is why businesses are making a mistake in looking solely for “business skills” when searching for employees she said, “Neglecting to acknowledge the importance of art, history, science is hampering civil society, those skills feed and grow the soul.”
Sydney MacKillop ’20 left the Fiorina lecture with a newfound confidence in her history major. She remarked, “When I usually tell people that I am majoring in history, I am met with confusion. But Fiorina validated that my passion is not useless in the real world—it is important and it gives me the chance to connect with something that is greater than myself and I am proud of that.”
For many students, Fiorina’s lecture was a chance to see the humanities through a different lens and one that offered unexpected, but bright promises.The humanities may provide not only communities, but also the corporate world, with a foundation that is rooted in virtue and a future of prosperity and possibility.