Working at New York University’s Stern School of Business, Matt Statler comes in contact with numerous students who aspire to work on Wall Street. That was not always the plan for Statler, the Richman Family Director of Business Ethics and Social Impact Programming and a clinical associate professor of business and society.
Statler will make his first trip to South Dakota and to South Dakota State University to deliver “Developing Practically Wise Leaders,” April 6 at 7 p.m. in Club 71 in the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium. He says his talk is somewhat autobiographical.
“The story about combining the humanities and business is me,” Statler said. “My path to this position was not intentional; it just happened that way. I was able to connect my graduate and undergraduate training in particular areas of business, risk, planning and strategy. It’s been a great eight years.
“Our world is complex, and in order to deal with the complexity, we need to cultivate not only our technical skills but also our qualitative judgment,” he continued. “We exercise that judgment in part through the arts and humanities. The practice of business has aspired to be a science. As a result, values and ethics have seemed rather squishy and not part of what a businessperson should be thinking about. We have had a couple of generations of business leaders trained without thinking about the consequence of their actions on society and the environment. We need to weave ethics into the business school curriculum from the beginning.”
After receiving a doctorate in philosophy, Statler discovered that his father was right and there were not many jobs for philosophers. He worked as a management consultant before serving as the director of research at the Imagination Lab, a Switzerland-based, independent and nonprofit research foundation.
He then landed a position with NYU’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response, eventually becoming its director of research before taking his current position.
Statler leads and coordinates business ethics and social impact programming at Stern, including the required four-course Social Impact Core Curriculum as well as a range of cocurricular and extracurricular activities.
“We tell our students these classes won’t necessarily get you your first job—the technical skills you learn will qualify you for that,” Statler said. “We tell them they need to realize they were one of 50 people hired because of their technical skills. What will differentiate them is the capacity to articulate and defend a point of view or argue for a course of action, and these habits of mind and speech are trained in the humanities.
“Employees who can write and speak well in response to a complex question are the ones who are going to move up more quickly in an organization. We say that reading classic authors like Cicero can complement the technical skills in their business major, helping them to get their second and third jobs and move up the ladder.”