Any finance student would relish the opportunity to learn from Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time. In early May, eight Ithaca College students did just that. The students travelled to the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, where Buffett and Charlie Munger answered questions from reporters and the crowd.
“Their views and their opinions and the ways they think about investing are unique and interesting,” said Jay Muenzen, director of the investment program and an instructor in the business administration program, both in IC’s School of Business. “The students wouldn’t get that in a classroom.”
The shareholders meeting was part of a larger trip that began with a stop at Koch Industries. The trip was a group effort between Muenzen and several alumni, including 2010 graduates Jeff Bush and Rob Crawford, as well as Sean Reid, dean of the School of Business.
“A trip this big doesn’t happen with one person,” Muenzen said. “You need a lot of different pieces. It was fantastic to see that come together for the students.”
Students were selected via an application process that required them to write a report on Koch. The journey began in early May when they traveled with Muenzen and Bush — who works for Koch — to Wichita, Kansas, and met with the company’s senior executives. Muenzen said this helped the students gain additional exposure as to what they can do career-wise. “They realized that they don’t need to go to New York City or Boston to have an exciting, fulfilling career in the industry,” he said.
The next day, the students travelled to Omaha to attend the Creighton University Value Investing Panel, as well as Columbia Business School’s “From Graham to Buffett and Beyond” dinner, held annually on the eve of the shareholder’s meeting. Here, the students heard from a panel of high-profile investors who discussed not only their successes, but also the challenges they’ve overcome. Muenzen believes that these perspectives helped students think critically about their future careers and acquire the foresight to imagine potential obstacles and ways to move past them.
The last full day of the trip was spent at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting. Crawford met the group at this event, which had more than 35,000 people in attendance. In addition to hearing Buffett and Munger speak, Bush introduced the students to investors such as Mario Gabelli and Whitney Tilson, as well as Alice Schroeder, the author of one of Buffet’s authorized biographies.
With the trip a success, Muenzen says that he would love to do it again in future years. “Having these outside-of-the-classroom experiences is extraordinarily beneficial,” he said. “It’s all about impact. When you’re at the game in person, it’s much different than watching the game on television.”
Muenzen emphasizes that this trip could not have taken place without a supportive alumni base.
“The alumni connections are what it’s all about,” he said. “When you have extraordinarily dedicated and committed alums, you end up having fantastic events with meaningful interactions with people in the field that end up changing students’ lives.”