Twenty Mason MBA students recently had a chance to meet with a real American business tycoon: Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. On Friday, Oct. 21, the students met with Buffett for a question-and-answer session and luncheon at the Berkshire Hathaway corporate offices in Omaha, Neb.
This is the third time that Mason MBA students have had the opportunity to meet with Buffett. Coleman Raphael, dean emeritus of the School of Business Administration (now School of Management), facilitated an initial meeting for Mason MBA students with Buffett in 2007. Mason MBA students were invited back in 2009 and again this year. Students from seven other universities were also invited to the October meeting.
Finance faculty member Robert Johnston accompanied the Mason students, who were chosen from the MBA 643 Financial Management class based upon their academic ranking. The group flew out to Omaha on Thursday, Oct. 20, and returned home on Friday evening following the event.
Four Mason students had a direct interaction with Buffett.
“I asked him a question about the global economic crisis,” says graduate student Seetha Sankaran. “He elaborately answered students’ questions with wisdom and enthusiasm.”
Students praised Buffett for taking their questions seriously and using examples from his own experiences to help them understand his answers.
“I asked him his views on America’s ability to innovate and what the government’s role should be in protecting innovation,” explains student Tyler Summers. “He answered that America has been a great environment for innovators, but innovation isn’t uniquely American. He told of a trip he took to China a number of years ago with Bill Gates [to illustrate the point].”
Buffett fielded questions about his views on the current global and national economies and infrastructure projects, as well about more personal matters, to the delight of the students attending.
“I had expected to be inspired by his intellect, but I had not expected how emotionally moved I would be,” Summers continues.
“Meeting Warren Buffett was the most impressionable experience of my MBA at Mason,” says Gaurav Khantwal.
Colette Banet, another student, had a special opportunity to interact with Buffett.
“Being selected to drive with Warren Buffett in his car and sit next to him during lunch was the most memorable experience of my academic career here [at Mason],” she says. “Despite his celebrity status, he was extremely personable and seemed very interested in our conversation. It was like being out to lunch with an old friend.”
The students say they are appreciative that the School of Management funded the trip, adding that they were inspired by Buffett’s insights.
“I owe my sincere thanks to Professor Robert Johnston for organizing and the School of Management for sponsoring this trip,” says Sankaran.
This article was written by Erin Cushing and originally appeared in the Mason Gazette on November 15, 2011.