CLA Chairperson on How the Liberal Arts Made Her Career
By: Nick Santangelo
It took a village, or, more precisely, a city. But for Anne Long, CLA ’81 and ’89, it also took a university and a lot of self-drive. Long, the College of Liberal Arts’ (CLA) 2019 Gallery of Success winner, describes herself as self-made, Philly-made and Temple-made. But these days, she’s giving back to the “village,” helping maximize opportunities for CLA students as the Board of Visitors’ Chairperson since 2014.
Long credits the liberal arts with teaching students how to ask the right questions, how to learn and how to solve problems. They’re skills Long herself learned as a CLA student and ones she says have “limitless” appeal across the economy. And there’s one extremely popular landing spot for today’s students that has a particular need for professionals with that skillset. Silicon Valley is hiring liberal arts majors more than any other major—and for good reason.
“We can collect data all day long, but if we can't put a human face on it, if we can't interpret results, then the data's useless,” Long explains. “And so the fastest-growing major in Silicon Valley is liberal arts. I think it's an example of how students ought to think about applying a liberal arts degree, which they should consider pursuing.”
Thinking about what to study is the reason Long ended up enrolling at CLA and the reason she went to college at all. Growing up, she would read about government in the Philly papers with her father. If not for that, Long says, she probably wouldn’t have gone to college at all. But go she did, becoming the first in her family to get a college degree with her bachelor of arts in political science and later her master of public administration.
The liberal arts challenged me to think critically, constructively
She thought that education would lead her to a government career, but Long discovered that majors don’t have to equal careers. She found success working in finance at places like Merrill Lynch, in consulting at a business she founded herself and, as of last February, as senior vice president at startup LightHouse Life Solutions.
“What I like about it is I'm now on the other side of the transaction,” says Long. “I spent my career helping people acquire insurance and protection products and making sure that they had their families well-secured for the future. And in this role I'm helping seniors find resources to live longer in retirement and with dignity.”
Long’s been able to zigzag through a successful career—from corporations to entrepreneurial endeavors to helping lead a startup—thanks in part to her inherent curiosity. She can recall debating with the family at the dining room table as a child and searching for answers as to why things were the way they were. But it wasn’t until arriving at CLA that the inquisitive child learned how to channel her curiosity as a successful career woman.
“The liberal arts challenged me to think critically, constructively, literally to an end, to an outcome, to how to apply research to your thinking,” explains Long. “I've taken that with me in all of my career jaunts, and my career was not linear—it was a zig and a zag. I'd get bored, and I'd go over here, and I'd chase that shiny object because it may not have made sense on a resume, but it made complete sense to me. And my career took off as a result of it.”
Thanks to that successful, if unpredictable, career path, Long now finds herself in a place where she can finish her career helping people who are struggling. At the same time, she’s helping CLA students who badly need help, leading the board to launch initiatives like Pathways to Professions, which empowers students to accept unpaid internships by awarding them stipends. It’s a way for students to pursue opportunities they feel are right for them, something Long believes everyone should do when selecting a college and a field of study.
“Students ultimately go where their heart tells them they should be, and they are finding good professional lives by doing that. So, I would encourage them to, if possible, follow what their heart tells them, and they can have a great profession and a great life with a liberal arts degree.”