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MLA Alum Omer Imtiaz Wants to Bring the Liberal Arts to Tech Leaders

Omer Imtiaz, '19 explores how the study of liberal arts can expand technology's societal impact.

Omer Imtiaz

When Omer Imtiaz started the Master of Liberal Arts, he wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking for, but he knew he wanted to step outside of his comfort zone and learn news ways of thinking. Omer’s background in engineering and computer science often helped him to solve for the “how” when devising solutions to problems, but rarely helped him answer the “why.” Armed with big questions and an insatiable curiosity, Omer embarked on a liberal arts journey at the Graham School that changed his way of thinking, working, and being in the world.

A successful director at PwC with a history of impactful leadership in the field of digital transformation, Omer was drawn to the MLA for its multidisciplinary approach.

About a year into the MLA program, Omer was still struggling to understand fully the impact of a liberal arts education, when one day in a class the instructor announced, rather matter-of-factly: you are here to learn to read, write, and think. For Omer, “It was a profound moment. I was beginning to answer the why.”

Describing his MLA journey as one of the most challenging personal and professional experiences of his life, Omer faced his fears, overcame self-doubt, and walked away with a sense of self-awareness and confidence that he did not have before, and that serves him to this day.

“I became much more interested in people and a much more empathic leader because I now had the ability to understand the context behind any problem and solution,” says Omer, “And I keep getting insights…even three years after graduating.”

With a newfound ability to zoom in and out on problems and to communicate with different audiences, Omer found an expanded capacity to manage complex work issues and his relationships with his team.

Importantly, Omer has a message for his colleagues in the tech community about the value of a liberal arts education: “Science (and by extension, engineering) can answer the what and how questions, however, you will need a liberal arts education to answer the why question. Otherwise, it is a pursuit of progress without any real end in mind. Just because we can use artificial intelligence, for example, should we? Why or why not? What are the ethical questions and consequences surrounding these technological advances? That’s where the study of liberal arts comes in.”

Omer believes that liberal arts’ ability to help inform an examined life of purpose can only improve technological outcomes for all of society and perhaps even help to answer the most fundamental questions: What gives meaning to human life? And why?

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Sara Connell

Director of Outreach and Communications

Sara Connell directs communications and outreach efforts for the UChicago Graham School.

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