Ten undergraduates and three professors cleared their busy springtime schedules to travel to Omaha, Nebraska, last weekend to attend the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder's meeting and listen to Warren Buffett, also known as the “Oracle of Omaha.”
The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business Finance professors David Kass, Elinda Kiss and Julie Pavlovsky led the group for the 3-day excursion.
“This trip was the highlight of my Smith experience by far,” said Ashley Kim, a rising Finance junior. “At one point I was standing only a few feet away from Warren Buffett himself and I was completely starstruck. Waking up at 3 a.m. and waiting in line for the doors to open was very much worth it, because later I was sitting in the same room as some of the most notable people in business and finance, like Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Bill Gates, CEOs of top companies, successful hedge fund managers, and many more.”
She said it was “amazing to see” the range of different Berkshire Hathaway companies in the exhibition area. “You never realize just how many companies Berkshire is involved in until it's all in one room. It truly is the ‘Woodstock for Capitalists,’ ” she said, referring to the annual meeting’s nickname. As part of the weekend event, 80 companies owned by Berkshire displayed their products in the Exhibit Hall, in what Kass describes as a “carnival-like atmosphere.”
The students even spotted Buffett and Bill Gates, who is on Berkshire's board of directors, as they walked through the exhibit area.
Kass has taken students to Omaha for more than a decade. He says participation provides an unparalleled learning opportunity. “The highlight of this trip was the five-hour shareholder question-and-answer session with 86-year-old Warren Buffett and 93-year-old Charlie Munger in the CenturyLink Center, where 40,000 shareholders competed for 17,000 seats.”
Kass’ students were standing in line by 4 a.m., three hours before the doors opened. So, they were able to sit very close to Buffett and Munger. ”It was both an educational and entertaining experience,” Kass said.
Among Buffett’s quips, was this one: "Charlie can hear and I can see, that's why we work together." Among Munger’s: "I wish I could be 90 again."
Buffett and Munger discussed Berkshire's investments in Apple and in airlines, and its failure to invest in Google and Amazon.
“While it is true that anyone could have watched the livestream or follow-up reports of the meeting, sitting in the audience was an eye-opening experience,” said Finance major Mingkai Xu. “This was the first shareholder's meeting I've attended, and seeing Buffett and Munger discuss topics that I am currently studying in such depth was nothing less than inspirational and motivating.”
The event also gave students unparalleled networking opportunities, said Kiss, the Faculty Champion for the Banking and Private Wealth Management Fellows program.
“Besides listening to Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger answer questions, they also had the opportunity to network with managers of hedge funds, and other investors -- Whitney Tilson, Chuck Gillman and Glenn Tongue, among others -- at the post-meeting cocktail party,” said Kiss.
Julie Pavlovsky, Faculty Champion for the Junior Wall Street Fellows program, flew to Omaha only hours after attending the Smith School’s Undergraduate Awards Dinner on Thursday, May 4,, where she was honored with the Distinguished Faculty Award.
While in Omaha, Kass was interviewed by a journalist from China, who published a story and photo of the Smith School contingent. An English translation is here.
For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad. The Smith School offers 15 unique Fellows programs. For more details, go to the Smith Fellows website.
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.