“Transylvania fosters a safe environment to come in and explore a million things before you land on something to major in, and even from there you’re equipped to do more than what it says on your diploma.”
Jacob Brumfield's desk resides in one of the most powerful office buildings in America. But despite rapidly ascending the corporate ladder at Walmart's headquarters, he hasn't lost focus on the human element. For Brumfield, it's more than just business—it's about helping people live and work better.
Working in Walmart headquarters' information technology strategy group, Brumfield belongs to a "special-ops" team designed to transform and simplify the business process, helping to reduce operating costs. But, according to Brumfield, this can't happen at the expense of Walmart's own people.
"My role specifically is to manage how people in the organization adjust to change and adopt new ways of working," he explains. "I have to make sure that as we make Walmart a better, more efficient company, we are simultaneously making it a better place for our associates to work and are protecting their quality of life."
Brumfield has learned that Walmart's impact is widespread. "As astonishing and scary as it sounds, there is very little that Walmart does not touch in some way, shape, or form," he says. "And it's all down the hall from me in one direction or another." Walmart's wide-reaching arms create opportunities for Brumfield to affect human beings on a worldwide basis.
"The most rewarding part of Walmart is the global exposure available to someone landlocked in Bentonville, Ark.," Brumfield says. "That can be literally global, as in learning how external investments from companies like Walmart in Indian trade help build up traditional local merchants. It can also be figuratively global, as in the breadth of things you are exposed to." Those topics range from low-income healthcare options to tracking hurricanes.
But Brumfield isn't fazed by the variety of challenges he faces. Transylvania helped teach him to meet them head-on. "I wouldn't be where I am nor excel at what I do if it weren't for my liberal arts education," he claims. "We talk all the time about how Transylvania helps you become well rounded, think critically, and see the world multi-dimensionally. That's never as evident as when you're in the corporate world, in a stark minority of liberally educated people."
Brumfield's rapid ascent as a leader in the company, he says, extends not only from his business, anthropology, and philosophy classes, but also his service as Student Government Association president, where he learned the value of looking at the world not simply in business terms, but in human terms.
"Transylvania cultivated me as a human, not as a businessman, and being the human in a boardroom of businessmen and businesswomen is a powerful and good position."
Sitting behind his desk at one of the most powerful corporations in the world, Brumfield knows that he is more than a cog in a machine—more than a title on his office door. He possesses an identity and concern for people solidified by his time as a Transylvania Pioneer.
"Liberal arts education didn't teach me to do something," Brumfield says. "It led me to be someone."