Lamont: Working with colleges a ‘privilege’

Ned Lamont SOM ’80 was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate for the state of Connecticut in 2006. He is a senior faculty fellow at the School of Management and the founder of Lamont Digital Systems, now Campus TeleVideo, the country’s top telecommunications company serving colleges and universities. He spoke with the News about his post at SOM, his business, his support of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and his own future political career.

Q: As a former SOM student and current faculty member, what do you think of SOM’s new curriculum and its expansion?

A: I think that the School of Management is important for Yale and important for Connecticut and has a strategy that balances public and private in a way that’s important for the country. I taught a course there this fall with Mike Critelli, the chairman of Pitney Bowes, and we put together a strategic plan for the state of Connecticut. This is just what makes the Yale School of Management so unique. There’s no major business in America that can operate without a multiyear strategic plan. And a state like Connecticut has never had a strategic plan.

Q: Has SOM changed a lot since you were a student?

A: There’s still a certain idealism and public purpose that helped distinguish the school back in 1980 when I graduated. I suppose it’s got a little more of a business orientation than it did back in 1980 — you can now get an MBA [Masters of Business Administration] as opposed to an MPPM [Masters of Public and Private Management], but I think the heart of the school is still the same.

Q: How does catering to colleges and universities make your business unique?

A: First of all, working with colleges and universities is a great privilege because in my world, telecommunications, the university is a very entrepreneurial client. They want to use the technology in unique ways that push the envelope, and that’s fun for me as a businessperson because we have to address these special needs.

Q: When you ran for office in 2006, you gained a lot of support among younger voters. What are your thoughts on the current student loan crisis?

A: Especially in math, the sciences and engineering, we have a real shortfall in talent in our country. If you want people to specialize for certain skills because you think it’s good for our country, then rather than saddling them with $50,000 in debt when they graduate, you should give them incentives. A friend of mine’s son just resigned as a Navy Seal; he got a $100,000 signing bonus. Compare that to someone graduating with a Ph.D. in mathematics who will end up $100,000 in the hole. People respond to incentives. I think we’ve got to be more aggressive in our student-loan program to allow more people to specialize in places where we need them.

Q: You are an active supporter of Barack Obama and have campaigned for him. Do you think he is well suited to address our nation’s economic woes?

A: I think Obama is going to be just what this country needs when it comes to restarting our economy. India has 9.5 percent annual economic growth, which adds 25 million people to the middle class every year riding that growth. Compare that to a state like Connecticut, which really hasn’t added a good-paying job in a generation. And young people are leaving the state. Business consultants say about Connecticut: “We’re too old, and we’re too cold.” So I think it’s about being strategic in terms of where we put our resources in Connecticut. When it comes to what Obama would do for the country, I think it would be a new generation of environmental technologies that create new jobs and also free us from this billion-dollar-a-day addiction we have to foreign oil.

Q: Would you consider taking a position within Obama’s administration, were he to be elected president?

A: I’d certainly consider that. I think the first two years of an administration are an incredibly important time. If you have a chance to pull an oar and make a difference and somebody calls you, you certainly consider it.

Q: Would you consider running for office again in the future?

A: A year and a half ago I said “no way,” but it’s a year and a half later, and I say, it’s something I would look at.

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