Mike Finnegan '08

Philosophy Major | Chief of Staff, Vanguard International
picture of Michael Finnegan

Why did you major in philosophy?
In all honesty, it was because these were the classes I could feel my brain growing – in a good way!  I came into UNH initially focused on sciences and physics.  Those were challenging and fun classes, but I found that when I was outside of class, I was rarely thinking about them.  But the Philosophy courses I took – I left class every day with a new thought, question, or curiosity that carried me to the next class.  I also learned practical skills like refining complex thoughts into clear, concise communication – a skill I’ve leaned on as I’ve ventured into a variety of jobs like intelligence analysis, consumer retail, healthcare, and now asset management.

Interesting stuff you did as a UNH undergrad? Thesis, study abroad, etc.
I played men’s lacrosse all four years which was a lot of fun and provided a great balance to time spent on academics.  I also traveled abroad to Ireland in the fall of my senior year which opened a variety of new doors for me as I began to think about “life after undergrad”.  I also explored New England’s beaches, mountains, and ports.

What are you doing now?
I’m the dad to three fun and energetic boys and married to a fellow Wildcat who graduated from the OT program. I’m also the Chief of Staff for Vanguard International, currently located in London. Much of my career has spanned roles thinking about complex concepts while trying to inform strategic decisions about the future – the skills I learned in Philosophy (e.g., communication, critical thinking, creative thought) have been core to my success professionally.

How has philosophy been valuable in your personal and professional life?
Philosophy showed me how to be a structured thinker and it’s had a direct impact on my personal and professional life.  It’s provided me the foundation to reconcile trade-offs and decisions in my personal life, with my family, and even at work – it’s provided me skills to quickly dive into and learn about new industries while simplifying complex ideas so that key decisions can be made.

Any advice for students considering a philosophy major or graduating with a philosophy major?
Whether you know it yet or not, your key skills as a philosophy major will likely be critical thinking, communicating, openness to consider new paths, and creativity.  Those skills will make you a valuable member of any organization – big business, small business, non-profit, community-led.  Use those skills to ask good questions and no matter the setting, you’ll make an impact!  The world doesn’t need more robots – it needs more thinkers! 

What do I miss most about UNH Philosophy? 
Nick Smith’s seminars – the debates we would have were epic, and the questions Nick would pose could turn the classroom on its head in an instant.  I always envied his ability to do this and often think of those discussions!