Netflix CEO and Founder Reed Hastings ’83 returned to Bowdoin to deliver a speech tonight on his company and how the internet is changing the way the world enjoys TV and movies. He briefly sat down with the Orient to answer a few questions. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Read the Orient's profile of Hastings and his time at Bowdoin.

How long has it been since you’ve been back to Bowdoin?

Twenty years. 

Why has it been so long since you’ve been back on campus?

I live in Santa Cruz, California, so I just don’t get back to the Boston area much. My dad’s in Western Mass so I’ll go up to see him from New York, but then it’s another couple hours from there.  

What’s one thing every Bowdoin student should do before they graduate?

Swim in the ocean.

What’s the biggest challenge facing Bowdoin right now?

I’m not sure. I would want to ask you guys that. 

What about liberal arts colleges in general?

One way Bowdoin is unique and different from when I was here was the role of fraternities. So when I was here there were fraternities, but they were co-ed, so they were different than what most people in the nation understand fraternities to be. But it seems to be a really positive step that’s happened in the social climate, and very unusual because I don’t know of any other colleges or universities that have taken that move. 

What’s your advice for Bowdoin graduates?

Enjoy Maine while you’re here.

What about travelling?

That’s right for some people. It was right for me; I loved it. The day of graduation I got on a plane and went off to southern Africa to Swaziland and started my peace corps service. But that’s not necessarily right for everyone; it was fantastic for me.

Have you seen Professor William Barker at all?

I did! I saw him for lunch. 

What did you talk about?

We talked about the role of calculus, I kept chiding him that in fact statistics and probability are way more important. And that freshman shouldn’t take calculus and we shouldn't take it in high school, we should be taking statistics and probability.

Does a liberal arts education—an education from a place like Bowdoin—prepare people to work in the tech sector? 

I would say a liberal arts education prepares you to be curious about the world, and trying to understand what’s a good life and what’s a good society. And that that’s very powerful and helpful in whatever you do, whether that’s government service, whether that’s teaching, whether that’s in business. And learning some specific set of skills is not that important. And even business changes so much. The businesses that were important when I left Bowdoin in 83 are completely different than today. So I think liberal arts education is great. 

Read more Q&As with Bowdoin alums.