SOM alums laud changes

Yale School of Management alumni have continued to respond to the school’s new curriculum with encouragement and support following a faculty-led panel on the new core classes presented to the SOM Class of 1981 this past week.

The panel, moderated by SOM Deputy Dean Stanley Garstka, was scheduled as part of the SOM Class of 1981’s 25th reunion. Alumni who attended the event became the school’s first graduate class to learn about the new interdisciplinary core curriculum currently being implemented.

Professor Greg Dees SOM ’81, who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, said the school’s new curriculum appeals to him both as an alumnus and as a business educator. While revisions to business and management school curricula happen periodically at most schools, Dees said this most recent wave of curriculum reassessment is due to the simultaneous rise of globalization and new technology, which serves to blur the boundaries between sectors in the global marketplace.

“We at Duke have also been revamping our business curriculum, but I don’t think it’s as radical or as fundamental a change as what you’re seeing at SOM,” Dees said.

While Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has also recently revised its curriculum — reducing the number of required core classes and making an international experience available to students — Dees said the school’s changes have not been as far-reaching as SOM’s in terms of transcending disciplines in the classroom.

Garstka said he tried to focus the panel’s discussion on the philosophy and process behind the development of the new curriculum, as well as the curriculum’s contextualization of skills in a “real-world” framework. He said the biggest concern alumni raised related to how the new curriculum would incorporate business ethics into the classroom.

“There was some discussion as to how the new curriculum facilitates discussion of values in the management process, and several alumni volunteered to look at course syllabi to identify contexts and cases where questions of values can be interjected,” Garstka said in an e-mail. “The school will create a space on the alumni Web site where course syllabi will be posted and where alumni can comment on the new courses and impact their development.”

David Krimm SOM ’81 said he thinks the school will have a better and richer curriculum as a result of alumni involvement.

“We have some very relevant perspectives to offer, so that the courses won’t be solely academic,” Krimm said. “SOM should take advantage of alumni support as the curriculum continues to evolve, as I’m sure it will.”

SOM professor Jonathan Feinstein, who spoke on the panel, has been doing just that as part of his Alumni Career Interview Project, in which he records interviews with SOM alumni about their careers and advice that they have for current students. The interviews, which range from two to three hours in length, will eventually be edited down to brief clips for use in Feinstein’s “Careers” course, due to start in week four of the new curriculum this year.

“We want to start students off with the impression that a career is a lifelong journey of development and give them the resources to think about and ultimately make that journey,” Feinstein said of the project and the course. “We only have a handful of interviews so far, but the alumni have shared fairly in-depth insights into everything from their formative years and their decision to come to management school to their careers post-SOM and how they’ve handled various challenges in the workplace.”

Many alumni said they thought the new curriculum and the pioneering spirit behind it was characteristic of SOM.

“The course design is itself entrepreneurial,” Pfeiffer said. “It’s different, new, risky — exactly the kind of innovation the school likes to see their students making. SOM is really taking a leadership role in doing this.”

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