Students adjust to new SOM courses

As part of the Yale School of Management’s radical overhaul of the M.B.A. core curriculum, first-year students embarked this Monday on a sequence of new, multi-disciplinary courses aimed at exploring the roles of different “constituencies” in the field of management.

The students who enrolled in the first four “Organizational Perspectives” courses this week just finished six weeks of courses focused on management basics, like accounting and finance. After winter break, they will enroll in the second half of “Organizational Perspectives.” Although students and professors said they were mostly excited by the new required courses, some said it would take time to adjust to the new curriculum.

The courses launched this week were “Customer,” “State and Society,” “Investor” and “Competitor,” and they will be followed next semester by “Operations,” “Sourcing and Managing Funds,” “Innovators,” and “Employees.”

SOM Dean Joel Podolny said this piece of the new curriculum will expose students to the various major players in the management world.

“The aim of ‘Organizational Perspectives’ is first to identify what are the constituencies that leaders need to engage to be effective, and then to channel the knowledge to those key constituencies,” Podolny said.

The first four courses use a multi-disciplinary approach to studying external actors in a business environment, which is a departure from traditional business school instruction.

Professor Jonathan Feinstein, who will teach “Innovators” after winter break and who helped plan the new curriculum, said a typical business school course on competition teaches “traditional competitive strategy.” In contrast, the new “Competitor” course will focus on factors such as the identity and culture of the organization and competition within an organization, among others.

Students said they are generally enthusiastic about SOM’s revision of the standard business school syllabus and professors’ willingness to explain the changes.

“So far, it’s been interesting and exciting, and some of the professors have gone out of their way benchmarking the old curriculum,” said Justin Tomljanovic SOM ’08, who co-chairs the committee on academics in SOM’s student government. “We’re getting a sense of where we’re going.”

But for others, the novelty of the curriculum has caused a degree of confusion regarding logistics and academic expectations.

“With any program that’s starting up, there tends to be some confusion, and we’ve been a little uncertain as to what we need to be doing and where we need to be,” Allison Warner SOM ’08 said.

Tomljanovic said the academic committee will work with professors teaching the new curriculum to help ensure smooth implementation and to respond to student concerns.

SOM professors said the material covered in the “State and Society” class — which examines the interaction of government and society with business management — has not been examined before in any business school curriculum. The course incorporates SOM-created case studies that are used to examine finance, strategy and other components of government interaction with business.

Professor Doug Rae, who teaches the course, said first-students are experiencing a radical shift in the philosophy behind management teaching.

“This is a very powerful reinvention of management education, as the goal is to translate discipline-based research into practitioner-based knowledge,” he said.

Following the completion of the eight courses within the “Organizational Perspectives” program, SOM students will participate in a six-week case-study program entitled “Integrated Leadership Perspective.”

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