Today, students at the Yale School of Management will find their seats for the first time in the classrooms of Edward P. Evans Hall, SOM’s brand new 242,000 square-foot glass building on Whitney Avenue.
After over two years of construction, the new state-of-the-art building opened Thursday for a celebratory conference on business leadership. Roughly 650 people attended the three-day conference — 150 were students and the rest were faculty, alumni and influential figures from the world of management. Among the panelists and speakers were Nobel Prize-winning economics professor Robert Shiller, Yale Chief Investment Officer David Swensen, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, New Haven mayor Toni Harp ARC ’78and Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy.
After an opening address from Evans Hall architect Norman Foster, the conference offered a series of panels focused on the nexus between business and society, a theme that SOM Dean Edward Snyder said is in line with the school’s central philosophy.
Snyder said the conference offered a unique opportunity to achieve multiple aims — to show that SOM is constantly modernizing and globalizing, that the school has a strong community of students, faculty, alumni and supporters, and that it now has a facility that will connect this community.
“I think of this as a high point event in the school’s history,” Snyder said. “High point events give an institution a sense of what it is and what it can be.”
Beyond serving as a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the conference was an occasion to feature the thoughts, leadership and ideas of the SOM community, SOM Associate Dean David Bach said.
SOM Associate Dean Anjani Jain echoed this sentiment, adding that the new building, though essential to the conference, receded into the background of the conference’s real focus.
“The conference is truly about celebrating the intellectual ideas that the school has been at the forefront of, the new building just gave us the space, venue and moment at which to host it,” Jain said.
But Jain also said that beyond the conference, the new building will be important in improving the academic environment and interaction between faculty and students.
Jain said that the experience both inside and outside of the classroom will improve dramatically. Everyone will now be under the same roof, he said, and they will see each other much more often.
Likewise, Bach said that the building’s conformation reflects and enables the fulfillment of the school’s mission.
“One of the things that Dean Snyder talks about is that managers need an extended line of sight — well, the building actually has an extended line of sight. You can actually see [in] the building through glass,” Bach said.
Frances Symes SOM ’14, one of the SOM students who attended and helped organize the conference, said that she anticipates having more casual interactions with professors in the new building. The new building will have a cafeteria where professors and students can eat together, whereas the old campus did not, she said.
Symes said she was impressed by the exchanges that took place at the conference. Alumni and visitors were surprisingly willing to talk to students and displayed great passion for SOM’s mission, she said.
“Something that comes up as we grow and change with the school is an occasional angst about whether we are meeting that mission.” Symes said, “At the conference you could see the way the early graduates have fulfilled and enacted that mission across many different industries.”
Jain said that while other business schools have been stagnant or declining in applications, SOM has enjoyed a steady growth over recent years. Snyder said that last year only, there was slightly more than a 10 percent increase in applications.
But both Jain and Snyder said that while some of this growth is certainly attributable to the new campus transition, it is difficult to isolate the motivations for this increase in applications and to predict future developments.
In the meantime, current students will enjoy their own small inauguration ritual on Thursday — when they will bring a symbolic lock from the old campus to the new one and ring a ceremonial bell at Evans Hall.
Evans Hall is at the northern end of Yale’s campus, at 165 Whitney Ave.