SOM offers foundational classes

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Photo by Blair Seideman.

As part of its mission to better integrate with the rest of the University, the Yale School of Management plans to offer a series of foundational courses for non-SOM students from Yale’s graduate and professional schools.

The effort to implement these foundational courses was launched last fall, with SOM professor Rick Antle’s “Foundations of Accounting” course. Though that course was initially intended for students at the School of Public Health, SOM Associate Associate Dean Anjani Jain said the course attracted students across Yale’s professional and graduate schools. After the success of “Foundations of Accounting,” Antle and the SOM deans decided to offer the course again in the spring. Next year, Jain said SOM hopes to offer a few more of these introductory courses for graduate students, in areas such as entrepreneurship, marketing and operations.

The initiative is currently supported by internal funds, but SOM is seeking outside donor funding to expand it, Jain added.

“The underlying idea [is to] make SOM the most deeply connected business school with the rest of its university,” he said, adding that SOM Dean Edward Snyder has aspired to this vision throughout his tenure.

Graduate students from the wider University can already access elective courses at the SOM, but they cannot access the SOM core curriculum, Jain said.

Implemented in 2006, the core curriculum was designed to be tightly integrated and divided into segments, which would make it difficult for a student to take only one course, Jain said. The core curriculum unintentionally excluded students from other schools, said SOM Associate Dean David Bach.

“While this integrated curriculum is incredibly innovative, it has this unintended consequence of making it harder for non-SOM students to take a basic course in accounting, finance or marketing,” Bach said. “We benefit so much from our students being able to take courses at other professional schools, we want to make sure that other students benefit equally from what SOM has to offer.”

By offering these foundational courses — which are separate from the core curriculum — to the wider University, SOM will enable graduate students to gain a basic understanding of important subjects in an accessible manner, Jain said. Bach added that management is a universally valuable  discipline that appeals to doctors and architects alike.

SOM students have many opportunities to take courses in other graduate and professional schools, Jain said, adding that 75 percent of SOM students will have taken an outside course before they graduate and 15.5 percent of the SOM student body is enrolled in a joint degree program.

Yale is one of few universities where students can take courses at different schools with no transfer of funds, Jain said. While the faculty offering these foundational courses will only be teaching non-SOM students, they will still be paid exclusively by SOM, he said.

Still, Bach said Yale’s other graduate and professional schools currently do not offer foundational courses in their disciplines.

Antle said the foundational courses will be taught by senior members of SOM faculty. While Antle and Jain acknowledged that using faculty time in this way has opportunity costs, Antle said the cost is lower than it would have been in the past, when SOM had a smaller faculty. Jain added that SOM will be hiring a new faculty member to teach and possibly coordinate entrepreneurship foundational courses this summer.

Though he said he regrets the fact that “Foundations of Accounting” takes him out of the MBA classroom, Antle said this initiative is important to SOM’s growth.

“The idea is to be of service in the right kind of way — having a small set of courses that people would find useful, and that would fit in well with the whole university experience,” Antle said.

Antle said he also enjoys teaching non-SOM students because he can approach the material from another perspective. The “Foundations of Accounting” course contains the same basic information as the equivalent course for SOM students, but the curriculum is repackaged to reflect a broader, more liberal arts approach, he said.

Antle said the only problem he has encountered with teaching non-SOM students has been that some of them may not have expected the level of demand of the course. Antle said some of the students who simply wanted to dabble in accounting may not have anticipated how serious an undertaking it would be.

This term, Antle’s “Foundations of Accounting” course also includes 24 Yale College students because the undergraduate equivalent course was canceled this spring.

Jason Wu ’16, who is taking the course this semester, said he enjoys the class and appreciates how Antle is able to bring life to an otherwise dry subject. He added that he would love to see the SOM have more foundational courses open to undergraduates, and that he thinks SOM is more closed off to Yale College than to other Yale graduate schools.

Elliot Friedman LAW ’15, who is also taking the class, said that although law and business are intricately intertwined, the need to learn management skills applies particularly to certain areas of law.

“I personally will probably not pursue a corporate law career,” Friedman said. “But if I were, these courses would be perfect for me because they would provide background on issues that […] I would need to understand intimately.”

The SOM’s new campus, Evans Hall, opened in January.

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