Members of the Yale School of Management’s first student government met for the first time this week, after being elected by their classmates just before spring break.
The new student government, which consists of nine members of the SOM’s class of 2007, was developed based on the recommendations of a committee of student volunteers and representatives from the Dean’s Advisory Council, the representative body that the new government has replaced. SOM Dean of Student Affairs Prish Pierce said the transformation of the DAC into a student government was encouraged by Dean Joel Podolny, who sought a natural evolution toward an elected body.
“It’s a step in the direction of really responsible student governance,” Pierce said. “An elected group has a sort of added authority because it enjoys the support of its peers.”
The new student government includes four student body representatives, along with five officers: president, academic affairs representative, administrative representative, alumni and career development representative, and student life representative.
The SOM’s student government has already taken an active role in advising Podolny on several important upcoming issues, including plans for new facilities and a sweeping reform of the school’s curriculum, Academic Affairs Representative Yansong Cao SOM ’07 said.
“There’s going to be a huge change in the curriculum, which we hope will boost our image and rankings,” Cao said. “Dean Podolny has taken the initiative to get our input on these plans before presenting them to the student body on Wednesday.”
The now-defunct DAC, created by then-Dean Jeffrey Garten in the mid-1990s, consisted of 10 members who applied for two-year positions on the council. Second-year students on the DAC then recommended first-year applicants to the dean, who made the ultimate decision of which students to appoint to the council.
Raegan LaRochelle SOM ’08, a member of the former DAC involved in forming the new government, said the DAC conducted a student interest survey in June 2005 to familiarize the newly-arrived Podolny with the issues that were important to the student body. In response to the survey’s findings, Podolny asked the DAC to formulate plans for an elected student government to be implemented in the spring of 2006, LaRochelle said.
“We began by benchmarking what other school and professional programs do in terms of student representation,” LaRochelle said. “After looking at a variety of structures, we came up with something we all thought was representative of what works at SOM. For instance, SOM has a kind of collaborative culture, so we consciously designed the government as a non-hierarchical organization.”
Alumni and Career Development Representative Melanie Bates SOM ’07 said the incoming SOM Class of 2008 will be electing their own peers to fulfill these roles in the fall, so that each office will ultimately be occupied by two students — one from each class — at any given time.
Pierce said the initiative shown by students in their collaborative efforts to create a new government is an important aspect of the new organization.
“I think SOM has a very strong student culture that is very attractive to both current and prospective students,” Pierce said. “The institution of this student government is a real expression of our productive, independent student body.”
Student Body Representative Austin Clark SOM ’07 said he thinks this format will better suit the needs of both the SOM’s administration and student body.
“I think people are excited about it as a whole new process,” Clark said of his SOM peers. “My hope is that we can keep a dialogue open with students so as to be more responsive to their concerns and issues.”
Wang said the student representatives expect the new government structure to be highly effective and that they are eager to be serving their peers in these new capacities.
“We just want to represent the students,” Wang said. “It seems simple, but that’s really the heart of it.”