Less than one year from today, Yale’s School of Management will take the next step in making the business world more attractive for students with minority and non-business backgrounds.

Yale’s School of Management announced last week that the school will launch a “Pre-MBA Leadership Program” in June 2009 to encourage students from minority and non-business backgrounds to consider a business degree. The free program, set to last two weeks, will target students from minority backgrounds and accept up to 60 college upperclassmen and recent college graduates. Ultimately, SOM administrators said they hope the program sparks a broader interest in a business school education.

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When they arrive on campus next year, the students will take basic courses on introductory leadership and management training, similar to their colleagues in actual MBA programs.

“Too many students of color in their college years don’t see the MBA as a degree consistent with leadership goals and aspirations,” said Joel Podolny, the dean of the Yale School of Management. “This is reflected in statistics in the number of minorities who take the GMAT. So we decided to place a program that would help address this need.”

Studies show that disproportionately fewer minority students enter business school than their non-minority counterparts.

A spring 2007 study by Management Leadership for Tomorrow — a nonprofit aimed at increasing minority prevalence in business — found minority students comprise 12 to 13 percent of student populations in law and medical schools but only 6 to 7 percent of student populations in business schools. Many outstanding minorities perceive professions like law and medicine to be more beneficial to a community than business, explained Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s CEO John Rice in the 2007 report, and are thus less likely to pursue business as a career choice.

SOM administrators said one primary objective of the program will be to change what SOM administrators described as misconceptions regarding the social value of a business degree.

“If someone is interested in meaningful social change,” Podolny said, “they may have had role models who have law degrees and used law degrees to have an impact. They may not have the same set of role models in terms of those with MBA degrees.”

Still, Zachary White, the assistant director of admissions for SOM, said that although the program does target students of color, it will not do so at the exclusion of non-minority applicants who demonstrate a commitment to the diversity ideals the program promotes. The program’s overarching goal, SOM officials said, will be to create an impact in the business field and to introduce non-business students to the benefits of MBA courses.

“We will consider [the program] a success if there is an increased rate of enrollment in MBA programs,” Podolny said, “even if many of them go to programs other than Yale. Fundamentally, [the aim] is to have an impact on the field.”

Students’ days on campus will be filled with basic courses on topics such as “Data, Decisions and Problem Framing” and “Career Profiling and Interviewing,” taught by SOM faculty. Students will also hear lectures from prominent SOM alumni, visit the New York Stock Exchange and take field trips to major corporations.

Yale is not the first to develop such a program. Dartmouth started a similar initiative in 1997, Stanford in 2004 and the University of Chicago last year.