Students at the Yale School of Management are pursuing joint degrees in record numbers this year. About 15 percent of the entering MBA class has enrolled in a joint degree program, a percentage about twice that of SOM’s peer institutions.
SOM Associate Dean Anjani Jain said that historically the largest joint degree program has been with FES, but the numbers are increasing for JD/MBA and MPH/MBA as well. Jain also said that beyond the students who pursue joint degrees, about three-fourths of the entire student body takes at least one elective course outside of the SOM.
“The pursuit by a student of a joint degree with another graduate or professional school at Yale reflects the commitment to acquire substantive depth in another discipline besides management,” Jain said.
Jain said SOM, in recruiting prospective students, strives to show its deep engagement with the rest of the University. This engagement is a distinctive and essential aspect of the school’s teaching method, he said.
Getting admitted to two programs, Jain added, is a unique educational opportunity that cannot be replicated elsewhere. SOM tends to attract students who are interested in the intersections between business and society, which is one of the reasons why it has a higher percentage of joint degrees than many other business schools.
SOM professor Howard Forman said a factor that contributes to the high proportion of joint degrees at SOM is the proximity of the University’s different schools to each other.
“I think at Yale we have the uniqueness of a single campus where there’s a medical school, a school of public health, a school of management, a law school and a forestry school really within walking distance of each other, and I think that facilitates this kind of collaboration between the schools,” he said.
Forman also said the high incidence of joint degree students at SOM is due to encouragement from central administrative figures such as University President Peter Salovey and University Provost Benjamin Polak.
The SOM Professor Andrew Metrick said the joint degree program is practical because it allows students to pursue areas of interest outside SOM while still taking SOM’s core curriculum.
“The idea is you take the knowledge of the core and then you apply it somewhere,” he said.
The SOM Lecturer Sarah Biggerstaff said joint degree programs give variety to the academic environment at the school. Joint degree students, she said, bring new perspectives to classroom conversations based on the experiences they have in the other Yale schools where they are also taking classes.
All eight students at SOM who were interviewed, including four who were not pursuing a joint degree, said they see the value in the endeavor.
Three of these students offered criticism of joint degree programs.
Alisha Rahemtulla SOM SPH ’16, who is pursuing a joint degree with the School of Public Health, said the integration between the two schools could be improved.
Likewise, Liz Bullock SOM ’15 said professional schools should be better integrated. Because each school has a different academic calendar, she said, professors struggle to decide when to have exams and students may have to work around conflicting vacation schedules.
But Erik Norell SOM FES ’16 said it was very easy for him to pursue a joint degree with the School of Forestry and that he thought the relationship between the two schools was very strong.
“My feeling is that understanding environmental issues will be a core piece of business operations from here on out,” he said.
The enrollment in SOM class of 2015 was 540 students, 36 percent of whom majored in business at the undergraduate level.