When the Yale School of Management first opened its doors to students in September 1976, a “new order of the ages” was inscribed — literally. The SOM’s shield, officially displayed for the first time upon the arrival of the students, has the phrase written in Latin across it.
But perhaps more accurate a statement is that the founding of the SOM, Yale’s youngest professional school, signaled a new order for the University. After searching for its place amongst peer institutions for over three decades, in the last five years the SOM has at last carved out a unique position in higher education.
In 2012, the SOM began its participation with the Global Network for Advanced Management, an international business school partnership founded in 2012 by SOM Dean Edward Snyder. But international partnership was just one component of the SOM’s expansion. The incoming class size has increased substantially: 326 students are in the class of 2017 compared to the 231 who graduated in 2012. And in January of last year, the SOM moved from a series of old mansions on Hillhouse Avenue to a gleaming new building — Evans Hall — worthy of a top-tier business school.
The changes at the school have not gone unnoticed. In 2014, the SOM made its first appearances in the top 10 of the Financial Times and Bloomberg Businessweek business school rankings.
Traditionally, the SOM has been more focused on sending its students into nonprofit work than investment banking. In fact, the SOM is the only school among its peers that is a school of “management,” literally, whereas many other programs have the word “business” in their names. This difference speaks to a historical contrast in approach to business education.
Given the SOM’s unconventional style, the question of whether or not the SOM can stay true to its roots as it attempts to further improve its reputation and culture is more pressing than ever. When asked for an answer, 25 SOM students, faculty members, administrators and alumni stressed two priorities: preventing the school from losing its small community feel, and expanding the school’s global commitment within the framework of the school’s mission “to educate leaders for business and society.”
But whether or not the school is able to deliver on these potentially competing goals is still up for grabs.
At 10 p.m. the night before she gave her winning speech for SOM student government president, Brittan Berry SOM ’16 was sitting in the cafeteria of Evans Hall, preparing for the next day.
The difference between Evans Hall and the SOM’s previous residence — mansions along Hillhouse Avenue and the Watson Center — can hardly be exaggerated. The former is spacious, airy and filled with technology. The latter was cramped and dark. But Berry said that despite the fact that the SOM has transitioned into a newer and larger physical facility, there has not been a substantial cost to the school’s close-knit culture.
“SOM still remains and continues to remain very intimate,” she said. “We have a small community where people are very passionate about that.”
But not everyone agrees. According to Tyler Godoff SOM ’16, some students believe the move to new facilities has in fact come with a sacrifice: the tight-knit, homey feel associated with the old space.
“There are cultural aspects [of the SOM] that were linked to the old building,” he said. “There’s a long-term planning committee still trying to figure out how to better utilize the [Evans Hall] space and become more homey.”
In addition, Godoff said that some students think the modern Evans Hall aesthetic is too impersonal, giving the school a “corporate feel” that does not match the SOM ethos.
Aaron Stelson SOM ’14 expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the architecture of Evans Hall clashes with the SOM’s personality, which is known for being very low-key.
“I think of a move to a more corporate-looking building as a step away from [the SOM] being the scrappy school that focuses on issues of equity and social justice that it was known for,” he said.
However, other members of the SOM community interviewed said they thought that the SOM’s larger physical plant actually enables the SOM to stay true to its traditionally small-school feel.
Though Nikhil Bumb SOM ’14 was only at Evans Hall for a few months before graduating, he said that because the building has large lecture halls and conference spaces, it can accommodate many of the large events that SOM students previously had to travel to other parts of campus for. Evans Hall’s size enables the SOM community to feel more close-knit because it is more self-contained, he said.
“People tend to hang around school now, so it is much more likely for everyone to be in the same building,” said SOM Deputy Dean Andrew Metrick. “There are more interactions between students and faculty.”
SOM Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain said both students and faculty members are involved in long-term efforts to make Evans Hall feel more intimate. In particular, he said, these efforts have included keeping more plants around the building and teaming up with the Yale University Art Gallery to display artwork physically and virtually on screens around the building.
But SOM Deputy Director of Admissions Melissa Fogerty said that a feeling of campus intimacy goes beyond just the physical plant. Upon entry to the SOM, students are placed into “cohorts,” groups that travel through the first year core curriculum together and form a micro-community for students new to the school.
In previous years, each cohort has typically had around 70 students, but as the class size has increased over the last few years, the administration has taken into consideration the toll on cohort structure. Consequently, she said, the SOM will be adding an additional cohort so that these groups will be able to stay at a similar size. For the 2015–16 academic year, there will be five cohorts in total.
D’Andre Carr SOM ’16 said the addition of the fifth cohort gives reason to believe that the administration is taking the right steps to maintain the SOM’s small and “collegiate” atmosphere and culture.
Similarly, Jain said the increase in the number of cohorts is part of an effort to make the SOM feel smaller. Because incoming class sizes have increased over the last several years, creating more cohorts makes the size of each cohort smaller.
“Last year, sections [had] 80 to 82 students, and that was not the best way to engage students in discussions,” he said. “Now classroom discussions can be more intimate.”
EXPANDING THE GLOBAL FOOTPRINT
According to SOM Associate Dean David Bach, the SOM is aiming to become the most global U.S. business school.
Since the introduction of the GNAM in 2012, the SOM has expanded its opportunities for students to study globally, from attending Global Network Weeks — weeklong programs hosted by participating schools — to fulfilling a Global Studies requirement. Most recently, Bach said, the SOM is planning to run a two-week management program at the Yale Center Beijing for college students and recent graduates in China who may be interested in pursuing MBAs.
But even with its global footprint established, Bach said the most difficult work in making the SOM a distinctively global institution has yet to come.
“We have great working relationships with 26 other business schools, usually as additional options for our students, online global network courses, case competitions across the global network and network-based collaboration,” he said. “Now comes the hard part, which is: How do we make this part of the everyday experience of [the] SOM.”
Bach said a preliminary step towards achieving this goal is including more non-U.S. cases in the core curriculum. However, he said, the real way to incorporate the GNAM into the daily SOM experience is by finding ways to connect student-led clubs and organizations at the SOM to their counterparts at other network schools.
Similarly, Snyder said that continuing connections with students from other schools within the network is a priority.
“I think [SOM] students enjoy the interactions with other students from the network,” Snyder said. “But for many students that’s a pretty isolated event, and their main sources of engagement while they’re students are with other students at the SOM and with other students at Yale, and less frequently students throughout the network.”
SOM Director of Global Initiatives Camino de Paz said that as the SOM continues to try and expand its global footprint, there will be a wider array of global network courses offered to SOM students in the fall and spring. This will give them more opportunities to fulfill their Global Studies requirement, she said. De Paz also said members of the administration are hoping to incorporate student leaders in discussions about expanding global initiatives as a way to gauge student interest.
Jain said he has been working with Bach to introduce a new course with a global studies bent into the SOM’s core curriculum. Students enrolled in the class, which will be taught for the first time this spring, will work alongside students at two other GNAM schools, EGADE Business School and HEC Paris, in “global virtual teams” to complete a project, which will be assigned in the spring. Jain said the course is intended to give students exposure to the challenges of working on a global business project, since they will have to overcome geographic and language barriers as well as time differences to work with their teammates.
Felix Ayarza SOM ’17 said the beauty of the SOM’s approach to international experience is that it does not necessarily require a big commitment on the part of the student: SOM students can go abroad for as little as a week or 10 days, or as long as a semester.
But Katy Mixter SOM ’17 said that although most students appreciate the effort the SOM has made to incorporate international opportunities into the curriculum, there is still more that the school can do on this front. In particular, she said it would be helpful to include more opportunities for students who are from the U.S. to work abroad.
“I notice that most students looking to work ‘abroad’ are international students looking to work in the U.S.,” she said. “I think we can also place a greater emphasis on helping U.S. students get rewarding internships abroad as this will fully round out the school’s international offerings.”
Mixter also said professors should more actively prompt students to talk about their experiences working or living abroad. Additionally, she suggested that the administration further incorporate students in the SOM’s Masters of Advanced Management Program — a one-year curriculum based at the SOM for students who graduated from other business schools in the GNAM — into the MBA social culture.
“I think the more global we are, the better,” said Andres Spinel SOM ’16. “I would even push it a little bit further and have [the SOM] be even more global and have more international experience compared to other business schools, [which have] a lot of international exposure and business trips.”
SOM professor Jim Baron, who led the search for a new SOM dean in 2012, said he is surprised at how valuable the GNAM has become to the SOM. Baron said he originally thought the SOM’s involvement in the GNAM would be mostly a public relations asset but has since been impressed by what it has contributed to the school.
In addition to continuing students’ global outreach, SOM Director of Community and Inclusion Tiffany Gooden said the SOM is working to increase the number of international students.
To this point, Fogerty said the SOM saw an increased number of applications from international students last year.
Indeed, Perry Pickei SPH ’17, a student in the interdisciplinary health care management program, said he has noticed a strong international presence at the SOM. While in a behavioral economics class on Wednesday, Pickei said he noticed many different accents in the classroom, which he said speaks to the international diversity that the SOM offers.
Ryan Anson SOM ’17 also said that even though he is new to the school and has not yet been able to explore the school’s options abroad, he has valued the international presence on the New Haven campus.
Jay Tansey SOM ’16 said he attributes this increased interest from international students to the SOM’s improved reputation in recent years.
“Yale has always been a big name that has a lot of notoriety internationally, but as [the] SOM continues to climb in the rankings and that brand itself is growing, I think it enables us as a school to attract more diverse candidates,” he said.
“FOR BUSINESS AND SOCIETY”
The SOM’s global agenda ushered in many changes for students — the GNAM, in particular, significantly expanded the range of opportunities for MBA candidates, both on campus and abroad. Students can now take online courses where they can interact with other MBA students from across the globe, and participate in “Global Network Weeks” — weeklong programs at business schools in member locations worldwide.
Bach said the SOM’s global involvement is an instrumental part of interpreting the school’s mission — to educate leaders for business and society — in a contemporary context.
“Globalization over the last three to four years isn’t at odds with the mission. It provides a broader playing field for students and faculty to give substance to the mission,” he said. “Global strategy provides a new context to think about business and society.”
As the SOM continues to grow, Mixter said it is all the more important to maintain this focus on education for business and society. She said the SOM’s commitment to its original mission provides it with a comparative advantage over other business schools and sets it apart in a positive way.
Similarly, Stacy Blackman, who founded an MBA admissions consulting company, Stacy Blackman Consulting, said the SOM’s key to success will not be to compete with some of its better-known peers but to capitalize on what makes it different from most business schools.
“Yale SOM has the potential to be considered one of the very top, not by chasing the tail of a [Harvard Business School], but by building on who Yale SOM is,” she said. “This is what I feel it has been doing very successfully.”
But Jeremy Shinewald, the president and founder of mbaMission, another MBA admissions consulting firm, said he has seen a “transformation” from the SOM that was traditionally nonprofit focused to the SOM today, which he said no longer fits that stereotype.
Similarly, Stelson said the SOM is less focused on training students for public sector work than it once was.
“I do think there is a tendency to shift away from people going into types of employment that may be less lucrative and more focused on issues of equity in our country in particular,” he said. “There is still a large portion of people who care about that, but it doesn’t seem to be front-and-center in the vision and the direction that Dean Snyder is taking [the SOM] in.”
But Jain said there is no evidence in the SOM’s employment data to support a trend either toward or away from careers in government and nonprofit work. He said that although the question deserves long-term study, current data does not indicate any significant change in where student interests lie.
Berry said that although the SOM is trying to move away from the stereotype that it is just focused on nonprofit work, it is not trying to market itself as a business school that encourages for-profit career paths. Rather, she said, the school is making a push to be known as an institution that provides resources for all future career interests.
SOM Director of Entrepreneurship Kyle Jensen also touched on the SOM’s evolution, while explaining how the fledgling entrepreneurship program that he heads is becoming more innovative while maintaining a sense of individuality particular to the SOM.
Although many business schools offer entrepreneurship classes, Jensen said many students at the SOM have special interests to which the entrepreneurship program will try to cater. For example, he said, SOM students tend to have a deep interest in social entrepreneurship, which has inspired faculty members to craft curricula that satisfy this interest. Further, he said that as the entrepreneurship program continues to develop, the SOM will have to contemplate what entrepreneurship really means in the context of its mission.
“As we grow, and we’re sure to grow rapidly in terms of these offerings and in terms of the culture of entrepreneurship at Yale, the challenge will be narrowing the opportunities we have: How do we uniquely define Yale in terms of universities that excel at entrepreneurship, and what does the Yale brand of entrepreneurship mean?”
And then he paused. “I’m not sure if it’s the kind of thing that we’ll have an answer to that is set in stone,” he said. “But we will all spend a great deal of time thinking about it.”