Claire Lee SOM ’17 in 2017 launched and spearheaded a weeklong service initiative — SOM Serves — at the Yale School of Management, which engaged around 600 SOM affiliates. This year’s team, comprising four second-year and four first-year MBA students, plans to expand the scope of the event for the initiative’s second annual iteration.

From April 23 to 28, SOM students, staff, faculty and alumni will work for and volunteer at nearly 40 New Haven community service organizations and nonprofits, assemble literacy kits and donate food, clothing and other resources. According to David Mungo SOM ’18, who worked with Lee on last year’s initiative and is a co-organizer for this year’s iteration, SOM Serves is a logical extension of the school’s foundational principles.

“Among U.S. business schools, the SOM places a unique emphasis on developing leaders in both business and society, and so this was our opportunity to walk the talk,” Mungo said. “Many of our classmates are here to develop management and business skills that they plan to bring to nonprofit organizations, and so many more who are going into for-profit careers specifically chose the SOM because of this larger perspective. SOM Serves is an opportunity for us to bring those skills to bear right here in New Haven.”

This year’s event, sponsored by Deloitte Consulting, Nica’s Market New Haven and the SOM’s Student Government, is considerably more extensive than that of the past year, bringing up the total number of participating organizations from 31 to 35, the number of volunteering events from 34 to 51, the number of literacy kits from 202 to 500 and the number of volunteer slots from 334 to 408. The literacy kits comprise a book, a puppet related to the content of the book and materials for a literacy activity for teachers. The kits will go to Dr. Mayo School, a “Head Start” school in New Haven.

Many of the organizations that SOM Serves will target this year are community nonprofits that lack the funding to hire professional consultants. Although a significant component of the service effort involves traditional events such as gardening and renovation, this year’s iteration will also see volunteers apply their business management skills to help organizations with strategic and operational issues including marketing and fundraising.

“The School of Management is filled with passionate students, professors, staff and administrators that care deeply about having a positive social impact on the world around them,” said Georgia Sills SOM ’19, a co-organizer of the event. “There is a lot of need in the local New Haven community that can be addressed by simply connecting these individuals with the organizations that could use their help.”

Although many SOM students conduct service and other projects abroad, she added, it is equally important for students to give back to their local community by applying what they learn at the school. According to Sills, providing students with an opportunity to give back to New Haven will help create a stronger school and a stronger city.

Of the 35 organizations students will work with this year, 13 participated in SOM Serves last year. Many of these repeat clients will host multiple volunteering events this year, Sills said. In interviews with the News, spokesmen from several organizations said they appreciated the volunteering effort and welcomed SOM students’ contributions.

“We are really excited to have [SOM students’] input on gauging our student outcomes as well having their assistance for our students as they embark on their coding journey,” said Kati Fredlund, co-founder of Codesmash New Haven, an organization that runs after-school programs and summer camps that teach children coding and emotional intelligence, with a focus on supporting underrepresented groups in technology.

Fredlund added that she is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with SOM Serves and that the additional teaching support would help Codesmash, a pre-revenue start-up, improve the learning opportunities it offers. This will be the first year that Codesmash participates in SOM Serves, and student-volunteers will teach an after-school session in Hartford. Codesmash is supported by Collab, a nonprofit start-up incubator in New Haven run by Yale alumni Caroline Smith ’14 and Margaret Lee ’14. SOM Serves volunteers will also conduct a business survey for Collab this year.

Robin Baker, office manager at Read to Grow, an organization that promotes language skills and literacy for children in Connecticut, said that when the organization last collaborated with SOM students eight years ago, leaders implemented nearly all the students’ suggestions. This year, SOM Serves volunteers will advise the organization on managing its several new projects and will help translate project materials into other languages.

Kimberly Gill, a volunteer programs specialist at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, an organization that helps refugees become self-sufficient, said she was excited to partner with SOM Serves because she believes the organization can benefit from the expertise of SOM students. Last year, SOM Serves volunteers contributed by painting the entrance of IRIS’s New Haven office. This year, Gill said, students will work on finding and organizing new volunteer and donor databases.

“Having a group of students use their expertise to address different issues, from marketing to impact measurement to budgeting, has been incredibly valuable to us, especially as a small, local organization,” said Joanna Sciulli, executive director of Solar Youth, Inc., an organization that aspires to empower youth from New Haven’s low-income neighborhoods through programs that connect them to the environment and their communities.

Sciulli said that during SOM Serves week this year, a team of SOM students will help her develop data analytics tools that would allow Solar Youth to communicate its impact and needs more efficiently and allow the organization to focus on its core competencies and mission.

Although SOM Serves is managed and staffed entirely by students, SOM senior staff and faculty members have been “extremely supportive,” by helping assemble literacy kits, contributing to donation drives and even participating in volunteering events, according to Mungo. In an email to SOM students on Tuesday, Acting Dean of the SOM Anjani Jain lauded the effort and encouraged students to participate in this year’s iteration of the SOM Serves week.

“Given the astonishing range of co-curricular activity you organize each year, it is hard to imagine what can be added to it,” Jain wrote. “Yet, it was remarkable how widely a new initiative last year engaged our community … I want to take the opportunity to thank the students who take the initiative to create and organize this and so many other co-curricular programs that complement the academic curriculum and reflect your purposeful dedication to the School’s mission.”

Jain also forwarded the email to SOM faculty and staff, encouraging their participation in the event.

Saumya Malhotra |