While the students at the Yale School of Management are not “a bunch of tree-hugging tie dye people” –– they are in business school, after all –– SOM professor Fiona Scott Morton ’89 said they all have a special focus on helping their communities, which is unique to the school and its mission.
SOM’s stated mission is “to educate leaders for business and society.” Over a dozen students and professors interviewed by the News said that including society in the mission differentiates SOM from other business schools and reflects the school’s focus on social impact. According to Omar Ben Halim SOM ’21, business and society are intertwined and students entering more corporate roles — as most SOM students do — need many of the same skills as those entering more service-oriented jobs, such as those at NGOs or in government.
“We take the & seriously in Business & Society,” SOM professor Barry Nalebuff wrote in an email to the News.
SOM professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld said this has made SOM “unique from the beginning.” According to SOM professor Judith Chevalier ’89, SOM has “always had” a strong nonprofit and social focus, going back to 1976 with its first class of students in the master’s of public and private management program. Even the 2019 appointment of SOM Dean Kerwin Charles, whose primary research deals with inequality in the United States, as head of the school demonstrates its dedication to both business and society, Chevalier added.
According to Scott Morton, the mission’s focus on society can be seen clearly in the students who choose to come to SOM, who she said are interested in more than “just straight up money.” Nauman Charania SOM ’21 said that the mission’s focus on society is one of the main reasons why students choose SOM over other business schools.
“Yale SOM students want to make a difference,” Nalebuff wrote in an email to the News. “They choose careers that are [in] alignment with their worldview. It isn’t just about the Benjamins. As a faculty member, that keeps me excited about teaching SOM students because I am confident they will be a positive force in business and society.”
Scott Morton said that the school’s mission means its students are more intellectually curious and open-minded because they must think about public impact, which she said improves the classroom experience.
All the students and professors interviewed by the News said the SOM curriculum includes a focus on social impact. They pointed to classes such as Chevalier’s “Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations” and professors Marina Niessner and Lukasz Pomorski’s “ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] Investing.” Chevalier said that many of these courses, which are “quite popular” at SOM, would not be as popular at other business schools.
According to SOM’s employment report for the class of 2019, 2.6 percent of graduates worked in the nonprofit industry. This number is significantly higher than at similar business schools: 1.0 percent of the Stanford Graduate School of Business class of 2019 and merely 0.2 percent of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania class of 2019 entered the nonprofit sector.
According to Scott Morton, SOM’s focus on nonprofits “has been true for 30 years.”
Still, SOM students predominantly go into consulting, finance and technology. For the class of 2019, 37.2 percent of graduates went into consulting, 24 percent went into finance –– including 10.6 percent who entered investment banking –– and 12.8 percent went into technology after graduation.
Logan Disch SOM ’21 explained that SOM’s societal perspective is well-integrated into its core classes, which are required of all first-year MBA students. These include courses on organization and leadership, such as “State and Society” and “Power and Politics,” according to SOM’s website.
“The curriculum emphasizes analyzing business problems from multiple organizational perspectives,” Disch wrote. “For me personally, this focus broadened my toolset for assessing problems and made me reassess what my professional interests are.”
Halim said that the classes students take as part of the core curriculum and the classroom discussions they have –– which “emphasize the impact on society more” than other business schools –– influence their postgraduate careers, even though many students do go into traditional business roles such as consulting and finance.
Nalebuff similarly said that the majority of students go into the for-profit private sector, but do so with a “different mindset” that enables them to lead socially focused companies. Andrew Gromer SOM ’21 and Tony Graves SOM ’21, leaders from the student-led investment management professional club, said that SOM’s emphasis on social impact leads many students to pursue careers at dedicated impact investing funds, as well as in ESG roles within larger investment management firms.
“I think the way to think about it is that there’s a spectrum of do-gooding and our students tend to position themselves on the do-gooders end of that spectrum,” Scott Morton said. “And that includes nonprofits, of course, but it also includes lots of jobs that have real social impact that aren’t nonprofits.”
Chevalier told the News that many students take her nonprofit class because, even though they have a job lined up in the for-profit sector, they are “super invested” in nonprofits and expect to play a role volunteering on the board of a nonprofit after graduation.
Many graduates enter the for-profit sector because they have to pay off large amounts of student debt, Charania said, but they are always thinking about the ethical way to do business transactions because of their time at SOM. Charania added that students often have a long-term goal of entering a nonprofit- or government-oriented sector after working in the for-profit sector for a few years.
“At SOM, I realized you can drive social impact in pretty much any industry,” Disch wrote to the News.
SOM began offering an MBA degree in 1999.
Julia Brown | firstname.lastname@example.org