Some Frequently Asked Questions about Curriculum Reform
April 20, 2006
There is tremendous excitement about the new Yale SOM Core – but, as with many innovations, there are also a lot of questions. Following are answers to some of the questions we’ve heard over the last few weeks.
What will the 2006-2007 Academic Calendar look like for First Years?
Mandatory orientation for new international students is scheduled for August 20-21, 2006, followed by orientation (also mandatory) for all incoming students on August 22-26. Core classes are currently scheduled to begin on August 28.
There will be examinations at the end of the first six-week segment, Orientation to Management, around the time that you see the October midterm exams in this year’s calendar. Examinations for Organizational Perspectives courses (Investor, Innovator, Customer, Operations Engine, Competitor, Employee, State & Society, Sourcing & Managing Funds), which may be of differing lengths, will take place at the end of each course, with the entire segment concluding around the time you see the March midterm exams in this year’s calendar. We expect final examinations for the Integrated Leadership Perspective to take place in early May.
There will still be Thanksgiving, Winter, and Spring Breaks. The International Experience will take place in roughly the first two weeks of January, beginning on or about January 3, 2007.
We expect the daily class schedule to track with the current class schedule, with classes running Mondays through Thursdays in five sessions from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There will be a few incremental required Friday classes for First Years during the first six weeks, but these sessions are being coordinated with the Career Development Office and other administrative departments to ensure that key events go forward as usual.
Can you tell me more about the International Experience?
Specific plans for the January 2007 International Experience are still being developed. There will likely be four options for this part of the new Core. Destinations currently under discussion include China, India, and Brazil; there will also be a local/domestic option for students whose circumstances (such as family or health concerns or visa status) make it necessary for them to remain in the United States. During these trips, students will meet with a wide range of company executives and government officials in their destination countries. Students will be exposed to different cultural, social and business environments, as well as different regulatory regimes, to heighten awareness of how organizations function in the global economy.
The central design principle of the International Experience is that it be integrated with the Organizational Perspectives courses in the curriculum, so that students can then bring their experiences back to the class discussion. For example, as students learn about some of the unique properties of distribution channels in a particular country, they can bring this information back to the conversation in the Customer perspective course; or as they learn about some of the unique listing requirements for the stock exchange in a particular country, they can draw on this knowledge in the Investor course. As the International Experience occurs before internship interviews, we anticipate that it will provide many students with information and insights that will be helpful to them as they prepare for internships.
A faculty committee has been established to oversee the development of both curriculum and logistics for these trips, and the school is hiring a Director of International Programs to serve as coordinator for these trips.
Students will pay for their travel and other expenses associated with the International Experience. For financial aid purposes, the student budget will be readjusted to reflect this new program element, and the entire cost can be financed through incremental loans. Yale SOM is making and will continue to make every effort to ensure these trips are cost-effective. And even with this incremental cost, we are confident that the Yale SOM total annual costs are competitive with those of our peer institutions based on benchmarking studies that we have done.
Will I still be able to go on an international trip during Spring Break?
Absolutely! Many SOM students take advantage of the opportunity to supplement their class work, explore professional options, solidify friendships with other SOM students in both classes, and in some cases earn course credit, by traveling abroad in groups during Spring Break. In addition to exploring the host countries, students may meet with senior management and government officials from a variety of industries. On some international trips, students have also provided pro-bono consulting services to socially focused organizations. In the last few years student study trips abroad have included China, Russia, Nigeria, India, Cuba, Peru, South Africa, and Madagascar.
The new Core schedule will accommodate the same Spring Break period as in past years. So if you’re interested in exploring the world – and the world of management – as part of a student initiated trip, you’ll be able to do so.
Will I be able to take electives as a First Year at SOM?
One of the defining elements of the Yale School of Management MBA program is that First Years take at least one elective in the Spring term. This will not change with the new Core Curriculum: the Spring term is being designed to accommodate space for at least one elective class. View a sampling of possible electives on the SOM website.
I’ve heard that one component of the new SOM Core is a Mentorship Program. How will that work?
Though the Mentorship Program is currently under development, a number of its central features are taking shape. As the design currently stands, First Years will be organized in small groups of -- most likely -- ten students that will be assigned to a mentoring team made up of a faculty member, a Second Year student adviser, and some other mentor, either a graduate of SOM or a member of the school’s senior administrative staff. The faculty mentor for each group, working with a member of the school’s Organizational Behavior faculty, will take the lead in devising a program that will help students analyze and discover their professional and personal strengths and how these track with their career goals and aspirations. As part of the Mentorship Program, a database of each student’s coursework and other extracurricular or special activities will be constructed, and the faculty mentor will help track each student’s development and progress over their two years in the Yale MBA program.
Will I be ready for my internship interviews in January?
The new Yale SOM Core Curriculum will present students with the fundamental concepts and analytical techniques that one would expect to learn in a traditional MBA curriculum. Students will also have a better understanding of how those tools and skills "fit" in the modern organizational context. Furthermore, the Mentorship Program will help First Year students to focus on their career goals and prepare for major objectives, such as an internship interview.
In addition, faculty will be working with student leaders of the clubs associated with some of the more common internship tracks (for example, finance, consulting, and marketing) to ensure that the First Years have an awareness of what recruiters are "looking for" in basic analytical preparation.
What will the classroom experience be like in the new SOM Core?
The same teachers and scholars who have taught First Year classes at Yale SOM for many years will be teaching in the new Core. These professors bring not only tremendous experience in the classroom, but a real commitment to the new Core, which was approved in a unanimous faculty vote.
The teaching method for classes in the SOM Core will vary by class and instructor preference. It will be a rich combination of lectures, cases, and experiential learning.
Are we still going to use traditional business school textbooks? What about cases?
We are not abandoning the key concepts of management; we are simply presenting them in a new context, one that is more relevant to the requirements of contemporary management. First Years will have an accounting text, and an econ text, a finance text, and so forth. The difference will come in how – and when – these texts will be used. So, for example, the accounting text will be required reading during the first, Orientation to Management segment, when the basics of accounting are taught. But the accounting text will also be needed to illuminate the cash flow analysis that feeds net present value analyses that will be discussed in the Investor course during the Organizational Perspectives segment.
From a case perspective, we know that our new approach to management education requires new pedagogical materials. SOM is hiring seasoned case writers and establishing a wholly new case-writing department to develop distinctive "Multidisciplinary Fan Cases" that will present broad organizational challenges requiring multidisciplinary analysis. Senior faculty members will work with organizations and corporations that have already expressed an interest in partnering with SOM – as a result of our new curriculum design – to develop industry- and company-specific cases that will carry the SOM brand.
Developing a new curriculum like this is a huge undertaking. Can you tell me how you’re going about it?
Since the new SOM Curriculum was approved and announced in late March, we have formed faculty design teams for each new component of the Core, including each course in the Organizational Perspectives segment. While larger groups of faculty contribute to discussions around every element of the new Core, each design team consists of three professors.
In keeping with our multidisciplinary focus, the leader of each Organizational Perspectives design team is not from the discipline that will provide the majority of the instructional content for that Perspective course. So, for example, an Accounting professor is the leader of the Operations Engine design team. A member of the Operations faculty is of course on the design team, and content from the Operations discipline will likely take up 50% - 60% of that particular course. But the goal of this team structure is to ensure that the design of the Operations Engine course is not over-influenced by the traditional discipline.
In order to ensure coordination and cohesion, all the design teams meet together on a regular basis to discuss individual teams’ progress and to review the Core development from a holistic perspective. In addition, over the summer, focus groups of current SOM students will review the design of the new courses, as well as the proposed course materials.
Can you tell me more about the components of the Organizational Perspectives segment?
Organizational Perspectives is the twelve-week middle segment of the new Core. It consists of eight courses, which are organized not around traditional management disciplines (Finance, Accounting, Economics, OB, etc.) but around the roles/constituencies a manager must engage and work with in order to solve problems – or make progress – within an organization. These constituencies are both internal to the organization – the Innovator, the Operations Engine, the Employee, and the Sourcing & Managing of Funds (or CFO) functions; and external to the organization – the Investor, the Customer, the Competitor, and State & Society.
Because of this new focus on role instead of topic, in Organizational Perspectives students will learn the concepts they need to succeed as managers, but they will learn about them in a richer context. Rather than teaching management in separate "siloed" courses in a single subject – say, Finance – disconnected from the next subject – say, Marketing – the new Core will approach subjects in the integrated way that most managers must operate every day.
By way of illustration, here are some examples of Organizational Perspectives and representative topics to demonstrate how the traditional "siloed" disciplines can be combined to make a more relevant educational experience:
Representative Topics Covered: valuation (including multiples); market structure (five forces plus complements); investor taxation; market sizing; projecting future cash flows; risk and return; political risk/macroeconomic factors; active investing; different investor types; alternative asset classes; fiduciary responsibility
Drawing primarily from the following management disciplines: Finance, Accounting, Economics
State & Society Perspective
Representative Topics Covered: motivations of elected and unelected officials; identifying formal and informal power relations; legal environment; macroeconomic considerations; demographic considerations; discrimination; political activities of business leaders; public decision-making; operations issues in the public sector; NGOs
Drawing primarily from the following management disciplines: Politics, Economics, Organizational Behavior, Finance
Operations Engine Perspective
Representative Topics Covered: quality; input markets; reengineering/process analysis; supply chain management (including outsourcing); cost structure and relevant costs; location of operations; transfer pricing; pricing and bidding; internal competition; enterprise software; non-market issues associated with locating facilities in different regions of the world
Drawing primarily from the following management disciplines: Operations, Accounting, Economics, Organizational Behavior, Marketing.
While this list of topics should give some indication of how the disciplines are woven into the Perspectives, it is worth noting that one of the advantages of the perspective structure is that it allows for a more seamless integration of legal and ethical issues that arise in the managerial context, since these quandaries often arise in the context of particular role relations. For example, questions of fiduciary responsibility arise in the context of a manager’s relation to the investor, whereas questions of selling products to those who are not deemed capable of deciding on their own behalf (children, for example) arise in the context of the manager’s relationship to the customer.
How will the Integrated Leadership Perspective segment work?
The final 6-week segment of the new SOM Core will be structured to elucidate the unique organizational, managerial, and leadership challenges associated with leading organizations of different scale – from a small entrepreneurial start-up to a large private or public enterprise. Focusing on complex leadership challenges in roughly a half-dozen contexts, this course will enable students to synthesize and integrate the tools, subjects, and materials taught in the earlier Orientation to Management and Organizational Perspectives segments. It will also introduce new material that will contribute to a more integrated and complete understanding of management and leadership.
Will SOM maintain its commitment to instilling the technical competencies and analytical skills that are the fundamentals of management education?
One of the hallmarks of a Yale SOM education is a commitment to teaching our students strong technical competencies and analytical skills, and this commitment will not change. Indeed, our expectation is that by introducing technical and analytical material in a richer context, students will be much more likely to retain such material.
As a measure of our commitment to sound fundamentals, we will be giving a basic competency test. The purpose of this test is not to assess individual students (who will already be assessed through the examinations in their courses), but to assess how SOM is doing in teaching those fundamentals. We believe that we are the only major business school committed to such ongoing assessment of fundamentals.
What are recruiters saying about the new curriculum?
As the SOM faculty developed the curriculum, they actively sought feedback from recruiters, and they responded to this feedback in the curriculum’s development. Since the curriculum’s approval, the faculty have started to talk even more broadly with recruiters. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Recruiters seem especially sensitive to the organizational problems that arise when managers and leaders have a "siloed" mindset. Accordingly, they are enthusiastic about a curriculum that directly confronts this mindset. Over the summer, the school will be putting considerable time and energy into communicating the details of the new curriculum to more and more recruiters.