A Message to Alumni
from the Dean's Desk, Alumni E-Newsletter
November 3, 2005
Dear Yale SOM graduates,
As I write these words, I am about 120 days into my deanship. The last four months have been exciting ones at Yale SOM, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the initiatives that are under way as we work toward our vision of transforming Yale SOM into a leader for management education in the 21st century.
The mission of the school — to educate leaders for business and society — must represent the point of departure for everything that we do. Though the mission was framed in a way that gives it an enduring relevance and importance, this mission is especially appropriate to the era in which we now find ourselves, an era in which there is considerable angst about the profession of management and management education. While this angst is a source of concern, it is also an opportunity for a school whose mission recognizes the societal interest in the way leaders and managers are educated.
Our challenge as a school is to translate this mission into an all-encompassing strategy that will enable us to focus our energy, talent, and resources into systematically developing a competitive advantage that will position Yale SOM at the forefront of this new vision for management education. In order to accomplish this, we need to put forth a unique identity that positions the school as a leader in management education, and we need to put in place a rigorous educational experience that delivers on the mission. Accordingly, during this year, we are focusing on both branding and curriculum reform — and I’m happy to report that substantial progress has been made on both fronts.
(1) Branding While Yale SOM’s remarkable culture does provide many of the “raw materials” that are necessary for the establishment of a distinct identity, branding, as many of you know so well, is a complex and ongoing endeavor that is very difficult to get exactly right. Acknowledging this fact, we have enlisted the services of Lipman Hearne, a marketing firm with extensive experience working with universities and nonprofits, to help guide Yale SOM’s major marketing and communications campaign. You should be seeing the results of this collaboration in the months ahead — and, as always, I welcome your input and reactions.
Additionally, on September 21, we placed a half-page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal issue in which its business school rankings were announced. The ad expressed a theme of higher accountability — the first of several such themes on which we will draw in our efforts to brand the school. To date, we have received positive feedback on the advertisement from numerous constituencies, including recruiters. The text of the advertisement has been reproduced on the home page of the school’s website, which also contains a section on related activities that our faculty, students and graduates are engaged in. I invite you to visit the site, and I especially encourage you to add your comments and thoughts on “What accountability means to you” to the postings.
(2) Curriculum Reform The fundamental challenge of the curriculum reform effort is developing a curriculum whose content and pedagogy support the school’s mission, and I am working with a faculty/student committee to meet this challenge. The scope of the curriculum reform effort is broad, encompassing the following areas:
evaluating the content and delivery of the core curriculum and the elective curriculum;
focusing on feedback and evaluations provided to students as well as to faculty;
developing a mentorship component that focuses on professional development;
exploring the desirability and feasibility of integrating an international component into the curriculum;
and identifying and incorporating nontraditional faculty into the curriculum.
While the scope is broad, the mission of the school implies two commitments that will serve as guideposts for the reform efforts: 1) a commitment to fostering meaningful aspirations and 2) a commitment to providing rigorous foundations. I would like to discuss each of these commitments in turn.
A commitment to meaningful aspirations. What does it mean for an aspiration to be meaningful? First, it must have significant, positive societal impact. Second, it must be deeply personal, integrated with the individual’s values, sense of purpose, and life ambitions. If one looks at Yale SOM graduates, there are countless examples of those who have successfully pursued careers characterized by meaningful aspirations. As we think about curricular changes, we will be focused on creating a context in which students are challenged to identify what choices and courses of action will carry significance for them.
A commitment to providing rigorous foundations. Properly defined, rigorous means “thorough and accurate,” and these terms — especially that of thoroughness — take on particular meaning in the context of professional education, which is necessarily different from graduate education. For an occupation to truly be a profession, there is a body of true facts that the profession must know, a set of useful practices that the members of the profession must be able to do, and some positive conception of self in society defining how members of the profession must be. In effect, a thorough and accurate management education requires a focus on the cultivation of knowledge (knowing), skills (doing), and identity (being). It is safe to say that there is no business school curriculum that seeks to systematically foster all three elements of professional development. Therefore, as we think about the curriculum at Yale SOM, we must strive to achieve a balanced emphasis on “knowing,” “doing,” and “being” — and all our curriculum reform efforts should bear these parameters in mind.
We are already discussing what types of courses and curricular experiences follow from these commitments, and I look forward to sharing them with you in the months ahead.
In concluding, let me say that one of my great delights of these past four months has been meeting with the alumni of the school. Over the past weeks, I have visited with Yale SOM alumni groups in New York, Boston, New Haven, and London. In the next few weeks, I will be visiting our alumni communities on the West Coast (San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles) and in Asia (Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing). Nothing would please me more than to have the opportunity to meet as many of you as possible and to be able to discuss these ideas further with you.
Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to Yale SOM.
Joel Podolny, Dean