Student Profile: Jonathan Gruber '08
Marketing co-chair for Global Social Venture Competition
Planning Committee for Education Leadership Conference
Recipient of the H. Stuart Harrison Fellowship
After graduating from college, I spent a year teaching U.S. history and politics at a school called Stowe, a well-known British boarding school. After my stint in England I decided that I would try to continue to work in education, but through the nonprofit sector. I came upon a small nonprofit in New York called the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, the main mission of which is to give financial support to elderly Christian men and women who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. The opening was in the education program, working with teachers and designing classroom materials, and doing general outreach to foundation supporters. I have a personal connection to this history, so it was a mission I really believed in and felt strongly about.
At the time I thought law school was the path for me. But during the course of my first year at the foundation my immediate supervisor left and the executive vice president promoted me to director of education. Itís a small team, so I was suddenly involved not just in the content work of the education program but also in many of the business aspects of the organization. I was helping with fundraising, with marketing, with board relations. I would go to board meetings and sometimes be asked to share my thoughts. I would help with strategic planning. I found that I was just as interested in the business side of things as I was in the program content that I was also working on.
But I was relying mainly on intuition to make decisions. I began to realize that I would be better served if I had more formal training in business. So I started to read about nonprofit management, and I began to think about getting an MBA. I could see myself leading a foundation or a private sector organization, and it would be really useful to have a much broader skill set, to attach more weight to the ideas that were just there by instinct or through outside reading.
I started to look at schools that I thought would embrace my background and approach into the business world, and Yale was at the top of the list. I wanted to be at a place where my perspective, my interests, and my ambitions would be valued. To be in an MBA program where people want to pursue their personal values in their professional lives ó thatís very inspiring, and itís really a part of the conversation here.
In addition, the new curriculum was one of the attributes of the school that informed my decision to come here. At the foundation I watched my boss wear every hat that a manager has to wear, dealing with donors, board members, vendors, lawyers, HR issues. I really came to appreciate the value in a manager being able to integrate multiple perspectives and work across functions and have a broad but also relevant tool kit.
Iíve found that the curriculum is working really well in practice. The teaching has been excellent. And the material has been interesting, more interesting than I had anticipated. Even subjects like accounting and statistics, for example, which one might think are rather mundane. Iím also using a part of my brain thatís been dormant since high school.
Outside the classroom, Iíve gotten involved with the Global Social Venture Competition, a business plan competition for ventures that generate both financial and social returns. Iím helping to market the contest to other schools and to people within the SOM community. Iím also working on the educational leadership conference thatís going to be held here for the first time in February. Iím excited to be able to maintain my connection to the education sector.
After graduation, Iím thinking about pursuing my interest in social marketing. Iím also looking for ways in which I can continue to pursue my interest in education, but in the business world. That might be working for a consulting firm that has an education practice or for a charter management organization or for an educational software or publishing company.
Another great aspect of SOM is that students are encouraged to think expansively about their aspirations, and while itís daunting to consider all of the possible paths from here, itís also invigorating to do so within such a vibrant and supportive community.
Interviewed on December 6, 2006.