Speakers Urge Graduates to Advance Business and Society at Yale SOM Commencement
The Yale School of Management’s 30th commencement offered a chance to reflect on tradition, but not dwell upon it. While the 204 students of the Class of 2007 upheld the long-standing tradition of self-graduation, where the graduates announce the names of their classmates to the audience, there were clear signs that SOM’s future promised both a continuation of its mission and an enhancement.
For the first time, the school graduated a class from its MBA for Executives: Leadership in Healthcare program. Twenty-two mid-career healthcare professionals stood with the traditional MBA class. The occasion also offered Dean Joel Podolny the chance to bid farewell to the class that started at SOM at the same time he did. “We have been in many ways both classmates and partners,” he told the graduates.
In his speech, Podolny highlighted the achievements of three SOM graduates, emphasizing the integrity they bring to their careers and urging the Class of 2007 to follow their examples. “It may seem safer to go by the book, to simply follow the instruction manual,” he said. “But there are two reasons you can’t. The first is our mission. You are the graduate of a school where mission matters. This is part of your obligation to yourself; it is part of your obligation to each other. You have chosen to be part of a school that demands more, that expects you to be a leader for business and society.
“And in case you haven’t noticed, both business and society need some help these days. Too many out there are just following the instruction manual, playing the same game that everyone is playing. Society is increasingly coming to the collective judgment that business managers are only concerned with finding opportunities to benefit themselves rather than finding opportunities to benefit the society around them. But Yale managers are different.”
Podolny was one of three speakers at the ceremony. Dan Jorgensen ’07 spoke for the MBA-E class, emphasizing how this inaugural class hoped to use the tools acquired at SOM to improve the healthcare system. “We want to make it more affordable, more accessible and more efficient,” he said. “We entered this program with the drive to make a difference.”
Matt Donahue ’07 spoke for the MBA program, mixing reminiscence with an exhortation for graduates to remember the lessons of SOM. “In our personal and professional lives we’ll be confronted with our leadership moment and need to draw upon our experiences here,” he said. “When we have capitalized on the moment and have time to reflect on it, we may ask ourselves, ‘Where was I when I made the decision not to compromise my principles for short-term gain? Where was I when I stretched myself to reach things previously thought unreachable? Where was I when I learned to take a difficult situation and turn it into a productive endeavor? Where was I when I met the colleagues and friends I’ve come to rely on all these years?’ You will answer, ‘I was at the Yale School of Management.’”