June 19, 2007
Dear Yale Management graduates:
As we pack up the Commencement 2007 banners and regalia, and summer descends on Hillhouse Avenue, the frenetic pace of the past year has abated somewhat — but only somewhat. It seems an opportune time to pause for a moment both to reflect back on an amazing year and to look forward to what promises to be an equally amazing and exciting year to come.
By now you all know a little (and many of you know a great deal more) about our new, integrated MBA curriculum. I am delighted to report that after one complete year of execution, the Yale management curriculum model has proved to be nothing short of a tremendous success. To be sure, for our sophomore effort next year, we will make a few changes and enhancements, based on feedback we received from this year’s students and faculty. For example, the faculty is exploring ways to provide even more tools in the core to enhance both creative and critical thinking. In addition, we are looking to incorporate the same integrated, multidisciplinary perspective into many of our elective offerings. We will also be more fully developing some of our programs outside the classroom, expanding our mentoring program into a full-fledged Leadership Development Program and launching a more robust Career Development Office “curriculum,” both of which will help match our students’ professional and personal goals with their passions and aspirations.
But by and large, the curriculum coalesced in the challenging, intense, integrated way the faculty envisioned it when they were planning it last summer. As our first-year students advanced through the past year, I was continually gratified to hear them making the connections we know are so important to a more complete and fundamental understanding of how management and leadership challenges unfold in organizations. And I was further pleased when a senior recruiter commented on how our students were not only excellent, but “multidimensional in their thinking.” It appears that however you look at it — input or output — the curriculum is working as planned.
In previous communications with you, I described some of the curricular elements of the first six months of the academic year. The final segment of the core curriculum, which begins after spring break, is called the Integrated Leadership Perspective (ILP). It is essentially a series of complex cases covering organizations of every sector and scale. The ILP was led by Sharon Oster, the Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship. I taught one of the classes, as did 21 other faculty members. Yale Management alumni played roles as well, both as guest lecturers and as the subjects of cases.
In addition, a panel of alumni contributed their time and expertise to the ILP by taking part in a friendly “competition” at the Yale Club in New York City in April, where six teams of first-year students presented plans on how to securitize different cultural and educational aspects of life. These plans grew out of an exercise in the ILP class that I, an organizational behavior professor, taught with my colleague Matt Spiegel, a professor of finance. We approached the subject matter from both of our disciplinary perspectives; the resulting student competition plans displayed a wonderful combination of both fundamental, disciplined business knowledge and wildly creative thinking. We’ve documented several aspects of the ILP on our website. You will also find on our website information on the securitization competition. I encourage you to take a look if you’re interested in some firsthand accounts of what we’ve been up to.
Another really terrific innovation this year, which also debuted during the ILP, was a new take on the traditional MBA case format. Although we will surely continue to use traditional paper cases (and to produce them, as well — as I mentioned in my last newsletter letter to you, our new case research department has developed and deployed an astonishing number of truly distinctive multidisciplinary cases this year: more than twenty in only eight months), my colleague Will Goetzmann, Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management Studies, along with Deputy Dean Stan Garstka and Senior Associate Dean for Executive Programs & Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management, Jeff Sonnenfeld, came up with a new way of thinking about the case format that takes advantage of current multimedia capabilities. The result was a distinctive new online case format that provides a richer assortment of materials — printed articles, video clips, news stories, original source documents, and other web-based resources — to create a truly complete and in-depth presentation of a contemporary business situation that can be examined in myriad ways. For our first offering, we were able to assemble a multimedia case on the Blackstone Group’s recent acquisition of Equity Office Properties Trust almost as the deal was taking place. We’re very excited by the possibilities presented by this new way of thinking about the standard business school case, and are looking forward to expanding our offerings in this arena. I encourage you to read about our inaugural effort.
The development of this new online case format points to the importance of technology as we continue to enhance the learning experience at the Yale School of Management. A few months ago, with the encouragement and support of two members of the school’s Board of Advisors, Reed Hundt, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and now senior advisor for telecommunications and technology at McKinsey & Company, and Nancy Pfund, managing director, JPMorgan Securities, Inc., I had the opportunity to meet with top strategists and technologists at Google, who demonstrated for me some of their visionary thinking on where technology can go in the future. It was an eye-opening experience for me and it solidified in my mind the need to focus the school’s attention and resources to harness some of the potential that new technology is presenting — or even just suggesting — at the moment. To that end, we will be embarking on a number of new technology-focused initiatives this year that we hope will further distinguish the school as a leader in both thought and action in management education.
These new technology initiatives will also provide a useful and important bridge to the new Yale School of Management campus, which we hope will incorporate the latest in current — and future — technologies. I’m pleased to report that a great deal of progress has been made in the last few months on the campus project. Out of a field of eleven world-renowned architectural firms, four were recently selected to compete for the opportunity to build our new campus. President Levin and I, along with the University Planners, hosted a briefing day for these four firms several weeks ago, and each firm will be presenting proposals to the University this month. So, the momentum (and the excitement) is building, and I am very hopeful that a final selection will be made by President Levin and the Yale Corporation very soon. I look forward to being able to share that news with you in the next alumni newsletter. Once the campus planning and construction is under way, we will post regular updates about the new campus on our website, so that you can participate in the construction experience wherever you are.
As you can see, while the past year has been remarkable, the future also looks bright. We have accomplished a great deal, much of it thanks to the support and enthusiasm of our alumni, which continues to make me both grateful and inspired. But there is more to do, and only a short summer in which to do it. So, I will now get back to work.
Wishing a terrific summer (or winter, for those of you in other parts of the world) to all of you. I look forward to seeing you when I am next in your neighborhood. And as always, I look forward to hearing from you at any time.
Joel M. Podolny
Dean and William S. Beinecke Professor of Management