October 31, 2007
Dear Yale Management graduates:
Fall greetings from the Yale School of Management. As I write this, the Class of 2009 are in the throes of their first SOM exams, while the members of the Class of 2008 are enjoying their newly-elevated status as 2nd years — and reveling in the fact that their first SOM exams are now a distant memory.
There are many exciting developments to report from the SOM campus, but perhaps the most exciting development is about the campus itself: as many of you have already heard, last month, after an international design competition, Yale President Richard C. Levin announced the selection of Foster + Partners as the architects for the new Yale School of Management campus. Headquartered in London, but with offices and projects around the world, Foster + Partners is chaired by the Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Norman Foster (more properly, Lord Foster of Thames Bank), a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture, and one of the preeminent architects working today.
The selection of Foster + Partners is significant in many ways. The selection of any architecture firm means that we are one step closer to a new campus that will be able to better accommodate and support our integrated curriculum, as well as our plans for program growth and the expansion of both the faculty and the student body over time. The selection of this particular firm, with its track record of creating extraordinary buildings of beauty and significance, is a strong signal of the support that President Levin and the Yale Corporation have for the school. I am confident that the new Yale School of Management campus will take its place as one of the most important architectural examples on a Yale campus that is already, in many ways, a living museum of architecture. As I mentioned in an email to SOM faculty, students, and staff when the Foster + Partners announcement was made, I believe that our new campus will express, in bricks and mortar, in glass and abundant green space, and in its commitment to environmental sustainability, our highest institutional aspirations.
Because we are still at the very beginning of the design process, there are no drawings or plans to show to you as of yet. However, we have set up a website to provide updates about progress on the new campus project as it evolves, so please bookmark http://mba.yale.edu/newcampus, and check back there from time to time. Of course, we will also keep you informed through this enewsletter and in articles in forthcoming issues of Q(n).
Even though I can’t show you renderings, I can report on some of the early planning activity, which has itself generated some very interesting results. Representatives of Foster + Partners and the other firms who will be involved in the development and construction of the campus are already in almost daily contact with the architects in Yale’s facilities office. Foster representatives have also traveled to SOM twice in the last month to conduct design planning workshops, first with me, my senior administrative team, and faculty and student reps on our New Campus Committee; and a few weeks later with small groups of faculty, students, and staff. The workshops consisted of structured exercises designed to assess both the strengths and weaknesses of the current campus, and determine, through word and visual associations, a “sense” of the clients for whom the campus will be constructed.
These kinds of workshops are standard practice with large-scale architectural projects, and the architects from Foster + Partners who conducted our workshops had led similar programs for many other clients. But the SOM design workshops yielded remarkable results: a very “single-minded” vision expressed by all of the different groups who participated. Even though the groups worked independently, they all expressed — to a significant level — a uniformity of opinion and an agreement on visual preferences that the architects said they had never encountered before.
There are a number of important implications of this community-wide clarity of focus. Most importantly, it provides our Foster + Partners design team with a very clear sense of the school, at least as defined by its current inhabitants. This unambiguous guidance will enhance the architects’ ability to make well-informed and appropriate decisions as our campus project evolves. But equally significant, in my mind, is the implication that as an institution, we are coalescing around a unified, consistent view of ourselves — of who we are and what we stand for.
When I became dean a little over two years ago, I articulated three priorities: the curriculum, a new campus, and the development of the “SOM brand.” Two years later, we have seen tremendous success with our innovative, integrated curriculum model, and we continue to improve and refine the academic program, and to innovate within our curricular innovation. We are well on our way to a spectacular new campus. At the same time, we have done a great deal of work on focusing and communicating what is particular and distinguishing about the Yale School of Management. This work is still ongoing, but, starting from the foundation of our distinctive mission of educating leaders for business and society; through the articulation of a vision of our graduates as inspiring, values-based, broadly-engaged leaders who own and solve the hard problems that matter, we have developed three “themes” that we feel are defining of the school. These themes not only serve as a way for us to characterize the institution; they also provide a consistent and comprehensive conceptual framework for others to describe the school.
I have already shared the three themes with the faculty, and last week with the SOM Board of Advisors. Both groups indicated strong support for the ideas. I have also had the opportunity to share the themes, one-on-one, in visits with some of your fellow Yale SOM alumni. They have also indicated general agreement with the principles articulated therein. Several have told me that they have already found the themes very helpful in their own conversations about SOM.
We will be developing these themes more fully in future communications from (and about) the school, but I thought I would take this opportunity to share the basic ideas (and some descriptive examples) with you here:
Theme 1: Leading and Managing Across Boundaries