At SOM commencement, Dean Podolny challenges graduates to embrace the Yale MBA leadership model
For the previous two Yale School of Management commencements, Dean Joel Podolny highlighted SOM alumni he believes embody the values of the school and demonstrate the distinct model of leadership that has been recognized as a hallmark of the Yale MBA. But since the Class of 2008 is the first to graduate under the Yale Management Integrated Curriculum, Podolny decided on a different approach. “Today,” he said, “I want to talk about you as role models and exemplars.”
Two years ago, Yale SOM redesigned how it teaches management, creating a new integrated MBA curriculum aimed at providing students not just with new tools and perspectives for solving the complex problems of modern business, but also with a new model of broadly-engaged leadership for organizations in the 21st century. As Podolny noted, the 200 students of the Class of 2008 became pioneers simply by enrolling, endorsing this new curriculum model despite the fact it had yet to be proven. “We were all embarking on a journey together, a journey that was, because of the new curriculum, going to take every one of us into uncharted territory,” Podolny said. “It is amazing to see how quickly our new approach to management education has increased the school’s already strong reputation, and begun to create a brand that represents innovation and leadership, augmenting our historic and strong reputation for excellence in nonprofit and financial management, in multisectoral focus, in our school’s unquestioned commitment to values and ethics.”
In all, 203 full-time students received their MBAs on May 25. They were joined by 21 graduate’s of the school’s MBA for Executives: Leadership in Healthcare program.
Keeping with tradition, one student from each group was chosen by fellow classmates to provide an address. Jonathan Gruber ’08 echoed Podolny, saying that the students “knew we were part of something big, something revolutionary.” Mixing humor with nostalgia, Gruber reminded his classmates of some of their achievements — for example, winning the CNBC Fast Money MBA Challenge — and praised them for embracing the traits — openness, creativity, passion, and decency — that make SOM special. “In channeling these traits going forward,” he said, “we will make a distinctive mark on the organizations we lead, the communities we inhabit, and the relationships we build.”
Stacie Watson MBA-E ’08 spoke of the 47 million uninsured Americans and how she and her fellow executive students wrestled with ways to diminish that number while improving healthcare for the rest of the country. “We can take from our experience here and serve as agents of change within our organizations and within our communities,” she said. “We may not have all the answers but we certainly better understand the questions and can drive new ways to discuss or think about these issues.”
In his speech, Podolny emphasized that the lessons of Yale SOM don’t end with graduation. A key tenet of the school, he said, is for students to take what they’ve been taught at SOM and use it to continue their growth as individuals, to use the experiences at school to influence the world, and ultimately establish a new model of managerial leadership. “Leadership that is inspiring, engaged, and rooted in values and personal accountability,” he said. “A model of leadership that is defining — both for you and for others — of what it means to be a Yale MBA.”