Yale Curriculum: Class of 2008
Members of the first class to complete the new Yale integrated MBA curriculum reflect on their experience
On May 25, 2008, the Yale School of Management graduated the first class to be taught entirely under the Yale integrated MBA curriculum, which is designed to provide students with the tools, perspectives, and leadership skills necessary to solve the complex problems of modern business. The curriculum offers a multidisciplinary approach to management, a departure from the traditional method of breaking the subject matter into academic disciplines, such as marketing, finance, and accounting.
For the Class of 2008, choosing SOM amounted to a leap of faith that this new approach was the right one. The school announced it was completely revamping the core curriculum in the spring of 2006, just as these students were deciding which business school to attend. The new courses and initiatives were under development nearly right up to the beginning of the school year. Below, a handful of these students offer their thoughts on how the new curriculum has prepared them for the business world:
Post-SOM Position: Essex Management
“When certainty and stability disappear, leadership is what remains."
Those who believed that management education required an overhaul should feel vindicated by the last several years. From subprime, to growing certainty about global climate change, to the far reaching effects of $4 gasoline and indefinitely high commodity prices, we are not in a business-as-usual situation. Traditional analysis does not let us understand these events, let alone anticipate them, and manage them effectively.The new curriculum has been effective in operationalizing a method for addressing this situation. By blurring the lines between business and society, shareholder and stakeholder, and short- and long-run strategy, it gives managers a much more robust understanding to work from. I do not believe we could have done better in our two years than to train for an increasingly dynamic and interconnected environment.
One of the best parts of the new curriculum is not really new at all, though. It's something that SOM has taught well in the past and continues to teach well, and that is leadership. We approach leadership not as strategy or as skill, but as values — different in every manager, but always necessarily authentic to be effective. Our curriculum prioritizes discovery and growth in these areas, and that's critical, for when certainty and stability disappear, leadership is what remains, and at its base, values, ethics, and a practice consistent with them.
Post-SOM position: Yale University Investments Office
“Thinking about all of these topics in an integrated way rather than individually really is much more realistic.”
I did my summer internship in investment banking and expected that I would be using my accounting and finance classes the most in my work. When I got there, though, it really was the Competitor course that was most relevant to my work. In fact my first project was almost identical to one of the assignments from Professor Oster. I was really struck by how intuitive the “cross-pollination” aspect of our curriculum seemed when put into practice. If I had thought solely in terms of accounting and corporate finance, I would have had a much tougher time at my job. Thinking about all of these topics in an integrated way rather than individually really is much more realistic.
Post-SOM position: Casey, Quirk, and Associates
"Working as a team was easy — it is the SOM way."
The new curriculum is designed to better elicit students’ natural leadership abilities and encourage further development of those strengths through a more holistic management framework within the strong SOM community. What impressed me the most about SOM is the school leadership’s integrity, consistency, and commitment to its community. At every turn, faculty and staff told us that they were trying something new and revolutionary, but that something was also unproven. Everyone was clear that there were to be bumps in the road and that we would have an opportunity to give feedback. And they were right. I felt like I should have received a course credit for filling out feedback surveys. Through so many of our classes — particularly Competitor, Innovator, and Customer — we learned that change/innovation is necessary to survive. It was truly amazing to not only watch SOM transform but to be part of the transformation.
During my two years at SOM, I had the opportunity to participate in several MBA competitions, being part of teams that won the CNBC Fast Money MBA Challenge and the University of Texas' National Energy Finance Challenge. I attribute much of our success to preparation that came from the integrated curriculum. In each competition, we acted as a team before acting as a group of individuals, something that differentiated us from a lot of the competition. Working as a team was easy — it is the SOM way.
Post-SOM position: The New York Times
"It seems like a much more relevant way to learn."
I think that the Class of 2008 was lucky to have a hand in the formation of the curriculum for years to come. I am particularly impressed by the way that everyone worked together to make it work. I am also impressed by the way that the school is integrating new technologies into the case materials, making the learning experience more relevant to what is going on today. It is interesting to read an HBS case from 1998 on the airline industry because you have the benefit of hindsight to validate/invalidate your hypotheses. However, I think that it is much more interesting to interact with current material and react in "real time" through the case portal. It seems like a much more relevant way to learn how to make managerial decisions.
Post-SOM position: Harvard University Kennedy School of Government
"I’ve been impressed with how the new curriculum has trained me."
During the summer between my first and second year, I interned at the UN and had the opportunity to present Yale SOM's eight Organizational Perspectives at a corporate social responsibility (CSR) conference in Dubai, UAE. The meeting was sponsored by the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), a voluntary, non-governmental organization devoted to protecting the environment in the UAE. Over 25 participants were involved in the workshop, including executives from BP, Dubai World Holdings, the Global Reporting Initiative, Pacific Controls, and Royal Dutch Shell.
Representing the UN, my colleague and I facilitated a day-long conference emphasizing the benefits of incorporating CSR practices into a business model. In making the business case for CSR, I was able to utilize the Yale SOM eight Organizational Perspectives to indicate how each potential business stakeholder, both internal and external, could be positively affected by the incorporation of CSR into an organization.
In all, the eight Organizational Perspectives provided a great platform to present my case, and it was very exciting to use the material that I learned in business school in an international setting (and mixing elements of global governance with business). In retrospect, I’ve been impressed with how the new curriculum has trained me to approach a complex business problem in a fast changing business environment.
Post-SOM position: Kiva.org
“We could really tell that the professors were talking to each other."
I didn’t really get the new curriculum until I came for Welcome Weekend, when I got to see what a big step it was. Listening to faculty speakers and hearing about the ideas behind the change, it became much clearer and much more exciting. The interdisciplinary aspect was something I’d always been interested in — to me that was what microfinance represented within the world of economic development: this idea of bringing business tools to the social sector.
The core did a really good job of bringing things together and being interdisciplinary. We could really tell that the professors were talking to each other. They knew that in State and Society we had talked about the Merck case in one way, so they would bring it up in Customer and say, “Okay, you talked about Merck in this way, but how does it relate to this course?” I learned a lot more that way.