October 1, 2009
Dear Yale SOM Graduates:
For those of us who are in academics, September remains a time of new beginnings. Despite my thirty years of teaching, I still get a mild case of butterflies as I teach my first class of the fall. Of course, my case of nerves is not nearly as severe as the butterflies experienced by the new first-year students in that class, waiting to be cold-called.
Orientation this year got off to a great start. If you go on our web site, you can see videos of the Audubon Street Project, which has been part of our orientation for the last two years. Students work in teams to hatch viable business ideas for a New Haven storefront owned by Yale. It has turned out to be a wonderful way to showcase the diversity of talents of the students along with introducing them to the broader Yale community. The combination of beautiful weather, interesting events, and great planning made for such a wonderful orientation that the first-year students actually gave a gift basket to the Office of Student and Academic Services to show their appreciation!
In my deanship, I have emphasized the importance of the Yale community — the one inside SOM, the broader one in the rest of Yale, and the longitudinal community that includes all of our alumni. This fall I have really seen this message sink in. The gift basket is one example: the students see the staff as part of our community. The second-year students independently decided to host barbecues to welcome the first-year students. Faculty have been turning out to events in record numbers. A number of alumni are scheduled to come and visit classes in one field or another. If you look at the student blog on our web site, I think you will see what I mean about the present spirit of the place.
The return of the students has been one of the pleasures of the fall. Dealing with the budget has been less fun. As many of you no doubt know, the university endowment had a difficult year. SOM relies heavily on endowment spending to fund its operations. Roughly speaking, 40% of our budget comes from endowment spending. In the next few years, on a budget of $70 million, we will have $6-$7 million less per year to spend as a result of the endowment decline. Of course, we will manage through this down cycle, but we are all tightening our belts and redoubling our efforts to find new revenue sources.
If you come and visit my office, you will see a set of spectacular pictures of our new campus. At the moment we are still on pace with the building, finishing up the design drawings. President Levin and I have been working hard to raise funds for this glorious building. With a new, modern, and spectacular Norman Foster building, we will have the final piece, allowing our distinguished research faculty to deliver our innovative curriculum in a space worthy of the Yale name.
Sharon M. Oster
Dean and Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship