A Few Mid-Pandemic Observations About SOM

November 30, 2020

It’s a question we often find ourselves asking others during this pandemic year: How are you doing? It’s a great open-ended question that allows the other person to go where, and however deep, he or she wishes. It is not, in this harsh and dangerous time, a casual inquiry.

What happens, though, when you apply this question to an institution like SOM?  How is SOM doing? The institution is sufficiently large, complex and nuanced as to defy an easy answer. Nevertheless, that was the question on the mind of the Alumni Advisory Board (AAB) when we met with SOM students and leadership by Zoom on November 12-13.

Rather than offer a single answer, I’ll share a few observations and then remind you how SOM alumni fit into the picture.

The pandemic is a stress test, but people are adapting. Covid has permeated the SOM experience, but SOM people have responded with an impressive combination of grit and innovation. One example: we were aware that SOM had adopted a “hybrid” learning model, with half of the students in the classroom and half remote on any given day. It’s a challenging model that, we learned, is quite rare among leading U.S. business schools and it delivered competitive advantage to SOM in enrollment decisions when compared to the all-online model that others adopted.  By “landing a full class,” as Dean Kerwin Charles put it, and without compromising admissions standards, SOM is faring better than feared when the pandemic first hit.

The pandemic version of SOM still has challenges, though. Clubs can’t meet in the way that students wish; recruiting is fully online; internship and full-time job prospects are murkier; networking is harder. In short, it’s not the SOM anyone would have wished for, but students, staff and faculty are making the best of a challenging situation.  The Cohort Cup is alive and well!

Executive education is at a turning point. When former SOM Dean Ted Snyder turned his attention to executive education programs about eight years ago, the school was essentially offering tailored programs to corporate clients. The expansion he launched succeeded dramatically, tripling executive education revenue (and staff resources) and launching successful programs focused on Women in Leadership, Women on Boards, and the flagship Global Leadership Executive Education among numerous other offerings. Now the school is going to take a fresh strategic look at its executive education programs, a process spanning the next several years, that will fully reexamine the role of executive education in the SOM portfolio and chart a path forward.

Business school remains a safe harbor. There has been recent press coverage about an uptick in the number of b-school applicants to leading schools, and SOM is part of that trend.  The number of applications to SOM for first-round admissions grew by about one-third over last year’s pre-Covid first round without any noticeable change in the quality of applicants.  This strong start gives school leadership confidence in being able to admit a highly qualified and full Class of 2023. Recessions are usually good for business school applications, and this pandemic recession appears to be following the same pattern.

As alumni, you can help the school directly. Here are the requests: we need alumni to refer excellent prospective students to the school, and we need you to create internship and full-time job opportunities for current students. The contact for referrals is mba.admissions@yale.edu, and the contact for job opportunities is som.cdo@yale.edu.  Thank you.

Do you have questions about SOM or the role that alumni can play in the school’s continuing progress? The AAB is the collective voice to the school administration of SOM’s 10,000 alumni worldwide. If you have a question, a concern, or an issue you’d like to raise with the school, please feel free to drop us a line at ysomaab@gmail.com.

About the author

Matt Broder