The MIA Degree at Yale

June 1, 2021

You must have seen one of these stories in the past few years: some unsuspecting person sends away a saliva sample to 23andMe.  He or she is then wildly surprised when the DNA test results are completely unexpected, revealing previously unknown relatives. Family mysteries are stripped away by the cold, hard science of the DNA lab. It’s mind-bending for everyone involved.

I had a vaguely similar experience a few months ago when I received an email from Werner Gossels, responding to one of my earlier blog posts.  In a moment I will reveal how Werner and I (and you) are related, but first a few words about Werner himself.

werner and peter
Werner (left) and Peter (right) in Berlin

Werner’s path to Yale began in prewar Germany, where he was raised with his older brother Peter in increasingly tenuous circumstances under the Nazi regime. Sent abroad in 1939, Werner and Peter landed first in France, and ultimately in Massachusetts. In time, Peter went off to some unknown college in Cambridge, Mass., but Werner landed at Yale where he took his undergraduate degree and, importantly, his master’s degree.  His distinguished business career in technology and, later, real estate, laid the financial foundation for a remarkable record as a philanthropist and supporter of many educational causes.

Werner wrote to correct my mistaken belief that management education at Yale began with SOM.  It didn’t, and Werner has the receipts to prove it.  

A full generation before SOM opened its doors, Werner and his Yale classmates earned graduate degrees in 1958 in what was then known as Industrial Administration, a program housed in the School of Engineering. Looking through the initial core curriculum, which Werner dug out of the Yale archives, it’s easy to draw some short, straight lines between the MIA degree, the first MPPM degrees, and the MBA degree most of you have.

Here are a few examples from that first curriculum, all drawn verbatim from Werner’s research:

  • Organizational Behavior – An examination by the use of a systemic framework of the behavioral science research relevant to understanding basic causes of human behavior in organizations.
  • Production Administration – Analysis of production function with attention to the application of modern theories to the solution of its problems.
  • Managerial Economics – This course is centered around the logic of performing the economic choices that have to be made in the management of typical business operations 
  • Corporate Finance – The course discusses the internal and external sources of business financing, the criteria for the use of various sources and the management of cash balance and credit facilities.

I could go on, but you get the point. This is an SOM education that significantly predates SOM.  It’s as close a DNA match as you’ll find from any 23andMe test. The pioneering MIA program endured for a full two decades at Yale before it was superseded by SOM.

The happy implication of this discovery, thanks to Werner, is that the body of Yale alumni who obtained Yale management degrees is even larger than I realized.  We have relatives that I never knew existed, and I am grateful to Werner for taking the time to enlighten me, and for encouraging me to enlighten other SOM alumni.

Thanks also to Werner’s efforts, SOM has welcomed these graduates into its official community and invites them to events, includes them when distributing this newsletter, and has updated SOM’s Wikipedia page to recognize this precursor program. I’m delighted to learn about these new relatives, and I hope to have the chance to meet as many of them as I can at future campus events.

About the author

Matt Broder