Letter from Dean Edward A. Snyder [January 2015]

February 3rd, 2015

I¹d like to share with you a note I recently sent to the Yale SOM community discussing many of our ongoing efforts to advance the school¹s mission.


To the Yale SOM Community:

As we continue in our mission to educate leaders for business and society, our students, faculty, alumni, and staff are embracing a huge range of issues and problems in different sectors and regions throughout the world.  Here are some examples that reflect the spanning character of our work and high aspirations:  

--We have intellectually-productive initiatives on healthcare, asset management, and sustainability.
--We have over 60 student clubs and several major conferences coming up, including on Education, Philanthropy, and Health Care.
--The fifth Global Network Week, scheduled for next month, will engage over 700 top Masters-level students and 17 Global Network for Advanced Management schools, with topics ranging from Social Innovation and Business in Africa, to E-China.
--The Center for Business and the Environment is conducting fast-paced, interactive workshops with enterprises.  These Green Light projects involve rapid ideation techniques.
--Recent faculty searches have focused on Design and Innovation (D&I) and Sustainability.  

If one takes this mix and multiplies by a large number, then one can begin to imagine the dynamic state of the school.  Of course, pursuit of our mission with such energy entails some challenges and raises questions:

1. How can a relatively small business school execute on so many fronts?
2. What is the role of diversity in these efforts?  If diversity is indeed central, how are we doing?
3. Does aspiring to be the most integrated business school with our home university help or hurt?
4. Does aspiring to be the most distinctively global US business school help or hurt?

In response, let me make a case for the importance of (i) our capacity to grow as a diverse enterprise and address difficult challenges; (ii) our ability to leverage Yale; and (iii) our ability to develop and leverage the Global Network for Advanced Management.  

A diverse Yale SOM community and the behaviors that hopefully follow – listening, leverage, commitment, and learning – are extremely important assets going forward.  How are we doing on diversity?  There is lots of good news:  Objective feedback from third-party surveys of our recent graduates puts Yale SOM substantially ahead of other business schools’ graduates in their abilities to develop a diverse environment and behavioral corollaries.  The Yale Workplace Survey completed every-other-year also indicates SOM improved on dimensions related to diversity over the last four years.  Indeed, our school ranks at or near the top in all relevant categories among Yale units.  We also see greater diversity reflected in applicants – students, staff, and faculty.  While there is no single measure of diversity, many believe that Yale SOM is the most diverse academic unit on campus.

Yet we have much more work to do and I see substantial challenges to our community, some from within.  Many have read about the incident involving a Yale Police Officer drawing his weapon upon a Yale College student based merely on a report that the student matched the description of a burglary suspect.  I know that many in our community were shocked and felt harm as a result of the incident.  Did the leadership of Yale Police in the wake of Ferguson and Staten Island call its people together, men and women who take their duties seriously, and conduct workshops and drills on when (and when not) to draw a weapon?  We should all be grateful that the victim acted so coolly in response and that a tragedy did not ensue.  I was dismayed by Yale’s official statement on the incident, especially the claim that this was not a “replay” of other prominent cases.  I endorse Micah Jones’s recent YDN editorial in response.

Some challenges derive from being more global.  Global conflicts arising from, for example, China’s assertiveness and radicalism within Islam are now brought into Yale SOM with greater import than into other US business schools.  I see the need for yet greater teamwork and improvement in our every-day practices in giving and receiving feedback.  All of this requires not perfection, but a baseline of mutual respect for people from different cultures and countries.  Whatever the challenge, leadership for business and society requires embrace of the tough issues, not reducing the degree of difficulty.  

Turning to the programmatic challenges that business schools face, I’ve recently learned in conversations that peer schools are dealing with expectations that the footprint of a modern business school should expand to be more like a “mini-university.”  As indicated above, we’ve expanded the scope of our work as well, but an obviously more efficient alternative to becoming a mini-university is to continue to integrate more fully and effectively with Yale.  I could point out many programmatic steps on this front, but let me cite one striking fact:

Among the strong, across-the-board increases in applications year-to-date for our portfolio of Masters-level programs, applications for our joint-degree programs with other Yale programs have increased 55 percent.

In addition to the traditional strong programs with Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale Law School, we see more applications from, for example, the Schools of Medicine, Architecture, and Public Health, and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.  No doubt our healthcare initiative will be enriched by more joint-degree students studying medicine and public health.  Likewise our Design and Innovation projects will benefit from having architecture and engineering students within SOM.  

Last, does our global work help or hurt?  While our work with the Global Network adds complexity, the GN schools offer a multitude of strengths that Yale SOM does not have or that further complement our capabilities.  We now foresee programs in entrepreneurship across the Network that leverage a possible subset of schools such as Hong Kong Science & Technology, I.I.M. Bangalore, Technion, EGADE, Smurfit (U.C. Dublin), and Yale SOM.  We also can use the GN to much more effectively pursue big issues like sustainability and important functions like asset management on a global basis.  Again, much of our approach is to leverage the strengths of others.  

This substantive communication is intended to give you a sense of the pursuit of mission and the challenges we face.  I’d be delighted to hear from you.  

Very best regards, Ted