Edna Novak '08

Edna Novak may lead one of the school’s smallest alumni chapters in New Zealand (six people strong), but is nonetheless dedicated to bringing the group together and building a community. As Edna states, “All of the SOM alumni in New Zealand are so interesting and inspiring in their own life and career choices. I’ve really appreciated having those connections to reach out to in my move overseas, and the generosity of advice and support they have provided (thanks Jon, Lance, Chris, Doug, Barry, and Lewis!).”

“Several of my closest friends in life are classmates from SOM, and I will always be grateful to the role that SOM played in facilitating those connections. Professionally, I always feel a kinship when I meet another SOM alum, and enjoy hearing from stude

“Several of my closest friends in life are classmates from SOM, and I will always be grateful to the role that SOM played in facilitating those connections. Professionally, I always feel a kinship when I meet another SOM alum, and enjoy hearing from students or alumni when they are interested in learning more about my work or organization.”

What have you been up to since Graduation?
In my second year at SOM, I co-chaired the 2008 Yale Education Leadership Conference with my friend and classmate Jon Gruber. Along the way, I got involved in the Connecticut education community, and was compelled by the need and opportunity to attract stronger talent and leadership to Connecticut’s low-income schools and communities. When I was given the chance to lead Teach For America’s work in Connecticut following the conference, I jumped at it. I served as the Executive Director of Teach For America - Connecticut for the next four years. I loved that role and sometimes miss it – I experienced so much growth as a manager and leader, and deeply valued the relationships and partnerships I had the opportunity to develop.

In January 2012, I had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream by moving to New Zealand with the Teach For All global network. I had studied abroad in New Zealand in college and had always dreamed of living there more permanently one day. I started off as a Partner Engagement Director with Teach For All, essentially the non-profit version of a business development consultant, supporting Teach First NZ and Teach For Australia in getting up and running, and strengthening their partnership with our global network. I felt incredibly fortunate to be able to move to New Zealand while continuing to work for a cause that I felt so passionately about.

Over the last year, I have transitioned into a broader regional role with Teach For All, working with our partners across East Asia and the Pacific, in addition to New Zealand and Australia. I have loved being back in New Zealand and have started to create some roots here, pursuing permanent residency and buying a home in Auckland. When I’m not on a plane or working with one of our partner organizations, I am most likely to be found enjoying New Zealand’s incredible landscape, by foot or swimsuit or horse.

How/Why do you stay engaged with SOM as an alum?
Moving to New Zealand has enriched my gratitude for and engagement with SOM. There are currently six other Yale SOM alumni in New Zealand (one of whom I actually contacted as a student when I was exploring the possibilities of moving back there, and who was so helpful and continues to be - thanks Lance!).

The school’s mission is to educate leaders for business and society, looking at your current career and interests, what does this mean to you?
Yale SOM’s mission was what most attracted me to the school in the first place. When I visited SOM as an applicant, I was struck both by the diversity of the student body and by the common theme of social impact and meaning that stood out in everyone’s stories. Whether someone was heading into the non-profit sector or into banking or consulting, it seemed like all the students I met that day were thinking about how they could contribute meaningfully and positively to society through their life and work, and I loved that. To me, that is what SOM is all about and is the school’s greatest strength – attracting and cultivating leaders who will make a positive difference in this world through life and career. Personally, this is been a core driver of my own personal and professional choices since SOM, and will continue to be, whether I remain in education reform or transition into the private sector down the road.

If you could tell a current student one thing, what would it be?
I would say two things, first to really take the time to look inward while at SOM, to take advantage of the richness of the academic and social environment to reflect on what kind of impact you really want to have through your own life and career, and how you are going to use your time at SOM to move in that direction. The second thing I’d say would be to get out of the Yale bubble and really explore New Haven and Connecticut when you have the chance. There is so much depth and history in the community that Yale SOM is a part of, and I really only began to appreciate that after I graduated and continued to live in New Haven for a while.  

Edna Novak

Senior Director, Partner Engagement
Teach For All