One of the hardest things about the MBA is how quickly it takes place. Before you know it, you’ve got classes, coffee chats, club events, speaker events, and meetings of all kinds. If you’re not careful, your two years are over before you’ve successfully made an impact in all the ways you intended as an MBA candidate.
As we wrap up the semester and head into the holidays, I feel grateful to all of the change agents who have attended Yale SOM and other business schools before me. One way to thank them is to pay it forward with some advice for future business school change agents.
Tip 1: Before school starts, think about what matters to you and how you can get involved in it.
SOM’s mission – to train leaders for business and society – attracts many students who are passionate about the most pressing challenges in society, including environmental issues, equity in education, promotion of women’s rights, l ‘access to health care and the defense of greater economic equality. If these or other concerns are very important to you, consider how you could champion their two years of school. Ask yourself: are there relevant clubs on campus? From your earliest days on campus, there will be opportunities to join clubs in student government as leaders, or to work with existing club leaders to advance any cause of your choosing.
For me, advancing the cause of racial equity was a top priority during my time on campus. In June 2020, roughly two months after my engagement at Yale SOM, that priority was amplified by the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests around the world. Many of us who had entered business school wanted to know what resources were available on campus to tackle racial inequalities at large and discuss issues such as police brutality.
Many of us were completely locked in, as it was also the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we felt even more isolated from our communities. Dozens of my future classmates gathered on Zoom to discuss our experience of race and privilege, and how we hoped to advance the conversation on campus. The call ended up going on longer than expected. It was the first moment after accepting my offer of admission that I felt truly validated in my choice not only to go to business school, but to come to Yale SOM in particular.
Tip 2: Identify key areas where you can make change over your two years and beyond.
Being a realist is almost as important as dreaming big. In two years, you’re unlikely to make a serious dent in, say, systemic racism or the climate crisis. By identifying key and actionable areas, you can avoid burnout and ensure that you are spending your best energy in places where it can have the most impact.
The Zoom conversation we had before entering SOM eventually turned into a club on campus, Business Students for Racial Equity. Much of our time so far has been focused on developing a mission and key impact areas for the club. In early 2021, there was a call for business schools to partner with Emory University for the second annual John R. Lewis racial equity case competition and I jumped at the chance. Because I knew promoting racial equity was a priority for me, signing up to find out how to run the competition was an easy choice. The competition is open to all students, undergraduate and graduate, from any university. More than that, the competition welcomes students from any field of study, as racial justice is a far-reaching issue that affects and can be informed by any academic discipline.
By the time Yale SOM hosts the competition in January 2022, I will have spent almost an entire calendar year working to make the competition a reality, alongside my classmates Penelope Williams, Laura Brennan and Christy Meyer. While it has been a tremendous amount of work, it has also been incredibly rewarding. I recently had the experience of watching our teams of semi-finalists meet with a representative from our sponsoring company, and I was delighted to see the creativity, intelligence and thoroughness with which the nominees approached the statement. of the problem. Wherever our careers take us after school, the experience of considering all stakeholders in solving a real business issue related to racial equity will serve us well.
Tip 3: You don’t have to start a new club to make an impact on campus.
Whether or not you want to be a leader on campus for whatever cause you choose, there are ways to make a big impact. It’s incredibly valuable for clubs to get attendance at events, so showing up in the first place is wonderful. Beyond that, you can help by asking thoughtful questions, engaging with difficult topics, and pushing back on topics that come up in class.
During one of our first weeks on campus, a professor discussed the use of modeling algorithms to decide who should be granted leniency in parole hearings. Before moving on, I nervously raised my hand and pointed out that algorithms have been shown to have incredible bias along race lines. The teacher responded better than I could have hoped for, acknowledging that it was true and pointing out to the class that, given the red line and ongoing structural racism, postal codes in the United States are an indicator almost perfect in breed. The whole class learned that models that use postal codes in their analysis effectively use race as an indicator.
I am incredibly grateful that the Yale SOM mission has brought together so many passionate people in various ways at Evans Hall. I’ve learned so much from conversations with my classmates both inside and outside the classroom, and I can’t wait to see what other changes students can make on campus, next year and beyond.
Claire Masters is a second year student at the Yale School of Management in Nyack, New York. Prior to SOM, she worked at Moody’s and the Council on Foreign Relations, and interned at Hillhouse Capital. At SOM, she is involved in race equity efforts, investment management and admissions.