When Nashilu Mouen-Makoua decided to launch a new startup venture in sub-Saharan Africa, she realized she was lacking some key training. Mouen-Makoua, who has an undergraduate degree in literature from the University of California-Berkley, didn't have any formal business skills. She was investigating MBA programs when she learned about Yale SOM's Global Pre-MBA Leadership Program.
"This program allows you to get a sense of what an MBA program would look like while intensively teaching some of the basics," she said. "It's a wonderful fit."
Mouen-Makoua was one of 59 college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates who participated in the 2014 Global Pre-MBA Leadership Program, held in June. The two-week program, which launched in 2009, introduces a diverse group of students—drawn from underrepresented populations in the U.S. and around the world—to the coursework and fundamental skills that are part of the Yale SOM MBA curriculum. Students take compressed versions of MBA courses, including Sourcing and Managing Funds and Operations Management, and attend networking, leadership development, and test preparation sessions.
Program participants applied lessons learned in the classroom during the Audubon Street Project, an exercise in which teams of students developed a hypothetical business plan for an enterprise with a positive social impact, based in a storefront near campus. Students did market research, assembled spreadsheets, and put together Powerpoint presentations pitching ideas like a healthcare software training center, a bookstore, and a co-working space.
Mouen-Makoua said the collaborative project allowed students to get to know each other better. "I've made some really great friendships but also connections," Mouen-Makoua. "We're already looking at ways we can ping ideas off each other when we leave here and how we can work together in the future.”
The program also included a Yale SOM alumni panel, during which recent SOM graduates discussed their experiences in the MBA program. Joel McLaughlin '14 spoke to the students about his previous work in Canadian politics and on policy issues, working with aboriginal people and energy companies. McLaughlin said he pursued an MBA because he wanted to gain new insights from different points of view.
"I realized I wanted to do something on the other side of the table, from the private sector perspective," McLaughlin said. "Working in politics really came at the center of business, society, and public policy. Those are all issues I'm interested in and that's what the Yale School of Management deals with."
McLaughlin and other Yale SOM graduates also served as advisors to the students, providing guidance on their coursework and advice about attending business school.
"It's been great to get our advisors' perspectives and get really honest conversations around the MBA experience," said Femi Brinson, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. "It's good to know some of the things that will be great, but also what will be tough. It's a great exposure to what a Yale MBA is like and what it can offer.”