Parting Reflections, 1 of 3: Choosing Yale SOM

April 19, 2012

Sitting in the Hall of Mirrors just weeks until graduation, I can’t help but reflect (zing!). How did I, a die-hard Harvard man, come to embrace Yale too? After all, the Harvard-Yale rivalry goes back more than a century. Yale SOM first caught my attention in Fall 2005. A college junior then, I knew little about my future except that I would eventually go to a graduate program. Yale came on my radar as the top MBA program for the social sector: I didn’t necessarily have my eye on that field, but a place that was well-known for social impact work was okay by my book. In the years that followed, Yale SOM made waves, unveiling the Integrated Curriculum in 2006, announcing plans to build a new campus in 2007, and tapping its first female dean in 2008. Yale SOM eventually claimed top position in my list. Why Yale SOM?

Two reasons were obvious without the need for extensive research:

1) Eminence. Yale maintains a centuries-long tradition of intellectual and societal leadership, and its brand is perhaps Top 4 among all universities globally. On campus, this affords a wealth of opportunities to convene international leaders and to engage in rigorous interdisciplinary learning. Off-campus, it opens doors.

2) Expansive network. Alumni of Yale University more broadly span across sectors and geographies. Yale MBAs can connect with the entire network. I now have access to two outstanding global communities (vs. just one had I returned to Harvard). But those alone weren’t enough to set apart. Only after I visited various campuses was I able to grasp how Yale SOM is truly unique among business schools.

3) Shared sense of purpose. Whether students were going into philanthropy or marketing, studying education or finance, they universally shared attention to the greater good. That’s not to disregard the importance of profit, but it is to emphasize that other factors matter too. More importantly, there appeared to be widespread embrace of the idea that we can identify profit-maximizing activities that also promote social progress, e.g. social enterprises, impact investing, & infrastructure development.

4) Tight-knit community. Yale SOM is one of few top-ranked schools with fewer than 600 students (with plans to remain so even after moving to the new campus). Accordingly, students know every single member of their class, and many members of the preceding and following classes. They know not just names and professional backgrounds but also interests and passions. They are competitive in some efforts (e.g. sports & generosity), but collaborative in what matters in the long term (professional and personal development).

Indeed, Yale SOM seemed to be an unparalleled combination of these elements. I’m not the only Harvard college alumnus to have recognized this: several others join each class, notably former Goldman Sachs co-COO John Thornton (Harvard ’76, Yale SOM ’80) and Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman (Harvard ’87, Yale SOM ’95). Most of us would still support Harvard at “The Game”, but the apparent benefits of crossing over to get a Yale MBA would obviously outweigh the tongue-in-cheek costs. Of course choosing a graduate program is intensely personal.

For me, coming to Yale SOM felt right: I ultimately signed my offer letter without reservation. Read the next installment to see whether it was right!

About the author

Eddie Thai