From March 16th through the 20th, ten of my classmates and I had the opportunity to participate in the Washington, DC Spring Break Leadership Forum. This annual trip allows students to meet with top politicians, policy makers, and opinion leaders from both the public and non-profit sectors. The trip was truly inspirational not simply because of the unparalleled access to high-level decision makers; but more importantly, because of the ability we had to engage in candid discussions about the major social, economic, and political challenges facing our country.
We enjoyed dozens of meetings with journalists, politicians, heads of government agencies, international development organizations, and public policy institutes all in a matter of five hectic days. Specifically, we met with Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief John Bussey and CBS Bureau Chief Chris Isham to discuss objectivity in journalism, the financial crisis, and politics in Washington DC. On our third day, we toured the White House and met with Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen and Head of Presidential Personnel Don Gips to discuss the new administration, management challenges, and leadership. In the public policy arena, we met with heads of think tanks (Brookings, American Enterprise Institute, and Cato Institute) as well as leaders in international development organizations (IFC, Millennium Challenge Corporation, USAID) so that we might further our understanding of the challenges of setting the agenda and organizing international programs. What I found most interesting was the degree to which these leaders were interested in the ideas that we had as Yale School of Management students- especially at this critical time, with both the financial crisis and the change in administrations weighing heavily on everyone’s minds. They were universally impressed with our diverse backgrounds and experiences, and they were excited about the opportunity to hear our suggestions for facing the current issues and those in the future. In addition to the incredible networking opportunities that the trip offered, it furthermore brought our integrated curriculum into a real world context. Having just finished the organizational perspectives of Yale’s new curriculum, I was excited to put my studies to use. What I found was that I now approach the study of organizations in a completely different way. I carry a deeper understanding of the critical lenses that are essential for any leader to use when making a decision: sourcing and managing funds, competitors, employees, investors, innovation, customers (or clients), operations, and the interplay of state and society. This background allowed us to engage with top decision makers on the critical issues facing our society.