Yale's Headlining Band: Ed K and the PhDs

September 11, 2009

Though it was strongly implied last week in our Spreadsheet Modeling class that all that happens at a SOM Faculty Meeting is a rousing session of “Rock Band,” turns out it’s a bit more productive. In fact, it’s all about integration. Let me explain. When I first heard that SOM had developed an “integrated curriculum,” I admit I suspected a marketing infraction of the highest order. After all, in my former career “integrated” was right up there with “holistic,” “cross-channel,” and “interwoven” as a business cliche that would win any game of Buzzword Bingo. After learning more about SOM’s approach—particularly the Perspectives section of the curriculum—I started to give it its due as a stronger approach to teaching business. Sure, problems don’t present themselves as only related to one area, so you have to understand how functions and skills work together. I was becoming a believer. But, as with most things in life, you have to experience something to fully convert. And with three weeks of class under our fast-expanding belts (it’s the free beer and pizza), I can say I am truly amazed at how the Core curriculum all fits together. It began with subtle comments by professors like “you’ll see this concept again when you take Investor” and manifested itself fully last week when we brought a production mix problem from Spreadsheets into Economics, calculated expected values in Problem Framing, discussed variance in Careers, and saw that aforementioned Rock Band reference on our Probability exam. The professors reference each other’s courses down to the assignment—they really are marching in lockstep to show us how business problems cross functional lines and how the hard skills will be used in a myriad of applications. The approach also underscores the importance of nailing the fundamentals. Much as I might like to go back to using Excel to make grocery lists (don’t judge), I see how the skills learned now will be used in the rest of curriculum and in my career—almost regardless of what it will be. So, congrats SOM—you got me … along with the dozens of business schools who are looking here for inspiration to refine their own programs. On another note, as some of my fellow bloggers have mentioned, the activities onslaught has begun. Thanks to a recent club fair, we’re now getting 10 emails a day about events, meetings, speakers, and conferences. We’re trying to decide what to get involved with and what events to attend. Time restrictions and overlapping schedules are forcing some tough decisions, and it really is a “paradox of choice.” To borrow from the so-named Barry Schwartz book, I think many of us (me at least) are approaching the extracurricular challenge the way most consumers approach a purchase decision:

  1. Figure out your goal or goals;

  2. Evaluate the importance of each goal;

  3. Array the options;

  4. Evaluate how likely each of the options is to meet your goals;

  5. Pick the winning option(s);

  6. Modify goals

Certainly this is a timeless business school quandary and there will be as many approaches to it as there are people in the class. Since I’m firmly stuck on step #1, I’m not choosing activities based just on career or industry filter, but instead trying a variety of things that will allow me to meet as many of my classmates as possible and hopefully discover new skills and interests along the way. Like Rock Band.

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Jason Hill