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After months of anticipation, Class of 2011 Orientation finally begins

The official portion of Orientation Day 1 is over and I’m writing my first post to the Yale SOM Community Blog (as a first-time blogger I suspect I am going to write a lot of things like “I’m writing a post” even when it’s obvious I’m writing a post—sorry—hopefully this will become less self-indulgent over time). I’m struck by the fact that this is called the “Community Blog” as community is a word I heard a lot before arriving at SOM and over the past few days. It’s both true, and something that has to be experienced to be fully understood. As an applicant, I was struck by SOM’s frequent use of the word and figured it had to do with the small class size, which is certainly viewed as a competitive advantage. However when I first visited campus, it became clear that while class size contributes to a community feel, it’s the deep emotional investment of the students, faculty, and staff that actually creates the close-knit environment. On a tour, in class visits, in casual conversations with students it was clear that they view themselves as an integral thread in the SOM fabric and that they value the backgrounds and contributions of all of their peers because their peers impact their own experience in a very real well. The community was evident as students would pass each other around campus and quick greetings would turn into long conversations, or my guides would say to me “that’s John, he had this great internship at …” or “Lisa and I were on the international experience trip together …” A word of unsolicited advice to MBA applicants: observe the depth of interaction between students when you visit schools this fall; see how many greet each other by name or fall into easy conversation. If familiarity is important to you, a class size and school ethos that can foster it should be a consideration; it certainly was for me. Anyway, before today I’d tracked SOM’s community as an applicant and observer. Today I experienced it as a participant. After a class picture on the stairs leading down to Caulkins Courtyard, we heard from Dean Sharon Oster, who welcomed us to SOM. The remark of hers that stood out most to me was in regards to community; to paraphrase, the Dean said: “you will make an impact here, for good or for bad, which will be felt by the entire community.” It was a powerful statement and goes to the heart of what makes SOM what it is: the students don’t just have a role in shaping the program and culture; we are expected to leave our mark on it. Whether through student government, club involvement, academic research, or just class discussion, we will all stand out as individual contributors linked to each other in a dozen different ways. I like the other sentiment implied here, that there’s nowhere to hide. Everyone is accountable but at the same time will be recognized for their contribution. It’s a weighty expectation, but hopefully a challenge that’s consistent with why people came to business school—and particularly Yale—in the first place. It was the first time in a surreal couple of months of wrapping up a job, traveling around, and moving to New Haven that I felt I was really starting school! The rest of the day was less philosophical but just as interesting: lunch with our cohorts (the 50-some person group with whom we will take all our Core classes and talk trash to the other groups—yes this has already begun); a bus tour around Yale and New Haven; and an ice cream social courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s. It was great to see the class all in one place and there are a lot of people to meet. I took some pictures below on my BlackBerry and will try to remember the real camera for the rest of the week. And it’s going to be a busy one. Watch this space for more.