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Batting 1000: Final Semester of Classes at SOM

We are into week 3 of the semester and things are rolling smoothly. The beginning of February is marked by the annual ski trip to Smuggler's Notch in Vermont - great skiing again this year but that's not what I want to talk about in this blog entry. Instead, I'm going to discuss my classes at SOM, a rare undertaking for me on the community blog (I've noticed all my entries seem to be labeled "Career" or "Student Life"... never "Academics"). However given the caliber of the classes in my final semester, I feel compelled to blog about class - So here goes. You see prior to this semester, I've never really had a set of classes that were "batting 1000". Some semesters have been close as I've enjoyed a lot of my classes but traditionally ever semester there are one or two that end up disappointing me or not meeting my expectations. So far though- and yes, I know its early- the final semester has been engaging, interesting, and probably my best set of classes I've ever taken at SOM. It helps that some of them are related to the nonprofit or social venture angle, but still - its been truly delightful that each of my classes have delivered on a daily basis. Hopefully I don't jinx the rest of my semester, but here is the all-star lineup of classes in this, my final semester at Yale SOM. Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations This class is essentially the typical "comp strat" class that all MBA programs have, but its geared specifically to management of nonprofit organizations. Taught by Sharon Oster, the class is prone to cold-calls (which is actually somewhat rare in the second year of SOM), but cold calling doesn't bother me too much anymore, especially when I'm really digging the material. The first few classes have infused some neat applications of Economics, stuff that I thought I would never see again after the core from first year. Still though, applying Cournot and Bertrand models to the nonprofit sector has been fun.... and given the fact that I'll be working with nonprofit organizations on a daily basis after I graduate, this class is definitely a must-take. Behavioral Perspectives on Management This class doesn't really have anything to do with the nonprofit sector, but its been one of the most interesting classes I've taken yet at SOM. The class topics are similar to the "Behavioral and Institutional Economics" class I took with Rob Shiller last semester, but the material feels a little more fresh, infused with lots of pop-cultural references. The required reading for the class is Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink", along with lots of interesting New Yorker articles. Given that most of the reading list is stuff I like to read in my spare time (we talked about Moneyball a few lectures ago, and how Billy Beane introduced Evidence-Based Management to baseball), the classes have certainly been unique and far more entertaining than the typical MBA class. CSR: Social Venture Management The title of this class contains the words "CSR", but the real focus is Social Venture Management, and the trade-offs a firm makes by being a for-profit company pursuing a social mission. The class is very small and the discussions, colorful. From Ben and Jerry's ice-cream, to a failed company that makes shoes out of recycled materials, to Aquaculture (bringing farming techniques to the fishing industry), the topics have been diverse and interesting, despite the rather thick required reading-pack. Strategic Leadership Across Sectors This class is more of a "speaker" series where CEOs and other business leaders come to class and either lead the case discussion or field questions. Although the timing and format makes the class a little painful (once a week for 3 hours on Thursday... right before happy hour), the speaker list is impressive and worth the pain. Last class was definitely a highlight, where we discussed whistle blowers. Present and leading the class was Sherron Watkins, the whistleblower largely credited for uncovering the Enron scandal. I read Conspiracy of Fools a few years ago, and to have Sherron in class was really something else. Personally, she was the most relevant and impressive speaker that I have ever seen at SOM, though that's probably the case because I love the idea of people taking down corrupt corporations. Other speakers coming up this semester include the President & COO of Time Warner, the first CEO of ESPN, and the former CEO and chairman of Jet Blue Airways. Well, that concludes my lineup of classes in this final semester. On a completely unrelated note, I hope everybody who is supposed to vote, votes tomorrow. As a Canadian I unfortunately cannot vote, but I've been watching the race with great interest, and extend my best wishes to Barack Obama. Happy February!!