I’m a 40-year-old mom of four teenage kids (three of whom have their own dogs), a wife, a volunteer in my local community, and a (very) full-time chief commercial officer for a healthcare technology startup that launched in September and is experiencing extraordinary growth. The idea that I might somehow add one of my lifelong “bucket list” items into the mix and pursue a graduate degree from Yale, particularly while living in a very small town south of the Bay Area in California, was admittedly ambitious, but something I knew in my heart that I had to tackle. And, in part due to Yale’s new Extended Classroom feature, I can indeed have it all: I can be super mom, super wife, super employee, and now also super student.
The program administration wisely required MBA for Executives students to get our “sea legs” as students before we were given the opportunity to participate in the Extended Classroom. These first few months of traditional program participation as a residential student were critical to bonding with my team and to helping me prepare mentally for the 22-month challenge ahead.
In October, we were able to sign up to pilot the Extended Classroom. Truthfully, when I was first contemplating participating in the early pilot of this program, I worried about the caliber of the experience and how my teachers and my classmates would react to this change in their classroom and to my participation in it. Would they be resentful? Would they feel that I was somehow “less serious” about my MBA than those who opted to only participate in the “traditional” in-residence experience? Those fears have proven to be unfounded; my experience could not have been more fantastic, and my classmates and professors enthusiastically embraced this new way of learning.
The school has combined state-of-the-art technology (complete with multiple classroom cameras to capture both professors and students) with dedicated staff in each session to ensure that extended participation is seamless not only for those who are remote, but for those who are physically in the classroom. The experience does not stop with interactive participation in the lectures. Time and effort is spent setting up breakout rooms for the interactive group work portions of the class, and we are able to participate in Colloquium sessions as well.
So, what does the Extended Classroom mean to me? It means I was able to help my daughter get dressed for her first-ever formal school dance, which took place on a class weekend. Without the Extended Classroom, I would have had to miss that very special mother-daughter experience. It means that instead of spending so much time on an airplane commuting to class, I can actually spend more time prepping for my upcoming class weekend and reviewing homework and assignments, thus enhancing my academic experience. It means that my friend and classmate whose wife had a new baby was able to stay home with her on the first weekend of welcoming their little one, and in addition to attending class that weekend, he was also able to be a supportive dad and husband. It means that my employer is getting more of my time and energy, allowing me to continue to be a high-performing member of our leadership team.
The Extended Classroom also means that my school is living up to its stated mission of educating leaders for business and society by finding ways to be more inclusive and more diverse in terms of the students that it is bringing into the program, and it is achieving this mission in part through the constant pursuit of innovation to improve upon our experiences. It means that I can have the best of both worlds—a best-in-class residential MBA experience, complete with the deep-rooted friendships and traditions that go along with that type of program (Mory’s!) while living a very full-time life 3,000 miles away. Most important to me, it means I am showing my kids that with a little creativity and a bit of hard work, working moms can do it all.