Silver Scholars: My Unique Path to and through Yale SOM
Liam Grace-Flood ’21 discusses the benefits of the Silver Scholars program, which allows exceptional college graduates to take MBA courses during their first years after graduation.
Business school wasn’t an obvious choice for me. As an undergrad I worked across many disciplines, but never took business courses or a corporate internship. At Wheaton College, I was a math and fine arts double major with physics and computer science minors, and was a dual-degree candidate in engineering at Dartmouth College. I took on similarly diverse school break projects, like building an electric motorcycle in New Orleans, studying combinatorics and abstract algebra in Budapest, and making art for a summer in the Irish countryside.
When I graduated from college, I deferred starting B school to take a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, researching and advancing public interest technology projects across Europe, South Asia, and South and East Africa. I subsequently took a summer gig as a Civic Digital Fellow writing technology strategy at the International Trade Administration within the U.S. Deptartment of Commerce.
In those 15 months, I rediscovered what I already knew: management education, Yale, and the Silver Scholars program, in particular, were really where I wanted to be. While I liked working as an engineer, the technical aspects of making an algorithm 1% more efficient, for example, were less interesting than the questions about whom the work was for, whom it was by, what they wanted from it, and how to make that happen. More engaging than doing niche technical work was the rush of bringing together diverse skill sets to create something better than any of us could have made on our own. Many teams I worked with centered technology as their raison d'être, while the social aspects of their work may not have been given the attention or expertise they needed.
The Silver Scholars program felt like the perfect way to engage these concerns. Each year, the program serves as a unique career accelerator for a small cohort of diverse students selected fresh out of college. While most of Yale’s peer schools discourage starting MBA coursework directly after undergrad and offer deferred admission for college seniors, Silver Scholars spend a year taking Yale’s MBA core curriculum and then defer their second year to work. By taking the MBA core before beginning our careers, Silver Scholars are better positioned to get MBA-level roles sooner, do more interesting work in their first job out of college, and ultimately move faster toward the career we want.
I love SOM’s international community; at the same time, working abroad made me more passionate about working in communities I’m from—as a New Haven native, I Stan the city, and have deeply enjoyed the opportunities being an SOM student affords us to give back locally. As a Silver Scholar, I had the opportunity to serve on a local nonprofit board with the Nonprofit Board Fellows, consult to a community arts organization through the Social Impact Consulting Club, and work alongside the city of New Haven to develop best practices around opportunity funds with the Inclusive Economic Development Lab.
My MBA coursework has already been a great education; connected me to wonderful classmates, faculty, and alumni; and allowed me to pay it forward. It’s also been a great place to grow into a career that I find challenging, rewarding, and meaningful.
This past summer I was a fellow with the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the city’s Innovation team. I wrote the city’s playbook for protecting workers’ best interests in light of rising (and racialized) economic inequality surrounding “future of work” trends. From automation to the rise of the gig economy, from offshoring to growing skills gaps—my coursework this past year has been foundational to the thinking I did this summer.
This fall, I’m starting as a consultant to the social sector at Wellspring, expanding my practice to develop strategy for a wider range of mission-driven organizations to continue testing my ideas about where I can be most effective and actualized.
It’s a great position to be in. Whenever I choose to come back to SOM to finish the last year of my MBA, I can take whichever classes I want across all of Yale, allowing me to dig into whatever interests I develop over the course of my year(s) to get that much better at the job I go back to, or to help pivot to something else. In that way, Silver Scholars is a great structure to test hypotheses about what we want to do and where we want to do it, building in a period of time to explore sectors, functions, and cultures, producing leaders with a strengthened sense of purpose.
Anyone with whom that flexibility and acceleration resonate should feel free to email me with any questions about my experience.