Generations of students have made lifelong friends at Yale SOM. Song Kim ’20 and Sara Shoff ’20 share their story of friendship, which began on campus in New Haven, transitioned online during the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulted in a podcast on ethics, values, and social change.
As we waded through our first semester of business school in fall of 2018, the Women in Management club hosted WIM Circles, an intimate, small-group forum to discuss community, career, relationships, and anything affecting our current personal and professional lives. Brought together only by our availability and interest in an early morning meeting (7:30 a.m. Wednesday mornings), we were placed in the same circle.
If you have any assumptions about the type of people who would voluntarily meet up so early for a guided conversation...you are probably right about them. But it was an impressive group of women (seriously, look them up) each coming from wildly different worlds before SOM. (Shoutout to Katie, Kaitlin, Michelle, Nitya, Lauren, and Sidney—we love you!)
During the second meeting, we jumped right in with some serious relationship conversations. Sara shared about her relationships and faith, and Song felt a light go off in her heart because of parallel experiences she’s had. Song sent a follow-up text that day, and a few days later we went on our first one-on-one date at Koffee in between classes. And the rest is history. We connected on faith—our journeys and our questions. We connected over burnout from working in industries where we were always looking for what is wrong to try to make them right—Sara for the U.S. government’s development finance institution, and Song at an Asian-American civil rights organization. And we connected in general over our frustrations with structures and institutions that don’t actually work well for anyone and our vision for radical systemic change.
Some highlights of our early friendship:
- When Song officially met Sara’s partner at Frank Pepe’s, and they connected right away over being recovering lawyers.
- When Sara went to Song’s birthday party at the since-closed Beer Collective, but Song was late to her own party, so Sara went home early. [Song was only 20 minutes fashionably late!]
- When Song officially became a U.S. citizen after 27 years in the country and Sara joined her, basically as family, for the ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
- When Song met Sara’s parents visiting from California and they helped us with our inaugural casual Sunday night dinners, bringing together a community of friends and acquaintances to talk about faith.
We thought we would have so much more time together. But March of 2020 hit, and just like that, our class was spread all over the globe. We went from the beautiful transparent glass dome of Evans Hall to all-virtual classes for our last quarter. And we graduated, unceremoniously, without our families and classmates, in May 2020. By that time, we officially lived in different states. We watched as everything about the world seemed to have changed. We saw the Movement for Black Lives gain momentum, and people paying attention to how connected we all are through the COVID-19 pandemic. We noticed people digging into social and environmental justice and reflecting on the way their personal choices and consumption could make an impact.
We were having just another typical Sara-and-Song catch-up that led to conversations about business and human rights and racial justice. Contemplating what our faith compelled us to do in the face of injustice, we decided the time was ripe for us to take action. We took our love for having conversations about the gray areas of life and a need for a creative outlet in quarantine and put together F***ing Ethical. On the podcast, we brought in our expertise and experience to talk about anti-racism in business, values-based investing, and international development, among others. It became an avenue for us to reconnect with brilliant people in our lives, whom we invite on for conversations on issues like social change through media, equity in healthcare, education reform, and topics.
A year later, we have settled into similar roles as COOs of early-stage companies (Song in a medical technology startup, Sara in nonprofit impact investing), are on the second season of the podcast, recently held our first podcast event, titled “DEI in Startup Hiring and Culture,” and still talk about faith, what community means, what we actually want to achieve in this life, and how to fit all those things in our often-transient and -rootless lifestyles.