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Taking the Internship Fund Auction Online

Emcees Joe Gramelspacher ’21 and Jon Okafor ’21 hosted one of Yale SOM’s most beloved community events, live from their living room couch.

Joe Gramelspacher headshot
Joe Gramelspacher ’21

A student-led organization at Yale SOM that has helped the school fulfill its mission for the last 40 years, the Internship Fund provides dozens of students with the opportunity to apply their skills in public and nonprofit organizations for the summer, without regard for financial constraints. The fund is led by first-year MBAs and derives most of its financial support from contributions from current students. Throughout the first-year experience, student leaders host a series of events to bring the school community together in fun and exciting ways in exchange for donations.

Jon Okafor ’21
Jon Okafor ’21

We were thrilled to serve as the hosts for the Internship Fund’s biggest fundraising event this year—an auction featuring items donated by SOM students, faculty, and school leaders. From Ping-Pong games with the economics faculty to the legendary Hike of Many Moons, auctioned items are experiences that bring students and faculty together for fun and fellowship within and beyond Evans Hall. We loved seeing the creativity of our classmates and professors in providing enticing opportunities. The generous contributions of time and talent are characteristic of the people at this school.

Our job as hosts of the auction was to maximize revenue through dynamic marketing, discovery and leveraging of individual willingness to pay, and expansion of of market participants through strategic pricing. Sorry, that’s how we described it on our résumés— really, our goal was to bring a high-energy vibe, encourage audience participation, and ultimately to help bidders open their wallets. Plus, this year,  we had to do it all via Zoom in the first large virtual social event of the spring.

In what can only be described as a shrewd and effective pitch (see also, veiled and flattering), the Internship Fund team convinced us to host this marquee event from our living room couch. After weeks of planning jokes and  wardrobe changes, we were ready for the big night. In the first few minutes, we both gained a powerful level of empathy and appreciation for our professors who had, at that point, already been teaching on Zoom for the past several weeks. We consider ourselves fairly attuned to social dynamics, but it’s challenging to read a virtual room and engage an on-screen audience. Thanks, professors! (Like all of you, we learned to just pretend people were laughing at our jokes.)

Over the course of the night, we were struck by the strength of the Yale SOM community. From professor cameos to gentle jabs at us in the Zoom comments section, the event emodied the spirit of collegiality, generosity, and fun that define the Yale MBA experience. For both of us, seeing so many classmates and faculty members come together for such a worthy cause was the highlight of this truly unique spring term. We were even able to exceed last year’s fundraising total, earning more than $36,000 to support classmates pursuing social impact work this summer.

We’d like to thank the student leaders of the Internship Fund, the professors who donated experiences and joined the event, and the school administration for supporting this distinctive SOM tradition. We were grateful for the opportunity to play a small part in bringing the community together to help Yale SOM fulfill its mission.