As the opening of Evans Hall ended, I paused to reflect on SOM. Here I was in this amazingly modern building – a glass and steel structure with sleek curves, high tech classrooms, and tremendous transparency.
I thought about our old digs on Hillhouse Avenue – a classic “mansion-like” structure, with nooks and crannies, and fine wooden masonry. I thought about what the new building meant to the future of SOM. Without a doubt, it’s a gorgeous building, and a great deal of thought has been put into its construction – from how the classrooms facilitate learning, to how breakout rooms and gathering areas encourage social interaction. But as I thought about my new surroundings and reflected on the conference “Business+Society: Leadership in an Increasingly Complex World”, one thing became abundantly clear – the DNA of SOM will always remain the same.
As I listened to one speaker after the next (many alums of SOM) talk about their experience here, there was a common tenor to the conversations. This is a school that stands on principle, that values ethics, that sees the need for social responsibility in addition to corporate rigor. This is a place where the “for profit” and “not for profit” worlds collide, where leaders are trained for business and society. It was gratifying for me to hear people talk about income inequality, climate change, the global burden of disease as key issues that we need to address. This is a school that embraces integrity, the need to do what is right (not just what is profitable), to advance the mission of a “good society”. Filled with deep thinkers, this is more than simply a place to learn about excel spreadsheets and EBITDA – this is a place that ponders how to create value, and how to use that value for the good of humanity. This is a place that fills students with passion (Peter Salovey, Yale's President), a sense of authenticity (Professor and Nobel Laureate Bob Shiller), the courage to be aspirational and audacious (Linda Mason '80), and to ultimately make a positive difference in the world. And no matter what the façade of the building, that is never going to change.