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Dean Edward A. Snyder

Dean Edward A. Snyder: A Landmark Term

Dean Edward A. Snyder led Yale SOM from 2011 to 2019 with a focus on mission and a drive to expand the school’s impact by building connections across Yale and across the globe.

Dean Edward A. Snyder led Yale SOM from 2011 to 2019 with a focus on mission and a drive to expand the school’s impact by building connections across Yale and across the globe.

Edward A. Snyder was formally introduced to the Yale School of Management community on January 21, 2010, in Yale Law School’s auditorium (SOM didn’t then have a venue large enough to accommodate the crowd). After introductions from then-Yale President Richard C. Levin and then-Dean Sharon Oster, Snyder spoke about his first impressions of the school, noting the broad interests of its students, the faculty’s excellence in both research and teaching, and the deep commitment to its mission to educate leaders for business and society. 

Snyder saw the school’s mission and its other strengths as a platform to expand its impact, to educate leaders who could tackle problems faced by an increasingly complex and globalized world.

In the years since, the school has indeed raised its profile and its impact, as it moved to a new campus (with its own auditorium), launched new degree programs and faculty initiatives, and founded the Global Network for Advanced Management. Much of the progress of these eight years can be seen as an elaboration on those first impressions about the importance and potential of the school’s mission and its culture.

Starting from the mission

In his first few months at Yale, through the summer and fall of 2011, Snyder kept a whiteboard in his office, where he would jot down evolving thoughts about the school’s strategy. Often, these notes emerged out of conversations with faculty, staff, and other members of the community. It was his way of thinking through the challenges that leaders face and the distinctive resources that Yale SOM could bring to bear on these challenges, building on its mission. 

The words that first took shape on that board eventually crystallized into three guiding aspirations that have directed the school throughout Snyder’s deanship. As originally worded, they were: 

1. To be the business school most involved with its home university: eminent and purposeful Yale.
2. To be distinctively global among U.S. business schools.
3. To be the best source of elevated leaders for escalating complexity in all sectors.

Snyder would recite those three sentences again and again—when welcoming students to orientation each year, in speeches to alumni, in staff meetings.

“It’s very valuable to have clear objectives,” says Snyder. The direct language and the straightforward ideas helped faculty and staff and even students and alumni understand how their decisions and actions could contribute to the school’s larger mission. “We want to be better recognized as a place where we get these leaders who are purposeful, who are elevated, who come out of the DNA of Yale and the school, who want to do something for—purposeful—for business and society. So I think it was a good way to wrap up the mission in a set of things that then could be acted upon.”

Snyder arrived at Yale with a reputation. He’d been dean at two other business schools and had taken the University of Chicago Booth School of Business to the number one spot in the BusinessWeek rankings. Edward Kaplan, the William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Operations Research, says there was some trepidation among long-term faculty about how well Snyder would fit with the mission-driven SOM community—or as Kaplan phrased it, “You could take the dean out of Chicago, but could you take Chicago out of the dean?” In the years that followed, Kaplan was impressed with Snyder’s ability to get the school’s ethos. “He could go to a different place, and see what the strengths were of the faculty, see what the portfolio of faculty talent was, the interests, and resources, combined with the mission of the school and propel the whole thing forward.”

Some of this successful adaptation, Kaplan says, was the result of Snyder’s “deliberate” working style. “I mean ‘deliberate,’ as in, he does stuff on purpose. He puts together deliberative processes to get school decisions done. He’s thinking strategically about how to link activities to the mission.”

The aspirations remained clear guideposts throughout Snyder’s term, as relevant in 2019 as they were in 2011. But they didn’t calcify into inflexible dogma. The wording of each evolved over time, and in 2016, the “aspirations” were re-christened “ongoing objectives” to reflect how much progress the school had made on them.

Beyond partnerships: a new network

By the time the ink on the whiteboard dried, Snyder had gotten to work on aspiration 2 (the global one). 

Perhaps the defining innovation of his tenure was the launch of the Global Network for Advanced Management. The idea for the network, which now connects 30 business schools on six continents, grew out of Snyder’s dissatisfaction with existing models of collaboration between business schools—student exchanges and the occasional targeted partnership. That didn’t seem like an adequate way to prepare students to lead in a world of fast-changing technology and globalized companies and careers.

A more compelling model, Snyder thought, would take advantage of the power of networks. He noted that unlike in other industries, top business schools don’t try to expand their market share. Rather, they compete to get quality faculty and quality students—to capture the slice at the top of the pyramid in each country. That gave him a picture of what a network of top business schools might look like. “We could take our slice here in the United States and connect it to a slice in Ireland and Indonesia and China,” he said. 

He worked the phones and his personal connections, and rounded up 20 other schools willing to give this new approach a shot. A defining quality of the network from the beginning was that it included schools in highly developed economies and in emerging economies. “There are really bright people everywhere, and they want to connect,” says Snyder. 

The first meeting of the deans and directors of Global Network schools was held in April 2012 at Yale SOM. It wasn’t entirely clear at first what the network would do; making connections was the point. From there, innovative ideas could form, and as far as those ideas met the needs of member schools and their constituents—above all their students—they would flourish. 

David Bach is now a deputy dean for academic programs at Yale SOM, but he attended that inaugural meeting as a representative of IE Business School, a founding member of the network. Bach says that the experience was “intellectually exciting,” because the assembled deans and directors were all engaged in creating the new endeavor—from determining how often the network should meet to what kinds of programs it could offer. And throughout the sessions, Snyder was a presiding spirit. “Ted’s leadership qualities were on full display,” Bach says. “He was engaging, enthusiastic, but in a way that wasn’t at all overbearing. He was so interested in what others had to say, what they thought—listening keenly, then being very strategic about it. It’s the way Ted is always; he has a big idea or vision and is then very interested in how people respond to it, how they fill it out, how they engage around it. It set the tone for the network as a whole.”

The following fall, Yale SOM launched the Master of Advanced Management degree, which drew students from MBA programs at other Global Network schools. MAM students take elective courses alongside MBA students and across Yale University (see aspiration 1). In its first year, the MAM substantially increased the diversity of national backgrounds at the school. As the program has matured, it has stood out as having the highest proportion of students from the continent of Africa of any degree program at Yale. 

In March 2013, five member schools held the inaugural Global Network Week, which has become a keystone program for the network. Each participating school offered a weeklong mini course, with faculty sessions, company visits, and networking opportunities. Students at the participating schools could choose from any of the offerings. By 2019, Global Network Weeks were being held multiple times each year, with versions for MIM and executive MBA students, and as many as 20 schools participating. 

Shortly after Global Network Week came online Global Network Courses, Global Network Cases, the online magazine Global Network Perspectives, and the Global Network Survey. The “Global Network x” formulation reflects the way the Global Network serves as a platform for the launch of new initiatives that benefit member schools. By 2019, 7,762 students had gone on a Global Network Week, while 1,163 had taken a Global Network Course. Perhaps most remarkably, not a single tuition dollar changed hands to enable these efforts; the schools have relied instead on the idea of “diffuse reciprocity,” a concept at the heart of multilateralism.

“I think that GNAM is the most innovative and valuable idea in our industry in many years,” says Alberto Trejos, dean of INCAE Business School in Costa Rica. “It has flourished from idea to execution at a pace and in a way of which I am very proud. This could not have happened without Ted´s creativity, leadership, and wise stewardship.”

Amy Wrzesniewski, the Michael H. Jordan Professor of Management, says that Snyder’s global push has earned Yale SOM new recognition as a leader in this area and “enabled us to leverage resources, connections, research partnerships.” One example is a course Wrzesniewski developed with colleagues, called Global Virtual Teams, through which MBA students learn about the unique structural challenges that accompany work on cross-border teams and then complete an assignment in teams with students from other Global Network schools. “By developing a course that helped to build theory, knowledge about research, frameworks, and skills in operating in these environments, we hope to educate students and equip them to be much more successful in this space,” says Wrzesniewski.

Wrzesniewski adds that Snyder’s skill in thinking through organizational design made these kinds of innovations possible. “One of the things that to me is defining about Ted’s leadership is his ability to understand how to set up structures and roles and work processes to enable more work to be done by people within the organization, in ways that empower them and multiply the impact of the organization.”

A gleaming new home

As the network took form and Snyder continued to proselytize the three aspirations, he was also engrossed in planning for the school’s move to Edward P. Evans Hall. The process had started years before and groundbreaking occurred under Dean Sharon Oster’s leadership. But there were still endless details to be worked out in order to ensure the building would be ready for students, faculty, and staff by the planned date. And one big question hovered over the whole endeavor: No one doubted that the new campus would create new opportunities for the school, but what would Yale SOM do with that potential?

Likely the biggest celebration ever thrown at Yale SOM was for the opening of Edward P. Evans Hall in January 2014. In classic Ted Snyder style, the event was purposeful and high-minded. Alumni, students, faculty, and friends of the school gathered for three days of discussion of big issues facing business and management education. Sessions covered Finance in Society, Healthcare Innovation, and Bosses as Brands, among other topics. There was also time to celebrate how far the school had come since its first class entered in 1976. William Donaldson, the school’s founding dean, spoke on one of the panels. “Yale SOM has never been more out front,” he said, adding that the new campus is a “spectacular launching pad for what the next 40 years and beyond will bring.”

In the same conversation, William S. Beinecke, one of the chief advocates for the creation of the School of Management, also reflected on the school’s progress to date and potential for the future. “SOM holds a special place in my heart,” he said. “The name of SOM and the reputation of its faculty and graduates will resound not only in this country but in the great world beyond. I will be watching that glorious development from wherever I happen to be.”

From left: Founding Dean William Donaldson, William S. Beinecke, and Dean Edward A. Snyder
From left: Founding Dean William Donaldson, William S. Beinecke, and Dean Edward A. Snyder

The conference was a partial answer to the big question: the school would continue to pursue its mission through inquiry into the major challenges facing business and society.

Another part of the answer became clear over time, as the new facility enabled growing connections. The technology in the classrooms and meeting rooms facilitated global connections, as with the Global Virtual Teams course. In addition, the presence of an attractive and well-designed building on the north edge of the Yale campus drew students and faculty from other schools and departments and shifted the university’s center of gravity toward Yale SOM. They came for lectures and conferences held in the Lei Zhang Auditorium; they came for the foundational courses SOM created to give non-business students fundamental management skills; they came for jointly hosted student club activities; and sometimes they just came for a cappuccino at the new Evans Hall Café.

Snyder worked to strengthen the flows between SOM and the rest of the Yale campus in ways large and small—even ensuring that the Yale Daily News was delivered to SOM. He was an active voice for collaboration among senior administrators at Yale. Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken notes, “Ted worked very hard to build partnerships with other schools and to welcome faculty and students from across the campus into SOM.” Gerken started her term in 2017, and she says, “Ted was a joy. He was unfailingly generous with time and advice. Ted wasn’t just an experienced dean; he was a wise one.”

Down in the “garden level” of Evans Hall, something else was growing that would further enhance the ties between SOM and greater Yale. In 2014, Yale SOM announced the creation of the Program on Entrepreneurship under the leadership of Kyle Jensen. As the school and the PoE developed new and expanded entrepreneurial resources—including classes, mentoring, speakers, and shared workspace—students from across Yale enrolled in courses like “Entrepreneurship and New Ventures” and “Startup Founder Studies,” and Yale SOM students connected with peers and faculty at other schools to launch new ventures. 

Alumni Engagement

  • By 2018, the Alumni Fund participation rate rose to 55%—the highest level in over 30 years.
  • Giving to the Alumni Fund rose from $1.7 million to $3.9 million over Snyder’s term.
  • Tuition support increased from $1,159,725 per MBA class to $7,682,348.

Growing into a portfolio

It would be hard not to notice that Yale SOM has grown since 2011. In the fall of 2010, 532 students started the new term, 87% of them in the full-time MBA program. In the most recent year, 972 students enrolled, 73% of them in the full-time MBA program. With growth came growing pains—such as the challenge of providing career services for increasingly diverse student populations—and questions about how much the identity of the school might change as it expanded.

Snyder hosted a series of conversations with faculty, staff, alumni, and students around what he called the question of “scale and scope.” How could the school maintain its character as a relatively small business school while extending its reach, increasing its impact, and developing new opportunities for members of the community. As potential programs were considered, Snyder, the leadership team, and the faculty asked: How does this fit with the mission? What benefits and diversity does it add to the SOM community?

Snyder says he is proud of the outcome of these deliberations. “It’s a strategic portfolio. Each program has a distinctive set of potential students coming in,” he says. “The full-time MBA is our flagship program, but we have these other interesting programs that generate a lot of synergies.” 

After the addition of the MAM, leveraging the Global Network, Deputy Dean David Bach led the creation of two new areas of focus in the MBA for Executives program in 2014. The program had previously centered on healthcare and remained relatively small, with around 20 students entering each year. In thinking about how to extend the reach of the program, according to Bach, the team looked at questions beyond market share and revenue to find a long-term strategic fit. He remembers asking, “What is similar to healthcare in the sense that it’s at the nexus of business and society, Yale has some distinctive knowledge and expertise and point of view, and there’s really demand for fresh thinking and leadership on this topic?” The result was the creation of two new tracks of study—asset management and sustainability.

Since the expansion, the EMBA program has grown to about 70 students per year, roughly balanced among the areas of focus.

The next development was the creation of the Master of Management Studies, which serves as an umbrella degree for a number of specialized one-year programs. The first to launch was the Master’s Degree in Systemic Risk program, conceived and led by Andrew Metrick, the Janet L. Yellen Professor of Finance and Management. The program trains employees of central banks and other major regulatory agencies with a mandate to manage systemic risk. It is part of a major effort at the school, led by Metrick and the Yale Program on Financial Stability, to build knowledge and best practices around how to fight financial crises.

The next MMS to spread its wings was the Master’s Degree in Global Business and Society. The GBS program admits “early-career” students, those with less than two years of full-time work experience, who have completed a Master in Management (MIM) degree at another Global Network school. They complete a year of study at Yale SOM oriented toward teaching them to thrive in global organizations that address major challenges. 

In addition to degree programs, the school expanded its efforts in executive education. Under the leadership of Molly Nagler, then associate dean for executive education, the school transitioned from a small set of custom programs to a suite of open-enrollment offerings, with growing emphasis on online courses. By the end of Snyder’s deanship, the school had more than quintupled the number of learners served through executive programs. Executive education became a place for faculty to experiment with new pedagogical approaches and for the school to try out new technologies. The successful innovations then appeared in the degree programs. Nagler, now the chief learning officer at PepsiCo, says that Snyder’s balance of decisiveness and delegation gave the executive education team room to run. “He gave direction on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what,’” says Nagler. “He wanted exec ed to involve a broad selection of faculty, to leverage new technologies, to engage with the Global Network and other Yale departments. His approach—essentially a ‘first principles’ strategy—was freeing and opened up options that we could pursue based on our market knowledge.”

Anjani Jain, the deputy dean for academic programs who has overseen the full-time MBA for the last seven years, says that Snyder and the other deans never lost sight of the importance of the MBA for the prestige and reputation of the school. The same energy and strategic vision that led to the development of new programs also fed new strength into the flagship MBA. “While there was definitely a clear and innovative push with respect to the globalization of the school and the integration with Yale, they were both very important to the growth in scale and stature of the MBA program.”

Jain adds that Snyder was always interested in both strategy and execution. One example he recalls is the development of the Global Study Accounts, which allow students to choose from an array of global experiences. The school previously required all MBA students to complete the International Experience course—and covered the cost. The flourishing of the Global Network created a number of new opportunities for international study; the challenge was how to provide students with new choices without sacrificing academic standards or privileging one option over another. “Ted led the decision making by really empowering folks around him to come up with specific proposals and he gave a lot of weight to their thinking and judgment,” says Jain. The ultimate proposal to fund 10 days of global study “became an idea around which, I think, everybody rallied. I think it’s been very successful in achieving the objectives we had for it.”

Jain says that through deliberative processes, respectful listening, and genuine gratitude, Snyder created a culture at the school that made it possible for teams of faculty and staff to do their best work. “Ted’s role in creating a culture that engenders respect, pride, excitement, and ultimately a sense of momentum for the school shouldn’t be underestimated. In fact, I think a lot of the more visible markers of momentum or progress can only be achieved if you have the underlying substrate of culture.”

The intellectual heart of the school

Entwined with the conversation about program scale and scope, like another strand of a double helix, was an effort to attract leading scholars and thinkers to serve on the faculty. Two deputy deans who served under Snyder, first Andrew Metrick and then Edieal Pinker, led strong recruiting initiatives that both built bench strength with junior faculty and lured a number of senior hires to the school. Some of the names who have joined the Yale SOM faculty roster over the last eight years include leaders in finance, marketing, operations, and economics. 

Tobias J. Moskowitz made his name at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and migrated to Yale SOM in 2016 to become the inaugural Dean Takahashi ’80 B.A., ’83 M.P.P.M. Professor of Finance. Moskowitz thus has worked with Ted Snyder at two very different institutions. “I think he did great things at Chicago, and I think he did great things for Yale,” says Moskowitz. “He was also, to be honest, not a small part of my decision-making in leaving Chicago to come here.”

Moskowitz says he admires Snyder’s ability to leverage the capabilities of different constituencies at the school. “He trusts the faculty, particularly on the issues that faculty are experts in when it comes to curriculum, when it comes to research. I think he’s a great partner in that,” says Moskowitz. “Then I think he, with his immense experience, trusts his own instincts but also seeks input from lots of constituents in the Dean’s Office and the staff in terms of how to run the school in the most efficient way.”

Over the eight years of Snyder’s deanship, the full-time faculty grew from 68 to 90. In that time, the number of tenured women professors doubled. Edieal Pinker, deputy dean and BearingPoint Professor of Operations Research, explains that faculty have been drawn to the school because they see “unique opportunities to advance their scholarship because of synergies they will have in the SOM and Yale ecosystem.” Those synergies aren’t spontaneously generated; they’re the result of planning and cultivation by Snyder and his team. 

“Every element of Ted’s strategy for SOM has directly or indirectly supported the development of our faculty,” says Pinker. “For example, being connected with Yale is part of the strategy. For many of our faculty, this means being actively engaged with other units at Yale such as public health and the econ department. The faculty who do this are pursuing their intellectual interests and at the same time know they are supporting SOM’s strategy and have the backing of the Dean’s Office in these pursuits.”

The faculty at Yale SOM have always played a strong role in governing the school, and Pinker says that Snyder both empowered the faculty and pushed them to serve as the continuing spirit of the institution and caretakers of the mission. “Good faculty governance forces the faculty to establish and express values and this is what gives SOM integrity. Ted has always been very supportive of that.”

Co-creating community

Sometimes seemingly small gestures by a leader have an outsized influence on those around them that can’t easily be measured. David Bach pointed to an example of such a gesture from early in his time working with Snyder. In fact, it happened at the first all-staff meeting Bach attended at SOM. Snyder got up and talked first about the mission and then pulled up a slide with a detailed overview of the state of the school’s finances. “I was totally shocked. I’d never seen anything like that before. The financials are often the most closely guarded secrets at schools,” says Bach. But he realized that Snyder’s decision came from a genuine commitment to fact-based decision-making. And the transparency had knock-on benefits. “That openness and transparency leads to genuine opportunities for people to take ownership and contribute.”

Others say that Snyder’s leadership style helped them feel engaged in the work of the school and its larger mission. Camino de Paz, for example, came to Yale SOM to help run the Global Network for Advanced Management. She recalls that from the first time she met Snyder, she was struck by how thoughtful and receptive he was. “He asked questions and then he left a lot of time to kind of reflect on the answers,” she says. “He was very interested in what I had in mind regarding higher ed, my experience in Europe and with business schools, and in particular my thoughts on the Global Network.”

Moonie Phantharath has worked with Snyder on a day-to-day basis as a member of the Dean’s Office staff over the past seven years, including directing the office for the last two years. She says that at first she was intimidated to be working directly with the dean, but over time she found, “He’s actually very warm. A very, very caring person. And I’m glad I had the chance to get to see that side of him… I know that to be a successful leader, you need the respect of those that you lead, and he definitely has my respect.”

Edward A. Snyder

Students also recount ways Snyder inspired them or elevated their ambitions for themselves and their business school experiences. Uma Krishnan ’19 was a vice president of student government in the last year of Snyder’s deanship and participated in many conversations with him about the school, the community, and student needs. “I think what Dean Snyder does, is he challenges us to co-create solutions with him. He’s obviously very passionate about the school, he’s passionate about the program and our mission. And he encourages us, as students, to move beyond that barrier of student versus faculty or administrator.” She sees the idea of co-creating solutions to make things better as a consistent theme in the school under Snyder. “He realizes that we can’t just operate in a silo. It’s not just business. It’s about coming together and working with people from different backgrounds, different realms, different environments, different perspectives.” 

Jasper Daniel ’19 graduated from the MBA for Executives program. Hours after shaking Snyder’s hand and receiving his diploma, he was still impressed by Snyder’s attention. “There’s just something about his presence and his personal touch that really makes him an inspirational leader for our program here, and we will definitely miss him.” Daniel says that one of the highlights of his time at SOM was a trip to Ghana as part of a Global Network for Advanced Management program. “It took me from an area of expertise in one field and placed me as a consultant in a different continent, in a different business setting with the support of the University of Ghana Business School… This program is so central to our educational experience here that I can’t imagine getting my MBA without it.”

George Wyper ’84 served on the search committee that originally recruited Snyder to be dean. “We viewed Ted as a candidate who was head and shoulders above everybody else,” says Wyper. “We viewed him as someone who could be transformational for the school, and he’s delivered on every metric.” What Wyper didn’t anticipate was that he would develop a true friendship with the then-new dean. “I can’t imagine the next Board of Advisors meeting without Ted. He brought a level of professionalism and vision to the board, and he will be missed.”

What’s next?

Snyder often says that the world has moved toward Yale SOM—meaning that other business schools have recognized that for-profit businesses can’t hide from big societal challenges and that they must train leaders who can see past the bottom line. But Yale SOM also has to keep moving to stay ahead. Snyder is the first to acknowledge that there’s much still to be done.

“We have made the school more open, connected. We’re stronger financially. The quality of our applicant pools is amazing. The faculty work, terrific,” says Snyder. “I view those things as foundational, and I think the school will need to up its game with new initiatives to build on that foundation, and I’m very excited about the next chapter. It is a great moment for the school and the fact that other institutions are thinking about our mission and trying to move, but we’ve got the momentum.”