MBA for Executives Alumni Return as Teaching Assistants

By Karen Guzman

Jen White ’18 returned to the Yale School of Management campus this year for an opportunity to keep learning while teaching current students. White, who lives in California, served as a teaching assistant in the Sustainable Innovations in Healthcare course, taught by Greg Licholai, a physician and biotech entrepreneur who serves as a lecturer in management.

“Healthcare is dynamic and changing every day,” says White, a senior vice president for strategic partnerships at Klick Health and graduate of the Yale SOM MBA for Executives program.  “Working with Professor Licholai  to co-author cases and determine the curriculum lets me both share my industry expertise and learn with the students simultaneously. It’s a win-win.”

White is one of a number of EMBA alumni returning to campus to serve as teaching assistants. They say the experience benefits them in a host of ways. “It’s been one of the most amazing experiences in my professional career,” White says. “I’ve mentored students, I’ve interacted with industry leaders, and I’ve continued my lifelong commitment to learning.”

The EMBA program employed 16 alumni TAs this past academic year. “We’ve always used TAs,” says Dolores Grillo, EMBA program associate director. “The difference is that now our alums are using it as a way to re-engage and to revisit courses that were particularly impactful to them. This is such a win for our students as well because our alumni understand the demands of the course and the EMBA student experience, which adds to their effectiveness.”

The teaching assistants make a substantial time commitment, and are asked to attend all sessions of the course. Alumni also spend a few weeks in the summer, serving as TAs for the courses that the incoming class takes as part of the two-week residence period. “Some even use their vacation time,” Grillo says.

But the TAs agree that the tradeoff is more than worth it.

“Global health is a subject matter that I get very excited about,” says Clara Hansen ’18, vice president and chief of staff for corporate planning and initiatives at Affinity Health Plan. Hansen was a TA for the Global Health course taught by Elijah Paintsil, associate professor of pediatrics, epidemiology, and pharmacology.

“Being a TA enabled me extend my time on campus and continue to be a ‘sponge,’ working with a professor I enjoy,” says Hansen, who lives in New Canaan, Connecticut. “Interacting with diverse students, and learning from their experiences and expertise, is another bonus. “I was also able to give back to a program that has greatly enriched my life and my impact as a leader,” Hansen says.

Greg Sutton ’19, of Brooklyn, New York,  says that graduates are well suited to the TA role. “Alumni, especially recent ones, really remember what it’s like to be in the students’ shoes,” he said. “They know where the sticking points are in the material.”

Sutton, a partner at investment management firm Paulson & Co., has already served as a TA for the Investor course taught by Roger Ibbotson,  professor in the practice emeritus of finance. Sutton intends to continue to TA now that he has graduated. “I really enjoyed the course when I took it,” he said. “It’s fairly difficult material, so it’s satisfying to help other people grasp it.”

Timothee Memmi ’18, of New York, New York, was a TA for the Marketing Strategy course taught by Jiwoong Shin, professor of marketing, this year. He, too, plans to return as a guest lecturer for the 2019- 2020 school year.

“I’m always looking for new ways to solve complex business problems through the lens of the brand and the consumer,” says Memmi, a senior brand director for Rémy Martin at Rémy Cointreau. “Being a TA was an honor, as well as a chance to refine my understanding of these concepts.”

For Memmi, one of the best aspects of the EMBA program is that it creates a sense of shared mission that brings alumni back to campus in the years after graduation.

“This program is an intense, transformative experience that requires a lot of humility and creates a strong comradery,” he says. “What binds us together is a shared belief that management can have a positive impact on organizations and on the broader environment.”