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Prof. Michael Sinkinson and students in class at Evans Hall wearing masks

Faculty Update Curricula for the COVID-19 Era

This fall, Yale School of Management faculty members will be teaching about some of the urgent issues affecting business and society during the pandemic.

By Karen Guzman

Every year Teresa Chahine teaches an elective course at the Yale School of Management that explores issues at the nexus of global public health and entrepreneurship. Chahine, the Sheila and Ron ’92 Marcelo Senior Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship, updates her curriculum, based on student feedback, to address the most pressing concerns of the day.

This fall’s needed updates were obvious.

“I felt compelled to address one of the things that COVID-19 made everyone aware of—health equity and the fact that the populations hit hardest have been Black Americans and low-pay workers,” Chahine said.

Chahine changed the name of the course from “Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Public Health” to “Social Entrepreneurship and Public Health.” It will focus, she said, on “social and environmental determinants of health, with a focus on drivers of health in the U.S., asking how you can apply a social entrepreneurship framework to tackle health equity.”

Chahine is one many Yale SOM faculty members who have updated their curricula this fall to address the urgent issues affecting business and society during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The economic volatility wrought by the pandemic, for example, has given Rick Antle, William S. Beinecke Professor of Accounting, fresh examples to highlight one of the primary issues in Basics of Accounting: the going-concern assumption.

Modern accounting involves a host of assumptions, estimations and forecasts, one of the most prominent of which is the organization’s ability to continue operating. This going-concern assumption is why the book values of assets shown on balance sheets are not all liquidation values, Antle explained.

The uncertain economic fallout of the pandemic allows exploration of this assumption across a variety of for-profit, not-for-profit and public entities, facing a variety of threats to their ability to continue as going concerns.

 “There are so many accounting and financial reporting issues arising from the pandemic that virtually every accounting professional organization and every major account firm has produced voluminous newsletters, guides, and FAQs,” Antle said. “Just as in the financial crises of 2008, we can expect makers of accounting policy to be tied up with these issues for a good time to come.”

The pandemic has also forced Michael Sinkinson, assistant professor of economics, to change some of the real-world examples he uses to illustrate concepts.

“Many of my examples from 2018-2019 don’t quite resonate in 2020,” Sinkinson said. “When teaching supply curves, I used to have a discussion around the shortage of pilots at U.S. airlines, but this year there’s an absolute surplus, due to the incredible drop in demand.”

Sinkinson also uses the restaurant industry to study employment trends. He is using the pandemic’s impact on restaurants for in-class discussion with students in the MBA for Executives program.

One discussion centered on the growing role of automation, as restaurants increasingly rely on technology to let customers browse menus, order, and pay their tabs, in order to minimize human interaction.

“The discussion centered on whether restaurants that adopt these technologies will go back to having more wait staff, post-pandemic,” Sinkinson said. “The majority of students felt that restaurants would maintain a lower-staff model going forward.”

Heather Tookes has been teaching Corporate Finance at Yale SOM for 17 years, updating her curriculum every summer. “Over time, I have been intentional about broadening the classroom conversations to include considerations of other stakeholders,” Tookes said.

“Last fall, I opened the course with the Business Roundtable’s decision to redefine the purpose of the corporation and to encourage leaders to consider multiple stakeholders. This year, we will take a deeper dive into leaders’ objective functions as we consider 21st century financial management challenges, including those that have come to the forefront during the last few months. This is a good time to reflect on everything that’s happening, and to update and innovate.”