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How the Silver Scholars Program is Preparing Me to Make a Positive Impact

Silver Scholar Charline Uhl ’23 reflects on how the unique program, which allows students to begin their MBA immediately after they finish their undergraduate degree, has strengthened her commitment to driving social impact and her ability to do so.

Charline Uhl ’23

If I had to name one lesson I’ve learned during my experience as a Silver Scholar so far, it’s that I shouldn’t be afraid to set high goals for myself.

I was born and raised in a small town in the northeast of France, right next to Germany. While my parents’ entrepreneurial careers taught me that I could achieve a lot as long as I worked hard, studying for an MBA at an Ivy League university at only 22 was beyond my wildest dreams. 

Growing up in a bicultural environment, I wanted an international experience for my undergraduate studies, so I chose the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE). I loved the fast-paced city of London, and I built strong theoretical foundations in finance and economics at a very research-driven university. As I loved numbers, I led mathematics and econometrics classes for LSE undergraduate students. I also co-organized the LSE 2020 French Forum, where we invited French CEOs from various sectors to be interviewed by LSE professors and students. Learning directly from different industry leaders was captivating. 

One summer, I interned at a leading private bank in Geneva, Switzerland. I worked on sustainable finance in the private banking industry and was fascinated by how much potential the finance industry had to make positive impact in society while still making profits. This particular experience was life-changing for me and set the direction for my next steps—and perhaps for my whole career. 

When I started to consider graduate programs, the mission of Yale SOM resonated with me: to educate leaders for business and society. I realized that getting the holy grail of business education, an MBA, would be an opportunity to equip myself with the practical skills I would need to achieve personal and professional success.

The SOM Silver Scholar Program has enabled me, alongside a handful of other students in the cohort, to start my MBA directly after my undergraduate studies and to take a gap year between the first and second year in order to gain work experience. Learning from professors and students at SOM who look beyond financial returns has been inspiring. This exceptional experience will, no doubt, strongly accelerate my career. 

My first year at SOM was during the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes were hybrid, and events were online. Yet, despite social distancing, I enjoyed SOM’s open culture and learned from inspirational professors. The core curriculum helped me grasp the complexities of organizations and tackle issues from different stakeholders’ perspectives. But it is learning alongside and working with students who have many years of experience in various industries that makes the Silver Scholar Program such a unique experience. Being grouped in cohorts and learning teams creates a sense of community and has given me lifelong friends.

The Silver Scholar Program also has its challenges—finding an extended internship as an international student being one of them. Firms are not used to hiring someone only for six months or a year. This required me to think outside the box and find creative solutions to make the most of my gap year. Reaching out to firms and explaining what value my not-so-typical profile could bring them was what helped me get my two internships.

First I worked in the Paris office of a private equity fund. I was part of the investor relations team but I also worked on a project to help the investment team share ESG best practices and value-creation levers. Then I moved back to the U.S. to work in the New York office of a venture capital fund. As a member of the investment team, I worked on portfolio companies (performing financial performance analysis, market monitoring, growth analysis, company valuation, etc.) and analyzed potential investments in AgTech and FoodTech startups that have a positive impact on people and the environment. I loved being able to combine my financial skills and my desire to make an impact.

The gap year is such a valuable period. Besides giving Silver Scholars work experience, it also enables them to take more risks and try out different industries before returning to SOM for their second year. 

I am now very excited to return to SOM to complete the second half of my MBA, choose classes based on what I learned during my gap year, and meet a new cohort of MBA students. The goals I have set for myself remain true to SOM’s mission: to drive impact throughout my career and make a difference.