At a virtual event on March 23, the Yale School of Management kicked off a multi-year campaign to raise resources and invigorate community engagement that will extend the impact of the school’s mission of educating leaders for business and society. Dubbed “Driving Purpose,” the campaign has dual objectives: raising at least $325 million to invest in key areas by 2026 and expanding the school’s connections with alums and other supporters.
At the kickoff event, attended by alums, faculty, students, friends, and staff, Dean Kerwin K. Charles spoke about how the school’s mission infuses its programs and inspires its ongoing efforts to contribute to solutions. “The rest of the world is slowly coming around to the realization of the fundamental importance of the conjunction of business and society—something we’ve believed and acted upon for nearly half a century,” he said. “We must reinvigorate our mission. We must constantly seek out new educational initiatives that only our special school can ably undertake.”
Such lofty aspirations require impeccable implementation to reach fruition, Charles noted. But the support of the entire Yale SOM community through the Driving Purpose campaign can make the possible real. The name “Driving Purpose,” he added, reflects the whole community’s ceaseless commitment to making a positive difference. “It captures our school’s determination to not rest on laurels, but to work relentlessly to more fully realize our institutional aspirations. It also captures what personally energizes you, our alums, as you strive every day to live out in your life and work the values we jointly share.”
The event included voices from throughout the Yale SOM community. Jeff Juger ’11, who serves as chair of the SOM Alumni Advisory Board, welcomed audience members and other participants to the program and conducted a snap poll about the significance of the SOM mission in their lives since joining the SOM community. The result: 89% said it was meaningful to them.
Juger also read responses written by alums representing every decade of the school’s history to the question of what the mission means to them:
- “Building a better tomorrow.”—Barbara Tyran ’79
- “Develop leaders who are change agents with impact in all sectors.”—Lise Chapman ’81
- “Efficient and ethical business, organization, and systems contributing to a better world.”—James Robertson ’99
- “SOM is the place where I learned that I can be successful in business without sacrificing my values.”—Susan Thomas ’01
- “Connections over shared values and experiences, helping one another advance in personal and professional goals.” —Maya Mylavarapu ’11
- “Impact across all sectors. Purpose and profit.” —Amy Kundrat ’21
A series of discussions explored the three themes that the campaign will focus on, which Dean Charles described as forming “the core of our identity as a school.”
Joel Getz, Yale SOM’s deputy dean for alumni, development, and special initiatives, commented that the support of alums and friends is crucial to the school’s future. “Through Driving Purpose, our alums and friends will be able to come together and strengthen the critical areas of endeavor—including student support, faculty research, and community impact. Together, we’ll build the foundation for Yale SOM’s future and make it possible for the school’s mission-driven programs to do more and impact more lives.”
Attracting and supporting the best set of students possible—the most able, most diverse, and most passionate students.
Dan Weiss ’85, the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, spoke with two current students about their leadership journeys and how Yale SOM is preparing them to make a real difference. Weiss introduced the segment with the observation that SOM had changed his life by providing him with leadership skills and with relationships that proved invaluable over the decades.
Anna Lincoln-Barnes ’22 picked up on the theme of the importance of relationships in helping students pursue their aspirations; the job recruiting process is one “area where SOM’s community shines,” she said. Generations of second-year MBA students have provided support and advice to their first-year counterparts to help them through an intense, demanding, and time-consuming process. “I felt like I had this army of friends and supporters that I could call on,” she said. “I was thrilled to pay that forward this year as a case coach.”
Daniel Mainye ’22 described Global Social Entrepreneurship, a course taught by Tony Sheldon ’84, through which students work with impact organizations around the world. Mainye and a team of fellow students are consulting with a company in Kenya that is seeking to provide clean cooking options that can improve health. Mainye said that this program exemplified SOM’s constant focus on how leadership can change lives. “You start realizing over time when you do such projects that the impact of the work you do is beyond business… You realize how your learning and everything you do at Yale starts having impact out there.”
Giving faculty the resources to bring rigorous scholarship to bear on business, societal, and environmental challenges.
Professors Amy Wrzesniewski and Song Ma discussed how cutting-edge research done by the faculty also strengthens the learning experience of SOM students. Wrzesniewski, the Michael H. Jordan Professor of Management, said that the passion of faculty for rigorous research and new discoveries carries over to the classroom. “The students get to live that cutting edge, too. They get to hear about the work as it’s happening. They get to hear about new ideas before they’re even hitting the journals.”
Ma, an assistant professor of finance, described how having the resources to pursue data- and computing-intensive projects empowers the faculty to examine new questions and make bigger leaps in understanding. “Working on those early-stage, important, next-step issues, requires a lot of insight and resources. Importantly, it is driven by our mission as a community—our ambition to really make an impact and create a better future,” he said.
Empowering Yale SOM to make an impactful difference in our immediate community and in communities around the globe.
Paula Volent ’97, the vice president and chief investment officer of Rockefeller University, spoke with current student Julian Love ’23 about what impact means to each of them. Love described two of the team projects he is currently part of: in one, Yale Social Ventures is working with a global venture capital firm based in India to leverage distributed finance to further financial inclusion in developing markets; in another, the Black Business Alliance is helping introduce high school students in New Haven to careers they might not have thought possible. “What’s dawned on me is the importance of working collectively,” he said. “When collaborating with other students and leveraging their unique knowledge, experience, and knowledge base, that impact can grow exponentially.”
Volent noted that as she travels around the world looking for investment opportunities, she frequently encounters SOM alums doing remarkable things in all kinds of roles and industries that improve the lives of people around them. Graduates working in a variety of fields share something special, she said: “There’s a sort of secret acknowledgement that we have been through a really amazing program, and we want to carry it forward.” She added, “Given the complexity of the global environment, SOM is more important than ever to sponsor leadership, critical thinking, and also diversity.”
Past and future
Two pivotal figures from Yale SOM’s history made an appearance in the virtual event’s comment section as the discussion unfolded. Bill Donaldson was the school’s founding dean, as well as a leader in both business and government roles; his wife Jane served as SOM’s executive director of admissions, placement, and student services in its early years. They both played an important role in turning into reality the then-unproven idea that a business school could educate leaders who would make a difference across sectors and industries. After hearing presentations from current faculty and students, they wrote: “All we had in the beginning years was the value proposition and the entrepreneurial drive. It is exciting, affirming, and really heartwarming to see that the blood and sweat were worth it, that the values survive, albeit manifested in ways early faculty and staff never could have imagined in 1978.”
Charles, the school’s current dean, concluded the program by painting a vision of Yale SOM after the Driving Purpose campaign concludes in four years. In 2026, 50 years after the arrival of the Charter Class, the school will have redoubled its focus on its mission, he declared. It will have made impactful investments, guided by that mission, in students, faculty, programs, and community, and will be training skilled and compassionate leaders for all kinds of organizations. In short, he said, “Our community will be humming with the energy that comes from being a part of something big, something grand, where our values are supported and encouraged, and where we feel deep in our bones that we are contributing to meaningful solutions to the world’s problems.”
“We need you, all of you,” Charles told the audience of alums, faculty, students, staff and friends, “to contribute your time, your insight, your energy, as well as your financial support. You should have every confidence that you will see long-term, exponential gains from your timely investment in SOM.”
If you are able, please consider making a gift to Driving Purpose—The Yale SOM Campaign. All gifts also count toward For Humanity—The Yale Campaign.