In a day of speeches, pomp, processions, and jubilation on May 22, 561 new graduates of the Yale School of Management marked the joyful culmination of their studies and opened new chapters in their lives.
In welcoming remarks to the graduates, family, friends, and supporters gathered in Edward P. Evans Hall, Dean Kerwin K. Charles declared that even as the new graduates move on to new challenges, they remain part of a vital community. “Today you cease to be students of SOM and become, as alumni of your school, the leaders for business and society that it has been our ambition to train,” he said. “You’re an SOMer forever and ever. This is your family. You will be the personification of our fondest ambitions. Like alums before you, what you do out in the world will bring reflected glory to your school.”
The day started with a procession from Evans Hall to Old Campus, where SOM graduates sat beside peers from all parts of the university for the official conferral of their degrees by Yale President Peter Salovey.
The graduating students, along with family, friends, faculty, and other well-wishers, then reconvened in the courtyard of Evans Hall for the traditional Yale SOM Diploma Ceremony. As the graduates marched in, a brass quintet played, and the sun shone through light clouds. Guests filled rows of seats and the concourses overlooking the courtyard.
Graduates representing the school’s six degree-granting programs delivered short speeches reflecting on the formative experiences of their time at Yale and affirming the importance of carrying a sense of purpose and mission into their careers.
Bart Russell McDonough ’23, speaking for the MBA for Executives program, described the intense camaraderie that developed as his class tackled tests and assignments while also facing challenges in their work and personal lives. “They told us we'd become close friends, but we surpassed that—we became family,” he said. “I’m still amazed at how we rally for each other—how we celebrate each other and how when someone needs assistance, several of us are lining up to help.”
Matteo Christian Adam Giancarlo Stegner ’23 of the Global Business and Society program also noted the importance of relationships formed at Yale and urged his classmates to practice “empathy, collaboration, and respect” throughout their careers. He continued: “No matter how much technology advances, building meaningful relationships will always be the most valuable and essential skill to be a leader in business and society!”
The Systemic Risk representative, Adam James Keanie ’23, spoke of how his class of central bankers and regulators learned from the “live case studies” of financial turmoil during the year. “It was an honor for us to study here at the Yale School of Management and to represent our home countries of Canada, China, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea,” he said.
Speaking for the Asset Management program, Jiachen Iris Cai ’23 noted that she and her classmates had faced a steep learning curve in the highly technical curriculum, but the outcome was worth it. “Our education has equipped us with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. We are empowered to make informed decisions and be change agents in the financial world. Yet, as we do so, we should always remember to prioritize our values and the well-being of others. Achieving success entails more than just financial gain; it also involves leaving a positive impact on society and the environment.”
The Master of Advanced Management speaker, Wai Ming Chan ’23, reflected on the scale of challenges the world faces today, including income inequality, climate change, and political polarization. But, he added, SOM with its emphasis on leadership for both business and society was the perfect place to learn to make a difference. “So step up, my fellow graduates. Prove that our skills, education, and network can bring a positive impact and create value for the world. Show to the world that by being united we can conquer divisiveness.”
Speaking for the full-time MBA program, Adeyoola Adeniji furthered this call to make a difference: “Embrace the mission-critical commitment to truly be a leader for business and society. Make it one that you take seriously, one that you speak about with substance, and one that carries weight. Because whether we work at the biggest, most profitable company or the smallest nonprofit, we think about these societal issues, we question the broader implications of our day-to-day decisions, and we understand that our work, in one way or another, is impacting lives.”
Following the student speeches, Faculty Marshal A.J. Wasserstein introduced two SOM Commencement traditions: First, he asked all of the graduates to turn around and applaud the family and loved ones who had helped them reach this point. Then he described self-graduation, by which students’ names are announced by classmates as they cross the stage to shake the dean’s hand.
The first student lined up and then stepped forward to get his folder, and the train of graduates started moving. Five hundred sixty-one names, handshakes, and photo ops later, the day of celebration and commitment to purpose had reached its end.
As Dean Charles noted in his welcoming remarks, though the Class of 2023 is leaving Evans Hall, it will always be a part of the school. “You have been amazing students,” he said. “You have added happiness and mirth to our hallways and buildings. You helped us resume traditions that had gone dormant. You’ve never ceased to think of how our school could be more helpful to the broader society. Your efforts made your school lastingly better.… We are overjoyed for you but there’s a tinge of sadness. We will miss you.”