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A Day in the Life: Stephen Potts ’24

We spent a day with Stephen Potts, a first-year MBA student, as he exercised, hung out with friends, and joined in class discussions. 

Student on Yale campus in the morning
Student exercising on rowing machine
Student doing pullups

9:25 a.m.

Pretty much every weekday morning I start my day at Payne Whitney Gym. That’s been a habit I’ve had for years now—for the physical benefits, but also, especially as I get a little bit older, for the mental clarity and release I get. The stress fades away.

And I love Payne Whitney. I love being around a bunch of other people working out. They’ve been getting some new equipment in there, which is great. When people ask me about Payne Whitney, I say, is it an Equinox? No, of course not. No college gyms are. But I think it’s great. It’s got everything you need. There’s tons of cardio equipment, tons of weights of all different varieties. I’ve been lifting for over 10 years. It’s a great gym and the type of gym I would seek out even if I was just living in a city somewhere.

11:10 a.m.

This is at G Café, right behind Evans Hall. I had just gotten back from a trip over the weekend and I met up with a couple of friends to catch up. It was getting nicer out—a taste of spring—and East Rock was buzzing. Everyone was out walking their dogs. 

That’s Nora—she’s one of the first people I met during Math Camp, over the summer before orientation. And her fiancé and I were both in the Marine Corps so we bonded over that and he’s become a good friend of mine as well.

Then we walked to Evans Hall from G Café, and my friend Brad just happened to be walking by. He and I played hockey together and I’m going to be living above him next year, so he’s one of my good friends as well. A little Red Cohort bonding going on. 

Students at a café
Students walking

11:51 a.m.

The Executive is the capstone course of the core curriculum, looking at stakeholder management and the different types of challenges and decisions that CEOs have to make in a complex operating environment. We hear from a lot of the companies we discuss, which has been great—we read the case and then we’re in person with CEOs or executives. On that day we were in the auditorium for a speaker from Nielsen.

Students in an auditorium
Speakers on a stage
A student asking a question in an auditorium

1:30 p.m.

This is another core class, the Innovator, which is focused on entrepreneurship. There are a lot of people in our class who either already have their own ventures or are thinking about their own ventures. It seems like a thriving community. I have friends who are involved in things like Yale Ventures and Tsai CITY. That’s been really cool to learn more about.

There was a lot of discussion going on in class. Professors are always looking for input and perspectives from the students, so that really fosters a great learning environment for someone like me who doesn’t have a business background. 

A professor lecturing
A student making a comment in class

2:50 p.m.

My next class is in the same room, History of Financial Fraud. It’s an elective class with Jim Chanos, who is a legendary Wall Street figure, a famous short seller. It’s a history class blended with accounting and finance, looking at history through a financial forensic lens. 

You have one group that’s the prosecution and one group that’s the defense for various cases. In our case we were defending this figure called Ivar Kreuger who in the 1910s and 1920s was a significant financial figure, even a kind of statesman figure—very influential around the world in his match business. But ultimately he had a downfall through various acts of fraud. We had a paper associated with our presentation, so we’re discussing how we’re going to approach that paper. 

This day we were talking about Enron. We’ll read a book each week and then usually we’ll have the author of that book speak to us either in person or via Zoom. So in this case we had Bethany McLean, who is a financial investigative journalist who co-wrote The Smartest Guys in the Room. She spoke to us about Enron and all the work she’d done, and then she listened into the discussion that occurred between the groups debating Enron. 

Students talking before class
A large classroom full of students
A professor lecturing

5:35 p.m.

I decided that I had to do some homework because we had a problem set due the next morning for my corporate finance class and that night I had a Zoom with my group to go over the problem sets.

One of my favorite places to study in the building after hours are the interview suites. Come 5 or 5:30, they’re all open. So I pop in there and use those to study in quiet space. I spent a lot of time in there during recruiting and doing interviews and coffee chats, so it’s a familiar place. Some people like being around a lot of people or being in open spaces when they study, but I love the quiet basement feel. 

A student studying with a computer and a notebook