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Internship Spotlight: Laurence Spekterman ’24, KIPP DC

Laurence Spekterman ’24 looks at his summer internship, where he applied the business and management skills he learned in the classroom in an education context.

We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they applied the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.

Laurence sitting at desk in KIPP DC office

Internship: KIPP DC, Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Pronouns: he/him/his
Clubs and Affiliations: Education Club, Consulting Club, Consortium, SOM Golf Club, SOM United Soccer Club
Favorite SOM Class: Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations
Favorite SOM Professor: Tauhid Zaman
Favorite New Haven eatery: Junzi Kitchen
Favorite thing you do in New Haven or at SOM to unwind: Running the Farmington Canal Trail with a friend
Favorite Yale study space: Bass Library

This summer, I had the opportunity to apply the management skills and knowledge from SOM’s full-time MBA program at KIPP DC, a community of 24 high-performing public schools in the District of Columbia serving students with historically limited access to quality educational options. I interned in KIPP’s Finance and Accounting team, an opportunity developed through a partnership between The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management (TBC at SOM) and the SOM Education Club to identify summer internship placements for MBA students in public school systems where Broad network members work.

KIPP DC is committed to providing students in historically underserved communities with access to an education that graduates students at four times the D.C. average and matriculates students to college at nearly twice the D.C. average. Applying my background as a former charter school teacher to operations problems and policy writing has been one of the most valuable aspects of working at KIPP DC.

In my role, I helped the vice president of finance and accounting, Angela Zhang (a 2020 graduate of The Broad Residency), to develop and update an existing cash policy that mitigated the risk of fraud. In particular, I focused on revising a policy involving cash transactions.

For some context, in early summer of 2023, the finance team and KIPP DC executives decided to reduce the number of schools allowed to collect cash from students and families from 24 schools to two. In preparation for an internal audit, they also sought to revise a cash collection policy and concretely define how money was collected, tracked, reconciled, and controlled from the moment families paid for an item or service to the moment that funds reached their bank account. For example, suppose a family or student pays for a school field trip or a uniform. In that case the money will need to be processed by an authorized school staff member, transported to a central office accounting team where it is reconciled, and then ultimately deposited in the school’s bank account.

Much of my time was spent understanding where the opportunity for fraud existed in the organization’s processes to collect cash, and in the process, understanding what challenges the central office faced with mandating tighter cash controls. Ultimately, I analyzed opportunities to develop better controls and proposed policy solutions.

Before SOM, I was a Teach for America corps member in Bridgeport, Connecticut. My education background was instrumental during my internship at KIPP DC, given that during the policy project, I frequently engaged with school leaders, operations leads, and office managers at each school site who would be using and implementing the updated policy. Through school visits and weekly meetings with key stakeholders, I evaluated how KIPP DC might address each school’s pain points with a new cash policy. By updating systems for payment record keeping, removing paper documents, and emphasizing digital payment methods, we could save school staff time and reduce some of the effort they spend keeping records. At the same time, an updated system for maintaining records would help KIPP DC track and reconcile payments with payment records.

During the internship, I frequently relied on the knowledge and skills I developed at Yale SOM. Leveraging lessons from the core curriculum, I utilized skills I developed through Microeconomics & Game Theory to understand where opportunities for moral hazard existed and how fraud may arise in a nonprofit setting.

Another class from the core curriculum, Modeling Managerial Decisions, enabled me to develop the qualitative analytical skills I needed to navigate uncertain and nuanced situations. When creating a policy, we predict other people’s behavior. Using decision trees and backward induction, I could simplify complex human behaviors and develop practical policy solutions. At one point, we had to decide between assigning roles and responsibilities for cash collection at a school site or giving staff more flexibility to maximize speed. Ultimately, we concluded that delineated roles and responsibilities meant less training was needed and fewer individuals had exposure to cash, which was our primary goal, so we assigned roles. 

The scope of this internship changed over time. Although 60 percent of my time was spent developing the updated cash policy. During the other 40 percent of my time, I worked on a broadly defined analysis of KIPP DC’s accounts payable. This second project included researching vendors and procurement processes, analyzing high-spend and high-volume accounting codes and vendors, and exploring Small, Women, or Minority Business Enterprise (SWMBE) vendor-use regulations in D.C. and disparity studies across the U.S. This project ultimately allowed me to generate 20+ spending insights that will guide KIPP DC’s procurement team.

I concluded the summer by leading a training seminar for school leaders on the updated cash policy, which had received CFO and board approval, as well as by presenting the findings from my procurement project to the CFO (Justin Ellis), vice president of finance (Angela Zhang), director of strategic purchasing (Tania Honig), and the managing director of finance (Nate Schwartz).

I encourage future MBA students at SOM to explore internship opportunities with Broad network members and the public education sector and consider broadening experiences that expose them to a new industry or function. Working for a nonprofit finance team allowed me to leverage my education background while getting new functional expertise in accounting, finance, and operations. Working with Broad network members helped me expand my network of education professionals, which will ultimately help me navigate professional opportunities in education after graduating.

I thank KIPP DC for an outstanding summer and my managers, Angela Zhang and Tania Honig, for their mentorship and collaboration.