Skip to main content
Kevin Donovan teaching during the Warrior-Scholar Project boot camp

Service Members Visit Yale SOM for Lessons in Business and Entrepreneurship

For the second year, Yale SOM participated in the Warrior-Scholar Project, with faculty introducing members of the U.S. military to the educational opportunities available to them.

By Meredith Crawford

On a recent June morning in a classroom at the Yale School of Management, 14 members of the U.S. military were introduced to the principles of empirical economics as part of a program designed to expose young service members without college degrees to the post-secondary opportunities available to them.

Kevin Donovan, an assistant professor of economics, led the group through a lesson that touched on the foundational principles and tools of the discipline and challenged them to think through the various ways that studies and randomized controlled trials can fall prey to implicit biases inadvertently baked into them. Along the way, the soldiers both asked and answered probing questions.

The day’s lesson was one of several in a weeklong business and entrepreneurship boot camp run by the Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) in collaboration with Yale SOM. Many of the boot camp participants have a year or more of college credits under their belts; all are interested in completing a college degree, in business or another field. WSP partners with top-tier academic institutions across the country to help enlisted and veteran service members take the first step toward pursuing a post-secondary degree by exploring their options. This was SOM’s second year partnering with WSP. The organization’s relationship with Yale University dates back to 2011, with the first participants attending a boot camp on the Yale campus in 2012. Prior to the business and entrepreneurship boot camp at SOM this year, participants also attended a humanities academic boot camp on the Yale campus. 

student in the Warrior-Scholar Project boot camp
student in the Warrior-Scholar Project boot camp
student in the Warrior-Scholar Project boot camp

In the mornings during their week at SOM, the service members took in faculty lectures, while their afternoons were spent working on an entrepreneurship group project.

Donovan, who has taught in the boot camp both years, and who spearheaded the first year, said he enjoys the experience of tailoring his graduate-level lectures to this cohort.

Some of these service people haven’t been in a classroom in a while, but they’ve all spent years thinking about very serious, important things, so they’re very mature thinkers,” said Donovan. “You can pull something from your MBA teaching and you can adapt it to their speak to their experience and still give them a rigorous understanding of what we do” at the graduate level.

Donovan said that, after the success of the first WSP boot camp at SOM last year, many faculty members were eager to participate in 2023, recognizing the importance of maintaining and growing the active service and veteran cohort at the school.

In addition to Donovan’s course, service members took Behavioral Finance with Nicholas Barberis, A History of Financial Crises by Christian McNamara, Negotiation with Barry Nalebuff, Decision Making under Uncertainty with Edieal Pinker, Emotional Intelligence with Emma Seppälä, and Behavioral Decision-Making with Gal Zauberman. Boot camp participants also met with Jon Iwata, an executive fellow at Yale SOM, to talk about technology and AI.

Donovan said he’s gotten back as much as he’s given to the Warrior-Scholar Project. In fact, he’s updated his own lectures based on his experience with the boot camp participants.

“I added some things to my elective at SOM on civil conflict that was a function of talking to the Warrior-Scholar Project participants last year, about the role of minority/majority conflicts within countries in Africa, as well as in Iraq and Syria and places that the U.S. has been involved with militarily in the past few decades. It’s cool to be able to incorporate that.”