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Alumni Share Their Paths to Yale SOM and Beyond at Third Ogilvie Colloquium

Mark Walton ’79 and Anna Blanding ’09 discussed the personal values and the Yale SOM experiences that have guided them through careers in media and impact investing.

Yale SOM alum Mark Walton ’79 brought two laminated documents to a May 3 panel discussion on campus. One was the rejection letter with which the school responded to his first application. The second was the notice of admission he received after trying again the next year.

Walton said that while he had rarely opened up about that first rejection, he wanted to share the life lesson those two letters taught him. “I keep things like this as my reminder that there’s no shame in not making it on your first try,” he said. “You just have to keep focused.”

Alongside fellow alum Anna Blanding ’09, Walton was speaking at the third Donald H. Ogilvie ’78 Colloquium, titled “The Evolution of Business and Society” and moderated by Camila Novo-Viano ’25. Faculty, staff, students, and alumni who had convened for Reunion Weekend participated in a broad conversation on the duo’s business school experiences, career trajectories, and service to the SOM community.

Blanding also shared her unusual professional path. Currently chief investment officer of the New Haven-based impact investing organization ConnCORP, Blanding studied history as a Yale College undergraduate and initially aspired to make positive social change as a lawyer; when a mentor advised her to apply to SOM, she responded that she wasn’t “a Wall Street person.” Only after starting her first job at a think tank did she realize that “understanding the flow of capital impacted all the community issues I cared about,” and decide to return to Yale to learn more about the capital markets.

Hosted by Yale SOM’s Council on Anti-Racism and Equity, the colloquium brings professionals of color to campus for conversations with students. It is named for the late Donald H. Ogilvie ’78, who as a Yale undergraduate helped establish the university’s Black Studies department and Afro-American Cultural Center; he later became a member of the SOM Charter Class.

A student standing to ask a question during a panel discussion
A view of three panel speakers from the back of an auditorium
An auditorium filled with people attending a panel discussion

For both Walton and Blanding, SOM was the launchpad for a fulfilling career. Walton spent a decade working in marketing at CBS before co-founding a television syndication company and becoming a member of a start-up indie distribution company that marketed films like Daughters of the Dust and The Man by the Shore. He currently teaches media management at the New School.

The thread connecting these different roles, Walton said, was his drive to amplify voices that might have otherwise gone unheard. He said the “pinnacle” of his career journey came when he joined the founding team of The Africa Channel. That role required him “to have the acumen to work with folks in the public sector, but also come up with a business model that allowed us to generate revenue and run a network.” During his eight-year stint at the channel, Walton used his SOM training to “demystify and change the perception of Africa around the world.”

Blanding managed endowments at several nonprofits, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Choate Rosemary Hall, before joining ConnCORP. There, she leads the organization’s Economic Justice Fund as well as the financing for ConnCAT Place on Dixwell, a transformative mixed-use development in Dixwell, a historic African-American neighborhood in New Haven. The development will provide housing, office space, fresh food, affordable daycare, and job training to local residents.

The panelists said that family has been the “north star” guiding them through numerous career changes.

“I’m first-generation,” Walton said. “Both of my parents are from Barbados. I always felt like they were behind me, and I kept that principle through all that I did.”

Blanding told the audience that her great-great-grandparents, who were born into enslavement and could not read, managed to acquire land and build ranches in Arkansas and Oklahoma that still belong to the family today. The possibility of funding marginalized entrepreneurs with grand visions like her own ancestors, she said, is what motivates her to pursue ambitious impact investing projects and push for greater diversity among investment professionals.

“That’s my guiding light,” she said. “How can I make communities vibrant and good for the people that live there?”