For the inaugural semester of the Program on Social Enterprise, Impact, and Innovation, Associate Director for Outreach and Engagement Alexis Willoughby-Robinson launched several new initiatives to strengthen the School’s connection to the Greater New Haven community.
The semester kicked off with a Community Mixer. Over 100 people packed the Snyder Forum as leaders of local nonprofit and government organizations convened with Yale SOM students, staff, and faculty. The event goal was to deepen existing ties and form new ones. Hackett Landefield ’24, a co-leader of the Nonprofit Board Fellows Program, found the event productive, remarking “As a direct result of the mixer, we were able to add two new organizations to our program and to bring in a speaker to train us in nonprofit board governance.”
Willoughby-Robinson also organized a new “Community Conversations” lunchtime discussion series, featuring dialogues between leaders from Yale and leaders from the local community. The first conversation, co-sponsored by the Arts and Culture Club and moderated by Tiffany Lau ’24 featured Daniel Weiss ’90, former CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Art Gallery Advisory board member, in conversation with Jennifer Reynolds-Kaye, Director of the Housatonic Community College Art Museum in Bridgeport. They discussed ways art museums can engage the broader community. As Dr. Reynolds-Kaye reflected after the event, “Even though the Housatonic Museum of Art holds one of the largest collections in any community college in the United States, we don’t often have a platform to share the important work we do related to student and community engagement, collection stewardship, or exhibition development. “
Later in the semester, Joseph Raff ‘24 moderated a discussion, co-sponsored by the Food, Beverage, and Agribusiness Club, between SOM Professor and serial entrepreneur Barry Nalebuff and local entrepreneur Kristen Threatt. Mr. Threatt and cofounder Brian Burkett-Thompson launched the Gorilla Lemonade brand in 2022, selling over 126 thousand bottles in 2023. Prof. Nalebuff and Seth Goldman ’95 launched their Just Ice Tea brand in 2022, eleven years after selling their first iced tea product line, Honest Tea, to Coca Cola. Commenting on Facebook, Mr. Threatt remarked that the event represented an opportunity for “helping other young entrepreneurs understand the process”. The two entrepreneurs both detailed their companies’ visions for achieving social impact through their businesses.
The Fall Community Conversation series closed out with a conversation featuring Dr. Lou Hart EMBA ’25, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Director of Health Equity, Yale New Haven Health System; Dr. Ania Jastreboff, Associate Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology), Director of the Yale Obesity Research Center (Y-Weight), and Co-director of the Yale Center for Weight Management; and Data Haven Executive Director Mark Abraham. Co-sponsored by Students for Racial Equity, Carolyn Perry ’24 moderated a robust discussion of GLP-1 drugs for weight loss and diabetes. As Perry noted, “I appreciated the discussion about the science behind these drugs, expected changes to the market, and current inequities in their distribution; however, my favorite topic was how the stigmatization of obesity has affected treatment historically and how these drugs may impact mental health and community stigma.”
Strengthening the relationship between SOM and the local community is a personal goal of both Willoughby-Robinson and PSEII Faculty Director Judith Chevalier, both of whom were born in New Haven and have lived here most of their lives. As Tiffany Lau ’24 remarked about the semester’s efforts, “We MBA students typically only spend two years in New Haven. Yet for those students who do get involved in the community, it has been a very enriching experience.” Expanding the scale and scope of those experiences is an ongoing goal of the PSEII.