At Yale School of Management (SOM), a focus on educating leaders for both business and society sets the institution apart. In its effort to produce well-rounded business leaders, The Consortium member school has built a community and culture centered around this mission.
“The mission really dictates everything at this school in terms of how the curriculum is run, the faculty who are teaching it, the students we attract and the careers that our students and alums end up going into,” says Kristen Beyers, director of Community & Inclusion at Yale SOM. “It’s this really nice blend of building strong leaders who want to not only do well in business but also care about doing good and leaving the planet a little bit better than they found it.”
An important aspect of the school’s approach to cultivating these leaders is its commitment to ensuring their diverse representation. As a Consortium member school for the full-time MBA program, Yale SOM actively supports the organization’s mission to enhance diversity and inclusion in global business education and leadership and, every year, welcomes a diverse cohort of Consortium students to its campus — many of whom, Beyers says, are drawn to the school’s unique mission.
In addition to the 25 to 30 Consortium members who join the program every year, she says Yale SOM also welcomes many international students as well as individuals who represent a variety of experiences, backgrounds and perspectives. “I think our mission attracts this diversity,” says Beyers. “It creates this really rich learning environment.” The resulting culture is what she describes as “intellectually curious” and “collaborative.”
Although Yale SOM’s community is tight knit, Beyers says the school acknowledges the value in providing intentional support for underrepresented students broadly and Consortium students specifically to ensure they feel at home.
“We want all of our students to feel that they’re welcome — not only welcome but that they actually feel they belong here — and we know when you’re part of an underrepresented group, it may not feel like that at times without intention,” she says. “For diverse students such as our Consortium cohort, many of them form a tight-knit group, which is wonderful. We recognize there can be a tendency to stay within their comfort zone and those safe spaces, but I think seeing the signals from the rest of the community … makes them feel included and that they’re not alone.”
One way in which Yale SOM tries to increase this sense of belonging is by providing resources to help the Consortium cohort both academically and socially. With a budget provided by Beyers’ office, the cohort of approximately 60 students — which includes both first and second years — is able to plan and run programming centered on four pillars: academic support to succeed in the classroom, career support for internships and post-MBA positions, admissions support and engagement with diverse prospective students and the promotion of Community & Inclusion within their cohort and in the broader campus community.
“We provide loose guidelines in terms of aligning with our Community & Inclusion goals and objectives,” says Beyers, “and the students drive initiatives based on our collective priorities.”
The Yale Consortium cohort hosts a range of programming, from mock interviews for prospective students to fun, informal potlucks for the entire group. “They’re really passionate and act as brand ambassadors for the school,” Beyers says.
Recognizing the important role these students play at Yale SOM, a few years ago, outgoing Dean Ted Snyder initiated a recurring lunch with the school’s three Consortium liaisons. Beyers says that has since become a structured Dean’s Advisory Group that meets on a regular basis and includes her team, one or two deputy deans, the dean of admissions and the dean of student life.
“We all gather monthly and the liaisons share what’s on their priority list,” she says. “They are able to talk about the culture and the community, and we’re able to ask them questions to understand how we can better engage. So it’s this really reciprocal relationship.”
Learning Across Difference
In addition to Consortium-specific resources, Yale SOM offers resources for underrepresented MBA students in general. Its six affinity clubs — which represent African American, Hispanic, female, veteran, LGBTQ+ and “older than average” students — provide both social and career support as well as foster members’ sense of belonging on campus. They often partner with Beyers’ office on their initiatives; one such initiative recently launched to connect Yale SOM alumni with select affinity clubs to provide further professional support and advice.
“Around 80 percent of students belong to an affinity club,” says Beyers, adding that not all of these individuals identify with those groups. “There’s a strong active allyship.”
Another asset for underrepresented students is the Community & Inclusion Committee of the student government, a diverse group elected by their peers. The focus of the committee is on helping ensure students are able to bring their full selves to campus, according to Beyers. “It is thinking about the full student experience and creating that sense of belonging [as well as providing] opportunities to learn across difference and get to know their classmates better,” she notes. The committee accomplishes this through a variety of programming throughout the year.
One event that Beyers says has been “wildly successful” is AMAs — which stands for “ask me anything.” Held five or six times a semester, AMAs feature a panel of students who have volunteered to field questions from their peers to share their unique identity and perspective. Questions are submitted anonymously by students via the Slido app, and those that receive the most votes are asked by the event’s moderator.
“There is that nice protection to be able to work through the technology to ask questions you might not otherwise be comfortable asking in order to learn across difference,” Beyers says.
Past topics have included “being black in America,” “the Me Too movement,” “imposter syndrome” and “gun violence,” among others. AMAs have been so popular — with 50 to 75 students at each event — that the Community & Inclusion Committee launched a spin-off this year called AMA Coffee Chats.
“If I heard something from a panelist that I really was intrigued by or wanted to learn more about, I could go up and ask that person for a coffee chat,” explains Beyers. “They have free vouchers that the student government pays for that allow them to have a coffee to continue that courageous conversation.”
A similar concept, a weekly peer discussion called “&Society” — a play off the school’s mission — dives deep into a timely diversity- and inclusion-related topic that came up in the classroom during the previous week.
Part of an effort to appeal to diverse students, Yale SOM’s intentional support for Consortium students — and all underrepresented students in general — is not, however, just another component of a diverse recruitment strategy.
“Diverse representation leads to stronger performance, so of course there’s a business case here,” say Beyers. “However, I’m most proud [of the fact] that SOM is focused not only on increasing student diversity to build a diverse pipeline but also on teaching students inclusive management skills, aligning with our goal to develop leaders for business and society.”