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Harvard | Mr. Healthcare VC
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Is Yale The ‘Most Distinctively Global’ U.S. Business School?

Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain at Yale School of Management

Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain at Yale School of Management

It’s an alluring morning in New Haven, Ct. Under a brilliant sun, the air is crisp and cool. The leaves on the trees are beginning to transform into a kaleidoscope of colors. And Dean Edward “Ted” Snyder of Yale University’s School of Management is strolling the halls of the school’s brand new $243 million complex.

Huddled on chairs and sofas in the lobby are a group of young people—a dozen or so would be applicants to SOM—who are waiting for an admissions official to give them the pitch and a tour of the building which looks so modern it could be the Starship Enterprise. Dean Snyder moseys on over to the group and asks what interests them most about Yale’s School of Management.

The first and second people who answer his question causes him to nearly wince. One earnest looking young man immediately says that it is the school’s non-profit slant. Another says it is relatively small size of Yale’s MBA program which this fall enrolled just 323 students, a little more than a third of the totals at Harvard, Columbia, Wharton, Kellogg, or Booth.

MAKING YALE ‘THE MOST DISTINCTIVELY GLOBAL U.S. BUSINESS SCHOOL’

What Dean Snyder had hoped to hear was that these potential applicants were keen on Yale because it is, in the dean’s own words, “the most distinctively global U.S. business school.” That is, after all, what Snyder has tirelessly worked to do in repositioning the school since his arrival as dean in mid-2011. There are only two other answers that he would have preferred to hear this morning: that they’re keen to look at SOM because it is among the most integrated business schools with its home university or because it is the best source of leaders for all sectors and regions.

Those are Snyder’s three aspirations for the Yale School of Management. Becoming a truly global business school, however, has required the most reengineering of the school’s mission and purpose. And as the answers from the young professionals suggest, going global may well be easier than gaining recognition for being global.

After all, despite years of effort by rivals to rid themselves of the narrow definitions placed on them, too many people still consider Harvard the school for future CEOs, Stanford for entrepreneurs, Wharton for finance, and Northwestern for marketing. Undaunted, Snyder is plowing full speed ahead with his global strategy for the school and has made remarkable progress in just three years, notwithstanding the cluelessness shown by the applicants in the hallway.

‘IF WE SUCCEED, IT WILL BE A FUNDAMENTAL REPOSITIONING OF THE SCHOOL’

“If we succeed,” proclaims Snyder, “what’s going to happen is we are going to get students who respond to the call. They will already be über global or aspiring to be global and that will be a big difference. We see this becoming a bigger part of the pool. It’s a fundamental repositioning for the school.”

Snyder’s global thrust is at the center of SOM’s transformation which includes a new modern building, significantly increased scholarship money to get the best MBA students, a new focus on entrepreneurship, and far more outreach to what Yale University brings to the game. The school’s rankings in both The Financial Times and Bloomberg Businessweek are up dramatically. In Businessweek, SOM climbed 15 positions to sixth place, the highest rank ever achieved by the school in any major ranking. Round one applications have risen by 10%, with 55% of them coming from outside the U.S., slightly better than the more traditional 50-50 split.

“Right now there is an incredible sense of excitement about the growth of the place,” says Andrew Metrick, a finance professor who also serves as deputy dean. “It has really taken us a while to grow up. We’re only 30 years old and that is really young for a business school. But we have really turned a corner. We used to be in other people’s buildings. We didn’t have an endowment. We had an allowance where the university would just write a check. We now have a physical space that matches the quality of the faculty and the students. We really look like a 21st Century business school, and there has been a lot of positive momentum.”

For most other business schools, going global has meant increasing the percentage of MBA students from outside the home country, recruiting faculty with foreign passports, boosting international case studies and examples in classes, and adding a few exchange programs with other schools. Few schools have fundamentally overhauled their curricula, however, and fewer have genuinely partnered with other universities in deeper ways.

“U.S. business school deans have not globalized,” insists Snyder, who believes that if you put aside the long-standing student semester exchanges and partnerships over Executive MBA programs, most of what has occurred is changes in the markets for faculty, applicants and graduates. “Those changes have been thrust upon top schools. There are so many interesting places in the world that have been left out of business schools.”

GAINING THE ‘NETWORK EFFECTS’ OF AN ENTIRELY UNIQUE 27-SCHOOL CONSORTIUM

In contrast, Yale has upped the game considerably, creating a network of 27 top business schools from every corner of the globe, including the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Launched in April of 2012, the Global Network for Advanced Management schools share unique programming, from on-campus network weeks to small network online courses or SNOCs. They develop global case studies, facilitate faculty partnerships, and hold events with such major speakers as Google’s Eric Schmidt and micro finance pioneer and social entrepreneur Sir Fazle Hasan Abed.

Member schools are adapting programs to sync with the global network. Technion in Israel recently launched a full-time MBA program in English called the Startup MBA and built its academic calendar around the global network groups. “Schools are adjusting their strategies to take advantage of it,” says David Bach, senior associate dean for global programs at Yale. “It’s cool to see how the network effects are kicking in.”

The global initiative has become central to Snyder’s strategy to make Yale SOM a Top 10 business school. “That really is a very important unifying theme for what Ted is trying to do,” says Fiona Scott Morton, an economics professor at the school. “And the way Ted is going about it makes an enormous amount of sense. We’re not opening a far-flung campus or doing a partnership. Those are expensive and very 20th Century solutions. Ted puts this network together and waits for these ideas to bubble up and they do.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.