2016 Best MBAs: Sarah Esty, Yale

Sarah Etsy

Sarah Esty


Yale School of Management

“Outstanding scholar who has earned more high honors grades in the Yale SOM curriculum than any other student.”

Age: 26

Hometown: Cheshire, CT


Harvard University, AB in Social Studies (2011)

Yale Law School, JD (expected 2016)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Connecticut Voices for Children, Policy Fellow

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? McKinsey & Co., Stamford, CT

Where will you be working after graduation? On the Hillary Clinton Campaign’s Policy Team, and then at McKinsey as an Associate.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

SOM Graduation Student Marshal (MBA student with the best academic performance in the core curriculum)

Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI) Venture Creation Consultant (Advisor to Yale-backed startups) (2014-2015)

Startup Law Project (Creating a program that connects the law school to the Yale startup community through an opportunity to work hands on with YEI-affiliated attorneys), co-founder (2015-)

Negotiations Core Course, Teaching Assistant (Fall 2015)

New Leaders Council (progressive political campaign and advocacy skills training program), Connecticut Chapter co-founder, Institute Director (2014-2015)

Yale Law Democrats, President (2015-2016)

Yale Political Law Society conference on “The New Normal in Election and Political Law,” co-organizer (Feb. 2015)

Yale Political Law Society, Founding member (2013-present)

American Constitution Society (progressive legal organization), Membership Development Chair (2014-2015)

Political Campaigns and the Law Reading Group, Chair (2014)

Research Assistant for Reva Siegel (researching the history and current trajectory of religious accommodation law) (2014)

RebLaw Conference, Education Panel Leader (2014)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proudest of the role I’ve played building community across Yale through three years of weekly potluck dinners (and sometimes brunches, dessert parties, and wine and cheese nights). I came into grad school knowing that the single most important thing I wanted to do with my time was develop real relationships with my classmates. And I wanted to meet a diverse group of people, not just those with similar interests or even those in the same grad programs. So starting my first semester, I recruited everyone I had met so far and set up a potluck schedule that mixed people from different Yale schools and friend groups for 20-person dinners at my apartment. The excellent conversation, chance to meet new people, and amazing food quickly made these dinners my favorite activity. And the dinners became something that my classmates found valuable and fun as well – they all know me as The Potluck Host.

Also, I’m very proud of having been selected to represent SOM in the SOM/HBS ice hockey game this fall, because I’ve been playing hockey since I was about 5 years old, and was excited to see my years of highly enthusiastic but only moderately athletic efforts finally pay off.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my pre-Yale job at a Connecticut research and advocacy nonprofit, I authored the first-ever comprehensive report on children being arrested in CT schools. It took a year of tenacity to break through barriers with the State Department of Education to get access to the data I needed and get approval to use it, with complex negotiations over what could be released under the federal education data privacy laws. Also, I convinced my bosses to let me build a data tool on our website so that parents and advocates could pull up their town’s student arrest data (benchmarked against peer towns and by racial groups to show disparities) – a huge improvement over the typical 30 page pdf data appendix we typically would release with this type of report (which I’m pretty sure only 5 people read). Access to the data has already started empowering local advocates to lower arrest rates in their schools, and publicity from the report helped lead to new laws in Hartford.

Favorite MBA Courses? Negotiations, Interpersonal Dynamics, Global Social Enterprise India

Why did you choose this business school? SOM’s focus on equipping leaders to do good in the world through business, but also social enterprises, nonprofits, and government, aligned closely with my values. I wanted to go to a business school where the students, professors, and administrators shared my drive to make the world better, and were thinking about leadership, management, and creating value in a broader way than traditional business programs. The raw case method also attracted me, because real life doesn’t give you a neatly packaged 20 page story with all the key exhibits pre-distilled. Successful leaders need to be able to figure out what’s meaningful and useful out of reams of accounts, historical data, and interviews. And they’re one of the few places to offer a 3-year JD/MBA.

What did you enjoy most about business school? My classmates. They have done (and will go on to do) great things across the world, but they are also good people who have become lifelong friends.

What was the hardest part of business school? If going to business school is like drinking from a fire hose, I was drinking from two fire hoses in balancing SOM and Yale Law School. It was hard to manage two academic programs, a double parade of unbelievable speakers and events, two sets of student groups and responsibilities, and social events with double the number of classmates, and still find time to go to the gym and sleep.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized how ineffective state government was at running core programs (like CT’s Food Stamp system, which had a 9 month paperwork backlog in 2013), and decided I wanted to equip myself with the leadership and management skills, and business best practices, to make government work better.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working full time on the Clinton Campaign rather than only half time around my coursework.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I plan to spend my life focused on increasing access to opportunity for every child born in America. You’ll find me working wherever there is the greatest possibility to push ahead on this goal, so I expect I’ll have a varied career that spans the local, state, and federal levels and public, nonprofit, and private sectors. And I loved my time working on economic policy at the White House, so I certainly hope I’ll make it back there at some point.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents deserve all the credit for who I am today. Through hour-long family dinner conversations every night of my childhood that range from politics and current events to history, literature, and economics, my parents stoked my interest in politics, intellectual curiosity, and drive to make the world better. I don’t think there is anything better you can do for kids than teach them about the world and take their viewpoints seriously, because that makes them feel like they need to be well-informed and thoughtful to live up to the gravity their ideas have been accorded. And my parents practiced what they preached, modeling a life of service through their own work and community involvement.

Fun fact about yourself: I started an annual chocolate cooking competition at Yale Law School that’s wildly popular with the student attendees, but as a competitor I’ve lost every year.

Favorite book: 1984

Favorite movie: Mean Girls

Favorite musical performer: Beyonce

Favorite television show: The West Wing

Favorite vacation spot: Somewhere new and unusual

Hobbies? Running, crossfit, ice hockey, baking, cooking, travel

What made Sarah such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Sarah is graduate of Harvard University earning a BA in Social studies. She is enrolled in the accelerated joint degree program at Yale SOM and Yale Law School and is anticipated to earn both a JD and MBA at the end of academic year. Sarah is an outstanding scholar who has earned more high honors grades in the Yale SOM curriculum than any other student. Her outstanding academic performance is truly remarkable given the context of  the rigor and demands of an accelerated joint degree program. She will be named our student marshal for the MBA program for this year’s Commencement on account of her outstanding scholarship in the core curriculum. She is also dedicated to improving societal issues facing India and has engaged in a consulting project for an Indian NGO through the Global Social Entrepreneurship course.  Sarah choose to join McKinsey after she completes her degrees.”

Sherilyn Scully

Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Student Life

Yale School of Management


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