Yihana von Ritter
Yale School of Management
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Energetic, stubbornly optimistic, clumsy, driven by social justice, multinational, culturally adaptable, curious, playful, impatient, nature-loving.
Hometown: Washington Grove, MD, USA
Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a samba dancer in Paraguay’s biggest carnival, complete with feathers and colorful outfits and live music dancing through the streets!
Undergraduate School and Major: Stanford University, Majored in Political Science with Honors in Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:
Clinton Health Access Initiative, Malaria Elimination Country Associate — Panama
Peace Corps, Community Mobilizer and Health Volunteer — Paraguay
PATH, Junior Strategy Analyst — Washington DC
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay I co-founded an organization that seeks to increase civic participation and political accountability in the city of Encarnación. Our approach was to establish a baseline of indicators of quality of life in the city and empower citizens to use that as a tool to hold their politicians accountable for measurably improving conditions. Alongside a team of talented young Paraguayans, we worked closely with the mayor and city councilmen to propose and advance a new law requiring all incoming mayors to present concrete and transparent objectives for their term based on the published indicators. Hiccups along the road included a corruption scandal and difficulty fundraising, but we overcame those challenges, I was able to transfer all responsibilities, and the organization is now run by a stellar team of Paraguayans.
Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? Before starting your research, figure out what it is you want to get out of business school. You can make a list of the factors that are non-negotiable for you, and those that are preferred but not crucial. Keeping this list in the back of your mind as you read about different MBA programs can help you determine which ones are good fits. Researching all the schools can become overwhelming, and if you’re not well organized you may be repeating the same search queries over and over. I created a simple Excel table to keep track of all the information on each school, and it really helped me remember key data points and narrow down my list without having to re-enter into each of the school’s expansive websites. These notes also helped when adapting my essays to each school.
Push yourself to come up with a game plan post-MBA. What do you want to do? In what industry? Where in the world? What will be the impact of your work? This will not only help you determine which MBA program will help you reach your goals, but when included in your essays and interviews will also help make your case more compelling to admissions committees. They want to know what the impact of their alum will be, and they want people who are clear-headed, driven, and goal-oriented.
What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Quite simply, Yale SOM walks the talk in its commitment to prepare leaders for business and society. While many schools boast of their sideline social entrepreneurship track, SOM infuses social impact into its entire program. Here, it seems that social business is not an elective for the progressives; it’s the norm for everyone. This is evidenced by the high number of students coming from and going to NGOs and social businesses, the loan forgiveness program for those pursuing a career in the public/social sectors, funds for those doing a low-paying social summer internship, club organized trips to NYC and DC to meet with employers in the social/development space, and the requirement of an overseas experience. It goes on and on. For me, this was the most important factor in choosing a business school: to be in a program that supported my goals in social business for international development and to be surrounded by classmates who are socially conscious and ambitious.
In addition, I was drawn to Yale because of the nearly unlimited offering of classes. Since you can take non-MBA classes at the Law School, Forestry School, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, School of Public Health and more, I’m looking forward to gaining a multitude of perspectives and only wish I could stay longer!
Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? After floundering trying to fundraise for the non-profit organization I founded in Paraguay, I have become very interested in transforming donation-dependent NGOs into self-sustaining social businesses. Following graduation I would like to join an existing social business or start a new one working on humanitarian crises and sexual/reproductive health. One project I’m considering is expanding global access to reproductive health products by removing market barriers: cleansing the value chain, removing middlemen, bulking demand, and establishing reliable long-term contracts.
What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? In discussions with my classmates, I’d like to contribute a perspective of vulnerable populations, helping voice the reality of social injustice that I’ve witnessed in Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic and that exists all over the world. I am excited to join a program so committed to social impact, and I hope to enrich conversations with this perspective from the field. While keeping in mind the many challenges that face us, in interactions with my peers I would also like to be known for emitting positive energy and transmitting optimism that we can and will contribute to an improved global community.