That applies to faculty and administration, who personify — rather than pay lip service to — the Defining Principles. In fact, they have become the common point of reference for developing MBA programming.
“As we make choices in the MBA program office about which of these things to do, the principles come into play,” Johnson explains. “If we’re talking about a special workshop in organizational leadership, we ask, “Does this actually tie in with the principles? Do we want the session to acknowledge some of those principles in thinking about how we develop leaders?’ l’ll give you an example of this. One of the principles is “Confidence Without Attitude.” Underneath that, there is language that we use internally. Part of that is making decisions based on evidence and analysis which provides the confidence for someone to act without arrogance and to lead through trust and collaboration. So when we’re talking about how we’re preparing students, we talk about these things.”
As a result, the Defining Principles hold the entire Haas community accountable to a certain code of conduct that fits the school’s traditions, values, and aspirations. “When you put it out there and say we own this, I can connect with that,” Johnson adds. “By talking about that, I think you get people to think more deeply about what they do and how they lead.”
MUTUAL RESPECT INSPIRES A SHOW OF SUPPORT…AND AN INTRAMURAL FOOTBALL GAME
Like at Haas, you’ll also find close faculty-student relations at Yale. It is a relationship based on mutual respect — and one of the reasons why students feel empowered to suggest changes and shoulder added responsibilities at the school. It is also a relationship founded on mutual support.
Oster cites an event this past semester as an example. When members of the Women In Management club marketed hot pink t-shirts that read, “This is What Feminism Looks Look Like” to support their causes, “the Economics group bought one each as a group,” Oster remembers. ”On the day that students were wearing them, we all wore ours. It was a way of saying, ‘We stand with you.’ It was a message to the students that the faculty takes seriously what they’re interested in. It was a fun thing as well.”
The students reciprocate these feelings too. Each year, for example, the students hold athletic events that are named after their favorite faculty members, headlined by the Oster Bowl flag football challenge. “To me, it has a playful flavor to it by students choosing to name their athletic events after men and women on the faculty,” Oster admits. “It speaks to a certain partnership in the educational process.”
YALE FACULTY TREATS STUDENTS AS PARTNERS WHO BRING VALUE
Indeed, faculty takes a special interest in students at Yale SOM according to Oster. Many make a point to join their students for Thursday afternoon beer and wine. Oster herself loves to look up former students to grab a drink when she travels. “Our students are very Interesting people,” she notes. “They didn’t just become interesting people when they left here, but they were pretty interesting people when they were here. The faculty sees that and react to it and the students see us reacting in a way that has them recognizing their own role as grown ups.”
Treating students as adults takes on special resonance at Yale. The program, to an extent, applies a consulting apprenticeship model, where faculty acts as senior partners as students learn from them while making contributions and growing in knowledge and confidence. That offsets the “infantilizing process” (in Oster’s words) that can happen when adult learners leave the work world to return to sitting in classroom chairs and taking notes.
“Some of the ways that we negate this is by having an exchange,” Oster explains. “When you call on students with a question, you say, ‘Mr. So-and-So, I know you worked for Morgan Stanley. How was your experience there relevant to marginal costs and marginal revenue?’ It is a way that validates them and reminds them that they are adults with valuable experiences. These are all ways in which we try to counteract this feeling that we’re doing something to them and encourage the feeling that they are partners in their own education.”
CULTURAL FIT KEY TO SCREENING APPLICANTS AT HAAS AND YALE
Alas, one key to any culture is inviting the right people to join in. During the Haas admissions process, the Defining Principles help screen exactly who’d make the best fit and why. Some of the school’s application questions are also tailored to uncover how well prospective students personify the school’s values. Johnson concedes that Haas weighs the same criteria as most top MBA programs, rattling off strong resumes, professional experiences, and academic preparation as examples — along with being strong, progressive, and professional as attributes. The Defining Principles, however, up the ante for applicants.
“Question the Status Quo” is one principle that is vital to Johnson in evaluating candidates. “If I’m talking to someone who is a job candidate, one of the things I look for is whether or not they’re someone who just wants to come in and do their position the way that it has always been done or if they’re someone who’ll say, ‘I have some ideas about a better way to do that.’ I look for people who are willing to take some risks and champion ideas.”
Another informative principle for Johnson is “Beyond Yourself,” which Johnson equates to leaders taking a longer view of decision-making and placing the larger interests of the organization ahead of their own. Such precepts are often juxtaposed against the cardinal sins in the Haas canon: self-worship. “A red flag would be someone who doesn’t reflect “Students Always,” who think they are very knowledgeable and here to bask in the glow of their brilliance. Also, that ties into “Confidence Without Attitude.” “Someone who is arrogant and convinced of their position without basing it on evidence and data or lacks the confidence to be able to debate an idea or hear feedback from others would not be a fit in our culture.”
While intellectual horsepower is a key success driver at the academically-demanding Yale, Oster also points to a certain mindset that helps student transition well into the school’s culture. “We are a program that attracts people from across the world and from lots of different backgrounds. So an openness and interest in learning from others who are not like you is important for someone who would enjoy being here.”
INTERNSHIP AUCTION RANKS AMONG THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YALE SOM
Most programs have a ritual or highlight that embodies the school culture. While Johnson struggled to pinpoint a hallmark event at Haas, he believes that the school’s experiential learning programs come close. Notably, he cites the Applied Innovation experiences, where students work with social sector initiatives or international consulting projects. The school’s Lean Launchpad, a course that simulates working for early stage tech firm, is also popular among students. So too is a course called Problem Framing, Problem Solving (PFPS), which applies design thinking to solving a business problem. “If you talk to alumni,” Johnson says, “they will say these were a really important part of what defined part of their experience here.”
To see where the cultures at the top MBA programs scored on the Economist student survey, go to the next page.