How Yale SOM Crashed The M7 Party

Anjani Jain, senior associate dean of SOM’s MBA program


Even when it comes to a hard core business field such as finance, students tout the expertise and the accessibility of the SOM faculty.  Many courses, including Fixed Income, Financial Fraud, Endowment Management, and Deals—feature small classes. “These are really small classes, sometimes less than 15 people,” says Andres A. Martinez, a second-year MBA in the Class of 2017. “This allows you to develop a personal relationship with the professors.”

“When I read ‘When Genius Failed,’ I never knew that I would become good friends with Eric Rosenfeld and have a glass of his wine – called Convexity – a few months later. In the case of Jim Chanos, he invites 10 students for a pizza at Frank Pepe’s after class every Monday. Rumor has it that if you get High Honors, you are in the running for an internship at his hedge fund: Kynikos Associates.”

Martinez helped to organize the school’s private equity and venture capital symposium this year, an event that attracted more than 400 attendees, up from just 150 a year earlier. The symposium featured more than 45 speakers from all over the world, including Joshua Bekenstein, co-chairman of Bain Capital, and Hamilton James, president and COO of Blackstone. Those kind of student initiatives are exploding, despite the rather small 340 intake of students every year. Yet another MBA candidate, Russia-born Dmitry Aksakov, was the co-organizer of a student-run weeklong trip to Russia in March for some 60 SOMers who met with several of the country’s elite, including Pyotr Aven, the head of Russia’s largest private bank; Anatoly Aksakov, chairman of a Duma financial committee; and Elvira Nabiullina, the governor of the Central Bank of Russia.


The school’s emergence, moreover, has not come at the expense of its highly inclusive culture of collaboration, compassion and interest in doing right in the world. “We’re not as much a culture of entitlement or hubris here,” insists Jain. “It’s more of a culture of hard work, humility and a recogition of the extraordinary privilege we all have to be at this institution. If students begin to think that just getting in is all the credential they need, then it’s a very corrosive influence on the school’s culture. That attitude hasn’t occurred here at all.”

That view is confirmed by both applicants and current students. Weili Wang, who works for a biotech firm in San Diego and boasts a master’s in molecular microbiology from USC, remembers attending a winter social to meet current first-year SOM students in San Francisco in December. “I recall walking away from the event absolutely floored at how genuinely helpful, down-to-earth, and caring the students were,” he says. ” I sensed that SOM’s mission truly mattered to them based on their past experiences as well as future post-MBA goals.  One student even went as far as helping me with applications for other schools because she remembers being in my shoes as an anxious applicant.  When I received the interview invite, she also coached and offered to host me in her house so I could save on travel costs.”

Wang says he noted research done by a current SOM professor in his application essay. Once accepted, he received a warm welcome email from her stating that it was “touching, inspiring, and encouraging” that his experiences resonated with her work. Admitted to SOM in round two, Wang has already put down his deposit to be in SOM’s Class of 2019. He has no doubts. “I apologize if I sound like a SOM cheerleader, but I think a quote by a current student best sums up my decision process: ‘I wouldn’t say I picked Yale, I was very fortunate to have been picked by Yale.'”


Lauredan, 29, who will be going to work for Bain & Co. after graduation, agrees. “SOM is a real community and it’s very diverse, not only in terms of academic backgrounds and companies, but in the thought process of the students,” he says. “When I came to Welcome Weekend (the event SOM holds to get admitted students to commit to the school), I  was definitely leaning SOM.  But it was seeing the mission resonate with the students and seeing how close the community is that really sold me on the school. There are fewer silos here than I saw at other programs. And people here have a broad-minded view of the world in general and are willing to connect with people who are very different from them. We are a very different program from Wharton or Booth. Besides the smaller size of our program, it’s pretty clear there is a different kind of feeling there. It’s a place I knew I could have impact. You can leave your own mark here.”

Saltzman, for one, has no regrets about her decision. She recalls the moment that helped her decide she would go to SOM. It was soon after a phone call with her cousin-in-law who intended to apply to business school a year later. At the time, Saltzman was still undecided. “I had been going back and forth and even my husband was making fun of me,” she says. “I was on the phone with my cousin and she said that if she got into SOM, it would make her so happy. I felt genuinely happy that SOM was her first choice, and I realized that I already had that choice. It was a clear signal to me.”

One of her most memorable experiences at SOM centers around a Monday evening event called Voices. Every Monday, three to four classmates give 15-minute presentations about their lives. “It is really personal,” she says. “We just sit there and listen to our classmates speak about their personal struggles or and successes. It’s very powerful. People are being really vulnerable in front of each other. I have gotten to know and have so much more respect for my classmates, knowing what they had to overcome and what they have achieved.”

As in everything in life, however, perceptions still matter, especially to the less informed. It’s a reality grasped by Jain, for sure. “The lag that always exists between reputation and reality has shrunk a little bit as our graduates have gone into the world and lived the mission,” says Jain. “We’re a young school so it takes some time for the reputation to fully reflect the substnace of what we’re doing. But if we stay true to this path, we will continue to close the gap between reputation and reality. Yale will still be a different kind of a place.”