Meet Yale SOM’s MBA Class Of 2020

Dahsong (Song) Kim

Yale School of Management

Activist committed to change from the grassroots, all the way up.”

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a titanium right tibia. That ski accident was the most physically painful time in my life, but it gave me the gift of a karaoke song forever dedicated to me!

Undergraduate School and Major:

University of Southern California–BA, Sociology

New York University School of Law–Juris Doctor

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Staff Attorney, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I am most proud of the reputation of the project I headed, the Anti-Trafficking Initiative, in the immigrant communities we serve. Survivors of forced labor and other forms of trafficking have faced some of the worst forms of abuse and exploitation, and oftentimes by the time they have access to services, their ability to trust has been completely eroded.  Especially in a time when immigrants and people of color are afraid to speak up – afraid to report crimes for fear of being criminalized themselves – it’s been an honor to have been trusted by our communities to steward their experiences and work with them to access their rights and protections under the law.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Self-awareness. My classmates know who they are and where they are going; they live by what matters to them. They are fully aware of their strengths and what they can contribute, and they are humble about what they can learn from those around them. I think self-awareness is game-changing as a member of a team, and as a trait generally for people that are the most pleasant to be around. So needless to say, I’m excited to learn and work alongside them for the next two years!

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? It is the school’s commitment to raising and edifying leaders who will change the world in all sectors and regions. SOM doesn’t simply pay lip service to the idea of “educat[ing] leaders for business and society.” It actually demonstrates this commitment in so many ways, including through programming, faculty, and of course by having initiated the first—and still the most generous—loan forgiveness program in the country for folks like me who will be returning to the nonprofit/public sectors. I worked in nonprofit and have a professional degree already, so I would never have decided to go back to school had I not been secure in knowing that the program would give me exactly the skills and training I want but am lacking, and that I would have support from the school to continue pursuing a non-traditional MBA career path.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The food and wine club! Let’s be real: don’t the best ideas always come over a table with food and wine? But if I can squeeze in one more, I’m really looking forward to the Nonprofit Board Fellows, because I’ve always been someone who needs to be grounded in and connected to my neighborhood while in school—whether it was South Central Los Angeles as an undergrad or New York City as a law student. Being a part of the Nonprofit Board Fellows will give me an opportunity to take my experience in the nonprofit sector, what I’ve gained from being a New York Community Trust Nonprofit Leaders Fellow just this past spring, and everything I’ll learn from SOM, to be connected to the greater community in New Haven.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I became head of the Anti-Trafficking Initiative at my organization only a year-and-a-half after I started working at AALDEF. It was a steep learning curve, but it gave me access and insight relatively quickly into the anti-trafficking field, which is still relatively young. Themes surrounding pertinent issues and gaps emerged in conversations within human rights–based anti-trafficking circles as we worked on the ground directly with affected individuals. As a lawyer, I was making an impact on individual lives–assisting clients with their immigration status so they could find stability and safety, and litigating cases to ensure clients were able to have their day in court and receive compensation.

Even in our greatest victories, such as winning a historic forced labor case where the $14 million verdict (the largest ever awarded by a jury in the U.S. at the time) drove the corporation that trafficked their migrant workers into bankruptcy, we were only able enter the picture after our clients had gone through truly harrowing experiences. To me, human trafficking (like so many social problems) ultimately stems from an unethical excessive thirst for profit, so I wanted to transition into a place where I could get training to take what I’ve learned on the ground to contribute to bringing about systemic change to prevent exploitation and abuse from happening in the first place.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I sought out people who were invested in my growth and future. I talked to people who had their MBAs, SOM alums, and folks with life wisdom who were able to give me important perspectives about what an MBA would mean for me at this point in my career and personal life. By decision time, I felt assured that the skills and networks I would gain through the program would have immeasurable returns in my life.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None. It was Yale or nothing!

How did you determine your fit at various schools? For me, it wasn’t necessarily an MBA I was looking for–it was a program that would both help me think creatively about solutions to problems in different ways than I had been trained and give me the practical tools to implement those solutions.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Growing up, I’d heard stories of my father protesting on the streets as a student at Seoul National University during the Park Chung Hee era in the late ’70s. I also grew up with a mother whose faith and natural generosity opened our doors to anyone who needed a hot meal or a place to stay. Through moments with them, I inherited the spirits of activism and community and giving that are the foundation to everything I do and the choices I make.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I decided to transition and embark on this journey because I wanted to use my years on the ground working with local immigrant communities impacted most by broken systems, to bring about change in and through those very systems. I’ve become interested in big-picture solutions to labor exploitation, such as the worker-driven social responsibility model where industries are held accountable to and by the very workers who make them run, and plan on working on corporate accountability in some way.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Five years after graduation, I would love to be in a position to support passion issues of mine such as access to and changing the culture around healthy food in poor communities and youth empowerment in communities of color. In addition to all of the above, I want my work to revolve around preventing worker exploitation and trafficking, through philanthropy or impact investing.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.