An Interview With Yale SOM’s Admissions Gatekeeper

Most interviews with admission directors focus on how you can beat the formidable odds of acceptance and get into a highly selective MBA program. But when Poets&Quants founder and editor-in-chief John A. Byrne sat down recently with Yale School of Management Assistant Dean of Admissions, the conversation veered in a different direction.

Instead, Bruce DelMonico talked about how the MBA experience is different from other prominent business schools. For one thing, it’s arguably more global than any other in the U.S. The core curriculum is taught in an integrated fashion. And the business school is more connected to the general university at Yale than almost any other business school in the world. A little-known fact about Yale SOM is that as an MBA student you can actually take all–yes every single one–of your elective courses outside the business school.

“It’s not as though we’re wanting to be different for the sake of being different,” insists DelMonico. “But we think to be a successful leader in the 21st century, you need to have that global perspective. You need to have a broader perspective. You need to think not just about the business disciplines but understand the legal framework within which business is operating. You need to understand medicine, you need to understand the environment, you need to understand political science, psychology, sociology. All these disciplines are relevant to be a successful leader, and so that’s how our curriculum is structured.”


How much that work in practice? DelMonico has a ready answer. “If you wanted to go into real estate development, obviously we have courses at the School of Management,” he says. “But you could take courses at the forestry school in sustainable development, you could take courses at the law school on real estate law, you could take courses at the architecture school and really put together a curriculum that is very tailored to your interests and to your professional goals. I think that’s really powerful.”

In this wide-ranging interview, DelMonico does have three key tips for applicants to SOM and other prestige business schools but he also speaks about how a global network of business schools created by outgoing Yale SOM Dean Ted Snyder provides deep global perspective in the program and the difference between “raw” and “cooked” case studies that make up nearly 60% of the MBA curriculum at Yale. In contrast to the traditional cases made famous by the Harvard Business School that boil down the facts in a single document, SOM faculty take an entirely different approach.

“Our raw cases are comprised of the primary source materials you’ll experience in the real world, the 10-Ks, 10-Qs, other regulatory filings, interviews with key stakeholders, media reports, all the things that you would actually interact with in the real world,” says DelMonico. “The case writing team does not tell you what’s relevant and what’s not. You have to figure that out for yourself. In the real world, you’re not given a case. There’s no case writing team. You’re given a problem, you’re given a challenge, and you’re told to figure it out.”

Here’s the edited transcript of our conversation:

John A. Byrne: You’ve been at this school for 15 years. How has it changed?

Bruce DelMonico: It’s changed greatly. In some ways it’s changed, in some ways, it’s the same. The founding mission of educating leaders for business in society remains the same and it’s still as vibrant as ever, but we’ve done so much in the last 15 years.

When I joined I saw the potential that it had and I was thrilled to be around for deans like Joel Podolny and Sharon Oster, and then most recently Ted Snyder, to help unlock the potential of connecting with Yale, connecting with the globe, creating an unparalleled curriculum at the school. So it’s changed in so many ways, but in a lot of ways, the school is still the same.

Byrne: One of the biggest changes under Dean Snyder was the mission to become the most global business school in America. Tell us how you’ve achieved this goal.

DelMonico: In a number of ways actually, some of them similar to what other schools are doing, but I think most importantly, we have a very unique model for engaging around the globe. Ted Snyder, our dean, and David Bach, our senior associate dean, created what we call the Global Network for Advanced Management, which is now 30 schools across six continents. Contrary to what lots of business schools do, the aim here was to reach outside the borders of the U.S. by creating partnerships, one-to-one partnerships with schools, not mere student exchange programs.

What we did at Yale was to create a network model, a network of schools around the globe that allows our students to connect with students from the other 30 schools in a much more sophisticated way, and we’ve created a whole platform of opportunities for our students to engage across the globe in ways that really, I think, are much more meaningful and much more beneficial to them as future global leaders.

Byrne: I know they’re engaging in virtual students teams.

DelMonico: Yes.

Byrne: And there are these global network weeks where different schools use their faculty with unique expertise to put on courses that would otherwise not be available to others. And then you also have online courses that are open to students at only network schools.

DelMonico: SNOCs as we call it for Small Network Online Courses.

Byrne: They are another way to tap into the faculty expertise around the world and gain different perspectives from an extraordinarily wide range of students.

DelMonico: There’s a whole menu of opportunities that exist. Some of them do involve taking courses at one of the other schools, so physically traveling to the other schools to get that global experience, but some of them are virtual, so online opportunities.

We actually have built into the core curriculum what we call Global Virtual Teams. So when you start in our integrated curriculum at Yale, the first course you take is Managing Groups and Teams which gets you to think about how to be a good team leader, a good team member. That starts your fall semester.

Starting the spring semester in January is what we call Global Virtual Teams, which I think you alluded to, and that’s part of the core. Everybody takes that. And the focus of that is how to engage teams that are not co-located, that are dispersed across timezones, across languages, having to engage virtually, because that’s a lot of how business operates now and that’s a special skill. And so we actually, in our core, have a course that’s dedicated to teach you skills and strategies for doing that.

And then through the global network, you actually get to practice your skills by doing actual cases, actual work that involves working with students who are in Mexico and France and elsewhere around the world, and you’re never actually in the same place but actually having to work on a case together and present at the end.

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