2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Helen Knight, Yale SOM

Helen Knight

Yale School of Management

Believer in public service over politics; amplifying and listening to underrepresented voices; and wrestling with tough questions that challenge the status quo.”

Hometown: Decatur, Georgia

Fun fact about yourself: Name-checked in the New York Times wedding announcement of one of my best friends because I inadvertently set her up with my roommate, whom I met on Craigslist…long story, but now in the paper of record!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of South Carolina, BA International Studies, Arabic concentration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Bridgewater Associates, Transformation Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Deloitte Strategy & Operations Consulting, Summer Associate

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Chair, Title IX Working Group
  • Co-President, Business & Politics Club
  • Nonprofit Board Fellow and tutor with New Haven Reads
  • Social Impact Consulting Club
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Admissions Interviewer and Ambassador
  • Career Advisor
  • Consulting Club Case Team Leader


  • Women of SOM, 2019
  • Unity Bell award for SOM Votes initiative (registered over 25% of the eligible SOM community to vote in the US midterm elections), 2018

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m focused on increasing inclusivity and equity in spaces that haven’t historically been open to diverse groups of people, including business schools and the larger professional world. As chair of the Title IX Working Group at SOM, I lead a team of students and staff working to make our community safe and welcoming for people of all genders and identities. In my first year at SOM, my team worked on increasing community awareness of the protections guaranteed under Title IX, resources available and definitions of concepts like sexual misconduct and consent. We did this in part through a visual campaign that was covered in the Yale Daily News.

It was gratifying to see clear positive outcomes of this effort (among many others) measured by the Association of American Universities’ 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct. That survey showed 100-250% increases since the previous survey in SOM student knowledge of definitions, resources, and the reporting process for incidences of misconduct. There’s a lot of work still to be done, but I’m proud to have been part of this progress toward increased equity at SOM.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2018, I founded a nonprofit, Representation 2.0, which equips underrepresented students with the tools to run for office and lead their communities. In 2020, women, people of color, and other identity groups are still significantly underrepresented in elected office in the US. Studies show that people in these groups frequently decide early in their careers that running for office doesn’t make sense for them for a variety of reasons. I wanted to preempt that decision in an intersectional way, working with undergraduate students across identity groups.

Building on my experience in political organizing and campaigns, as well as at Girls Who Code, I worked with advisors and student focus groups to develop the curriculum for a one-day workshop to help students reflect on the idea of representing their communities, explore what a campaign would look like, and plan for how their careers might align with a run for office. I ran a successful pilot in New Haven in April 2019 and a second workshop in November. I’m really excited by the interest and support the organization has seen from students, faculty, staff and the community, and our outcomes—100% of participants say they feel better informed about the path to elected office after the workshop than before and more than two-thirds say they have a more positive perception of elected office. Our third workshop will take place in April 2020 at NYU!

SOM and Yale have offered me significant guidance and resources, from an accelerator program through which I received funding at a very early stage to the SOM Startup Founders’ Practicum class, which provides mentorship and course credit to student entrepreneurs. Innovation with a social impact perspective is a high priority on campus here and I deeply appreciate the support of these programs and our entrepreneurship team.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It is Judy Chevalier, who teaches our Competitor (competitive strategy) core course as well as the Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations elective. She approaches nonprofit strategy from an economic/competitive strategy perspective, which I love. She also makes time to meet and engage one-on-one with students; as someone working on a nonprofit startup, I’ve found her advice very helpful.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Voices is SOM’s traditional opportunity for MBA students to share their personal stories and experiences (their voice!) with each other. I’ve found it really meaningful to be able to hear from both classmates I know well and those I only know in passing about their individual journeys. I shared my Voices a few weeks ago and felt pretty nervous and vulnerable ahead of doing so, but friends and classmates I’d never met before were incredibly supportive and helpful before and after. To me, Voices is SOM in a nutshell: it has given me both a chance to reflect on and come to new realizations about my own story, and to be overwhelmed and reassured by the thoughtfulness, warmth and connected experiences of old and new friends across our community.

Why did you choose this business school? SOM was my dream school for several years before I applied. I met several amazing alumnae while I was working in DC who fully convinced me of SOM’s unique value (without trying!). If your work has a social perspective and you want a rigorous management education, this is the best program in the world that combines those elements. I feel completely at home here in a way I know I wouldn’t at another graduate school.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Really take the time and put in the effort to reflect on your goals and how this specific program can help you achieve them. Reach out to current students and alumni and visit if possible—get a sense for the school’s culture and why others have self-selected into this environment. Also, make sure to sample all three legendary New Haven pizzas and be ready to explain your preference in your interview (just kidding! But you should try the pizza!).

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My classmate Daisy Rosales inspires me with the courage and selflessness she brings to her nonprofit organization, Brio, which works with international community leaders to design mental health care solutions. In addition to that challenging work and a full-time MBA courseload, she finds time to bring together a think tank of nonprofit founders at SOM; be a wise, kind and patient adviser to many of us; and make a ridiculously good mushroom risotto. I’m so glad she came to SOM and that I had the chance to meet her here.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue an MBA? My mom went to business school and has always encouraged me to get an MBA, which didn’t originally make sense to me when I was first working in the nonprofit world. I’m still not sure where I’ll end up along the sector spectrum, but my mom and dad deserve the credit for helping me see how an MBA could help me become a better leader, manager, and thinker.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’ve always wanted to spend more time working internationally (about to check that one off!) and have my own office with a door (hoping the current backlash against open-plan offices continues…).

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As the voice in their head reminding them to register to vote and go to the polls, a good friend, and an awesome wine-and-cheese-night host.

Hobbies? Reading, writing, politics/policy, art, Bravo, Peloton and following Corgis on Instagram

What made Helen such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Helen Knight is a graduating MBA student who exemplifies the very best and brightest of the SOM community.

She has been instrumental in guiding the Title IX working group, a volunteer group of students, faculty, and staff committed to programming, advocacy, and policy recommendations related to Title IX. Helen’s efforts have shown measurable results in the student experience improving community understanding of Title IX and also awareness of resources for those with Title IX concerns. Her diligence and dedication to this topic has been boundless and has greatly assisted in bettering the student experience. Under her guidance the Title IX Working group has engaged in poster campaigns, awareness drives, tabling activities, speaker events, ideation sessions and a myriad of her activities to promote discussion and information and increase community participation on this important topic.  The scope of student participation in the AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct was greatly assisted by Helen’s efforts.

Helen is also a leader of the Business and Politics Club and has organized multiple voter nonpartisan voter registration drives. She also organized an awareness drive directed to increasing participation in the 2020 census. As always, her school-wide volunteer efforts are directed to having all voices be counted.”

Sherilyn Scully
Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs and Student Life,
Dean of Students
Yale School of Management



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