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Yale Pushes Back Launch Of New STEM Degree

Legendary Yale Investment Office investor David Swensen was tapped to teach in the new master’s is asset management program this August. The program has been suspended for a year. File photo

Covid-19 has claimed another victim — programmatically, that is. Yale School of Management has announced that its new Master’s in Asset Management, a STEM program that had been slated to start this August, will be postponed until 2021. According to a school announcement, administrators believe that the program would be irreparably diminished by restrictions to in-person instruction caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The postponement of the program reflects our belief that the current state of the pandemic will make it extremely difficult for us to provide the rich exposure to asset management practice that we have embedded in the program’s design to complement its state-of-the-art academic curriculum,” wrote Dean Kerwin K. Charles, Deputy Dean Anjani Jain, and Professor Tobias Moskowitz in a letter announcing the change.

One aspect of the curriculum in the $75,000 MMS AM program that would have been most severely affected: many of the investment professionals scheduled to teach in the program would be unable to do so this fall. “The involvement of leading asset management practitioners as course lecturers and guest speakers at campus events is an integral part of the Asset Management program design,” according to the school’s announcement.

One bad piece of news was balanced by good, however, when Yale SOM announced Thursday (July 23) that round one of its 2020-2021 MBA application cycle is now open. Deadline for this round is September 15.

TWO DEGREES FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

Departing Yale SOM Dean Edward Snyder

The MMS AM was former Yale SOM Dean Edward Snyder’s last significant program announcement. File photo

The Master’s in Asset Management is a one-year program that aims to provide early-career students or those fresh from their undergraduate studies “with a deep understanding of the application of data science and quantitative techniques to investment decisions, while emphasizing fiduciary responsibility, ethics, and investment performance,” Yale SOM said in its announcement. The program was slated to launch in August and run through May 2021, with students attending classes from Thursday evening through Friday each week, getting training in all aspects of asset management: investment theory, factor investing, risk management, and more, with a core focus on forward-looking quantitative methods and new technologies emerging in the fast-developing field.

The MMS AM program was announced in the summer of 2019, the last significant announcement in Dean Ted Snyder’s tenure; in March 2020, just before the pandemic shuttered B-school campuses and threw schedules and plans into widespread disarray, Yale announced that the MMS AM had been designated a STEM program and that the school would also offer a new Management Science concentration as a STEM pathway in the MBA. As Jain told Poets&Quants at the time, both moves were part of the school’s long-running effort to “add depth and breadth in data analytics, mathematical modeling, optimization, and statistical methods for the analysis of big data to its curriculum.”

As Jain said in March, the forthcoming launch of the MMS AM “has led to the creation of several new courses in financial mathematics, which is another STEM-designated field. Both of these developments — the creation of a concentration in Management Science in the MBA and MMS AM programs and the launch of the Master’s in Asset Management — were faculty-led curricular initiatives that began about a year ago and have received widespread affirmation from students, employers, and alumni.”

According to Charles, Jain, and Moskowitz’s message to the SOM community, the school received more than 1,100 applications to the MMS AM program and was planning to welcome an inaugural class of 28 students. But Yale is not hanging those students out to dry — just the opposite. The school has offered to admit anyone already enrolled in the MMS AM in the Master’s in Global Business and Society for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year, after which they may continue with the Master’s in Asset Management in 2021-22. They will not be charged tuition for the GBS program. That’s two degrees for the price of one, and any scholarships that admits were offered when they accepted to the MMS AM will be honored.

‘THERE IS NOTHING QUITE LIKE THIS’

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for MMS AM admits will be the delayed opportunity to work with David Swenson, the chief investment officer who manages the Ivy League university’s multi-billion-dollar endowment and who had been slated to teach in the new program. For the last 33 years, Swenson has guided Yale’s endowment to returns of 13.5% a year, a record unequaled among institutional investors. Prior to joining Yale in 1985, he spent six years on Wall Street, where his work focused on developing new financial technologies.

“The genesis of this program was to fill the void from an applied perspective with data and real-world problems,” Professor Moskowitz, faculty director of the MMS AM, told P&Q last year, “and to have people who teach it practice it for a living, including David Swenson from Yale endowment. We are going to bring in many of our colleagues and collaborators to talk about how those two worlds meet. I don’t think it could exist without me and the finance faculty at Yale or the Yale Investment Office. It is truly a unique program and there is nothing quite like this.”

Moskowitz noted that there is clear demand for graduates of the program on both the buy-side and sell-side. “I work with AQR and other firms and they are constantly looking for talent,” he said. “A lot of times we hire people because they demonstrated that they are smart. First-year analysts at top investment firms do pretty well but the path of growth can be tremendous. You can earn a lot of money very quickly as you rise through the ranks. The market is looking for a program that can identify the best candidates and teach them asset management.”

The MMS AM program “builds on Yale SOM’s extraordinary record, in partnership with David Swensen and the Yale Investment Office, of producing leaders in asset management and stewards of large endowments,” Jain said in March. “We expect this program to prepare the next generation of leaders in asset management.”

Yale SOM said last year that it expects to encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to enter the asset management industry and will provide scholarships and fellowships to that end.

DON’T MISS: LEGENDARY INVESTOR DAVID SWENSON TO TEACH IN YALE’S NEW MASTER’S IN ASSET MANAGEMENT or ANOTHER TOP-10 BUSINESS SCHOOL EMBRACES STEM