Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Jason Gray, Yale SOM

Jason Gray

Yale School of Management

“I’m an emerging leader in the arts interested in creating and sustaining brave spaces for BIPOC artists and audiences to thrive.”

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once directed two productions of Romeo and Juliet at the same time.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Pennsylvania, English

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Founding program director of the Black Arts Institute, an affinity-based actor training program

The Yale School of Management is regarded as a purpose-driven program. What is your mission? How will your MBA at Yale SOM help you fulfill that mission? I’d like to investigate new avenues of representation and new institutional models for Black creatives to reach Black audiences and patrons, across multiple performance-based media.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? SOM’s deeply-held value of maximizing social good through intentional leadership immediately resonated with me. And so did the fact that the school has a joint-degree track with Yale School of Drama for an MBA/MFA in the Theater Management. I’m proud to be a member of both of these incredible schools.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Conscientious. In my short time with them, I’ve experienced a thoughtfulness and a wholistic insight into what is needed from business leaders today.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? As a lifelong lover of the arts I’m particularly excited about the Media and Entertainment Club.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was the founding program director of the Black Arts Institute, an educational platform offered as a partnership between Stella Adler Studio of Acting and the Billie Holiday Theatre in New York. I helped to conceive and organize a conservatory program where Black artists from around the world could learn about the Black Arts Movement and Black theater techniques from a faculty of legendary artists and leaders in the field. Artist training in a community of affinity is still a pretty rare idea, but I witnessed first-hand that it can have enormous power. It was a joy and honor to be part of laying the groundwork for an institution that’s continuing to have an impact on many lives.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I spent several years as a Black artist and arts professional in the arts capital of the world, and realized that so many rooms and spaces weren’t built with me in mind. I’ve gradually taken up the mantle of leadership to be a part of changing this environment. I decided to pursue an MBA to get a broader, more in-depth perspective on various economic models that perhaps the performing arts world could adapt, and to meet a community of leaders across sectors who could make me better.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I think the question about how I handled a moment of adversity was challenging. Fortunately, I immediately thought of an intense situation and how I used breathing techniques from my actor training to navigate it.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I learned about SOM’s program when I was researching the Theater Management MFA program. I immediately thought the joint-degree track was very much in line with my goals of gaining a wider perspective of nonprofit and for-profit organizational models, and using that knowledge to innovate in the performing arts world.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Choosing to commit to theater after pursuing a pre-law track in college was a defining moment for me. It gave me the confidence to continue going after what I wanted, and to be unafraid to forge my own path. I think a business leader, like any leader, has to be unafraid to risk failure in pursuits that align with their values.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I love A24, the distribution company behind films like Moonlight and Lady Bird. This company brands itself as “arthouse” and selects the films it does based on specific audience niches where it thinks it can find success. I think particularly the performing arts can learn a lot about targeted audience development and marketing.

What is the most important attribute that you are seeking in an MBA employer? An organization that makes a practice of thinking outside of the box, and that practices radical inclusivity in who it employs, and how it incorporates their uniqueness.