You know it when you see them. They are the purpose-driven, wedded to a vision bigger than themselves. Call them positive, inspiring, or driven: they’ve eschewed cynicism for confidence. They carry an unrelenting belief that what they do matters. And they fixate on the big picture, never dwelling on the setbacks and always celebrating the small successes.
This mission mindset is summed up perfectly by Steve Jobs: “We’re here to make a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why even be here?”
That’s also why these people gravitate to people who embrace their calling and share their values. For purpose-driven MBAs, that community is the Yale School of Management. The business school for the passionate and purposeful, Yale SOM operates according to a simple mission: Educating leaders for business and society. In other words, the MBA program treats business as a means to enhance the opportunities and close the gaps for all. More than an immersion into the fundamentals of finance, marketing, and operations, Yale SOM is a think tank for tackling the most complex issues. That’s achieved by drawing from a range of disciplines and perspectives found outside business, says Elizabeth Varughese, a 2022 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA.
DEEPLY TIED TO THE LARGER UNIVERSITY
“I realized upon coming to SOM is that we are all in search of the intersections of social impact and business through various mediums and industries, including sustainability, energy conservation, technology, resource accessibility, etc. We all find our own places where we want to make a difference that are unique. I knew that SOM was diverse, and it is—not only in terms of ethnicity and background, but also in terms of passions, interests, and opinions, all of which add a lot of value to the classroom.”
Future-centered and globally-directed, the SOM MBA is designed for students who care. They are proactive learners who are open to the intensive critical thinking and creative problem-solving inherent to a program that draws heavily from the liberal arts – and Yale University as a whole.
“A key draw of Yale SOM’s MBA curriculum was the flexibility to take elective courses across Yale’s various academic programs,” explains Eunjee Koh, a first-year MBA who was once complimented on her name by the Dalai Lama. “This is especially true for someone like me, who is interested in exploring the intersection of sustainability and well-being. The ability to attend classes at Yale School of Environment, Yale School of Public Health, and Yale Center on Climate Change and Health will broaden my understanding of the health impacts of sustainability. Classes at these schools in addition to my MBA education will also allow me to naturally expand my network across Yale’s other graduate schools and hear the thoughts of my peers at the respective schools on how the private sector can support and advance public health and climate justice efforts.”
EPA STAFFER FINDS EVERYTHING SHE NEEDS
Koh personifies the spirit of the Class of 2024: a commitment to action and service. Before heading to New Haven, she worked as a budget analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The experience inspired her to start business school after working under two administrations with vastly different priorities. On one hand, this reality left Koh with the impression that it was “implausible” to set long-term strategies in government. However, it also inspired her to seek ways to make sustainable change a reality.
“I noticed how some companies had stepped up during an unfavorable political climate to declare their net-zero goals,” Koh tells P&Q. “The more direct connection to consumer demand appealed to me and pushed me to try and better understand the role of the private sector in the U.S. economy and society. As consumers start demanding companies to create moral standards, I am interested in the blurred lines between nonprofit, private, and public sectors and how each can be better leveraged to advance a more sustainable and healthier society.”
Looking ahead, Koh pictures herself working in a consulting or cleantech startup firm. The former would expose her to a variety of industries, while the latter would enable her to flex her strategy skills. Long-term, her mission is to move the public and private sections to devote greater resources to sustainability and health. And she views her SOM MBA as a means to deepening her impact.
“There are three ways that I envision my SOM career furthering my mission over the next two years,” Koh explains. “The first is to understand what motivates major players in each of the sectors and how organizations and individuals can work together effectively. The second is to attend workshops and events led by Yale Center for Business and Environment such as Power and Race in Community, Business, and Environment to learn with and from my peers across other graduate schools. Third is to use practicum-based classes such as Social Entrepreneurship Lab and Sustainable Business Capstone Consulting to deep dive into concrete examples of sustainable business and gain perspective on how the private sector approaches sustainability and health.”
FROM TEAM OWNER TO MBA STUDENT
Before business school, Ali Nourang Syed was also leaving his mark in public sector finance – in Pakistan. Here, he headed up the Finance Office for the District of Sialkot. However, he wielded influence across the country when he led the implementation of a quality assurance cell in the Accountant General’s Office. Applying data-driven auditing frameworks, his initiative made it easier for the country to make more informed decisions and identify fraud. At Yale SOM, Nourang Syed plans to master financial practices that will equip him to “bridge the gaps” public sector budget shortfalls and private sector investment capital.
“Through my experience in public finance, I have learned that one of the major hurdles to prosperity in emerging countries like Pakistan is the insufficiency budgetary provisions for public sector projects,” he explains. “One way to address this challenge is by engaging the private sector and mobilizing private investment for public infrastructural development. I hope that an MBA will help me learn more about the ways in which this is being done across the world. Furthermore, after graduation I would hope to gain invaluable experience at investment banks that play an instrumental role in shaping and executing such transactions.”
Joe Calafiore boasts the most unique profile of the Class of 2024: sports team owner. Four years ago, he co-founded the Hartford Athletic, a professional soccer club. Rather than being a trophy, the club is treated as a “mission-driven organization” in his word. He views the squad as a way to make his hometown “the best place to live, work, and play” – even leaving a cushy job with Major League Baseball to make it happen.
“My founder journey in launching Hartford Athletic has taken me from developing the business plan and recruiting investors, to building a startup as the first employee, to delivering a team in my home state that is bringing people together and creating special experiences for generations to come,” Calafiore writes. “And the best part? I got to build it with my dad. One fan put it best, “Thank you Hartford Athletic for never giving up and giving us an outlet to express our passion for this game and our state. This Club has brought new energy to my city, new friends into my life, and new memories that will never fade away.””
LIVING UP TO SOM’S “AND SOCIETY” MISSION
Memories are Alvaro Morales’ business. A former economics consultant, he launched a social enterprise that produces immersive media experience and documentaries. Morales’ milestone moment when he worked with Gladys, a woman whose mother was no longer able to walk or talk. Knowing that time was short for Gladys’ mother, Morales created a virtual reality experience that enabled Gladys to return to the home country that she had left two decades earlier.
“She was able to see her neighborhood via 360-degree videos, walk around photorealistic and life-scale 3D renderings of her childhood home, and see her 84-year-old mother through a hologram. This “virtual reunion” would end up serving as Gladys’s last goodbye—her mother passed away shortly after…I conceived the project to highlight the coercion faced by immigrants like Gladys. As an undocumented immigrant mother of three, Gladys could not physically hug her mother goodbye without risking the life she built in the United States.”
Morales wasn’t alone in helping others live their best lives. Before becoming an EY Parthenon consultant, Sofia John worked at Teach For America. Her proudest moment came when her class, consisting of students with limited English proficiency, passed their standardized tests. In India, Amogh Bachchan Singh helped activist Bezwada Wilson fight against manual scavenging – a practice of using tools and hands to remove excrement. Across the Pacific, Julian Fuentes-Loza launched a social project to combat vaccine misinformation in Mexico and Latin America. At the same time, Hana Ezaldein mentored aspiring entrepreneurs who were previously incarcerated.
“[I would] assist them in crafting their business plans and pitches. After months of working closely together, my mentee was able to launch her food truck venture, and her success is a keynote accomplishment for me because it is a testament of how mentorship can change the narrative.”
Looking for a unique hobby? Natnicha Laodara raises Pacific Parrotlets as a hobby! Before becoming a category manager at Shopee, she doubled her company’s sales growth in under a year. Her classmate, Katya Wendt, was hand-picked by Amazon for a task force on price gouging when COVID-19 started. By the same token, Ryan Weathers considers his time as a KPMG manager to be his most important contribution…so far.
“My biggest accomplishment has been leading incredibly talented and diverse teams while working and living in eight countries across four continents. During my time abroad, I had the opportunity to explore new cities and cultures, broaden my perspectives, and take part in unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”
Next Page: Q&A with Bruce DelMonico
Page 3: Profiles of 12 Yale SOM First-Years