Thursday, January 9, 2014

Yale SOM's New Look

Yale SOM's Evans Hall opened its doors officially Jan. 9 (Peter Cassolino, NHR, photo). Indra Nooyi '80 MPPM, CEO of Westchester-based Pepsico, is one of its best known graduates.
Brace for an impressive unveiling, a glistening new structure on campus. The Yale School of Management ("SOM") is opening up a new campus facility, Evans Hall, in mid-Jan., 2014.  Everybody is invited for tours.  The school is launching the new state-of-the-art building with receptions, lectures, presentations and celebrations of what has made Yale SOM unique in the panoply of top business schools. The week's theme is "Business + Social: Leadership in an Increasingly Complex World."

Yale SOM has had a colorful history. When it was launched in the mid-1970s, it wanted to be different from other schools. It offered a management-education mixture of the public and private sector.  The degree it certified upon graduates, in the beginning, was the "MPPM"--a master's in public and private management, intended to be an amorphous combination of the MPA, MPP and MBA degrees. Graduates would be steered toward Morgan Stanley, IBM, the World Bank, Capitol Hill, or the United Way. (Remember when the "O" in "SOM" stood for "Organization"?)

One of those who earned the MPPM degree is Indra Nooyi '80 MPPM, known well in business circles as the CEO of Pepsico, based in Westchester.  Nooyi, a fellow on the Yale Corporation and a Westchester-area resident, has generously permitted Yale Westchester to use Pepsico's headquarters as a venue to host alumni events, including a reception for then-president Richard Levin '74 Ph.d. a few years ago and an AYA presentation last year. She has also been a guest speaker at a YWAA scholarship dinner.

But back to SOM. At times, alumni, recruiters, employers and other constituents interpreted an SOM  degree in many ways. At times, new deans pushed the emphasis one way or the other. Eventually SOM settled on the MBA degree and it has tweaked the definition of what that means from time to time. In its first three decades, Yale SOM didn't have a separate facility, but existed within a pleasant, neighborly network of "houses" on Yale's Hillhouse Ave.

The new campus has all the marvels of business-school technology and covers 242,000 square feet, at a cost of $240 million, much of which was made possible by late benefactor Edward Evans '64, who was an undergraduate at Yale and later CEO of Macmillan, Inc. Current students, new students and prospective applicants will gasp at the attractions.  Besides interview rooms and three libraries, it will even have a student gym and entertainment space.

Yale's dean, Edward Snyder, migrated to Connecticut in 2011 from Chicago's Booth School. In the midst of Chicago's Gothic maze, Booth is a modern, self-contained business school, a campus Yale SOM students and faculty might have envied.  Once Snyder arrived in New Haven, he spearheaded the completion of the new facility and added the latest business-school bells and whistles. His experience in helping to open Chicago's new doors no doubt got many SOM faculty, alumni and students excited about his coming to Yale.

Building modern facilities is a regular occurrence at top business schools, a necessary headache, some may say, to attract top students. Schools understand to reel them in, they must pay attention to their physical being. Facilities, campus and amenities sometimes rank as high as innovative course offerings, curriculum, career placement and notable faculty when students decide whether or not to attend.  While Yale SOM attracted top students over the past decades, alumni and school leaders knew an impressive campus was necessary to lure students that might otherwise flee to Wharton or Harvard.

Yale and Chicago are certainly not the only schools with new campuses.  Stanford has its new Knight Management Center, home to its business school since 2011, featuring courtyards, magical classroom technology, chic ambience and sunlit, outdoor cafe settings.  Wharton and Michigan have also opened new campus facilities.

The new Evans Hall reinforces the notion that SOM is a top business school in a classical way, not the hybrid it seemed to be in its early years. But the school, more than many others, still tends to walk and run to its own drumbeat by remaining small and implementing experiments with new ways of MBA instruction. Its integrated curriculum is its latest novel approach.

The school and new facility seek to fit in well with the rest of the Yale campus.  Evans Hall, with blue hues, courtyards and exquisitely selected artwork, still wants to be identifiably Yale, circa 2014.

Steven Snyder '78 MPPM and  Katherine Ingram '04 MBA are SOM graduates who are YWAA board members.


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