Yale SOM Admissions Interview
Melissa Fogerty: Director, Admissions, Yale School of Management
Scott Edinburgh: Founder, Personal MBA Coach
Melissa Fogerty was generous enough to answer many questions about Yale SOM that are on applicants’ minds. Read below for the full transcript of our interview!
How did you first get involved in admissions?
That’s a great question, and I think the answer might be surprising to prospective students. There are so many different career paths that have led my admissions colleagues and me to our current roles. On our Admissions Committee at Yale SOM we have professionals from banking, legal, consulting, academic, and marketing backgrounds, just to provide a few examples. This is important because of the broad diversity of applicant work experience that we’re reviewing – it’s helpful to have multiple perspectives in the room who can provide additional context around what we’re reading.
Personally, I graduated from Harvard Law School and spent several years as a practicing corporate attorney before joining SOM in 2010. I represented public and private corporate clients on M&A, finance, and securities transactions, covering everything from the $8.2 billion going-private transaction involving the Tribune Company to the acquisition of an information technology services company by defense contractor General Dynamics. I was actively involved in recruiting for my firm’s summer associate program at Harvard Law School and Yale Law School, and joining the MBA admissions team at SOM allowed me to pivot my career to focus more on these recruiting activities I enjoyed, while still using my corporate law background.
What excites you most about your work?
One of my favorite parts of my job is the opportunity to interact with interesting individuals from all over the world. I’ve traveled to Asia, North and South America, the Middle East, and Eastern and Western Europe, meeting our alumni, current students, and prospective students from a wide array of backgrounds. I’ve met individuals who are leaders in technology, the arts, healthcare, and finance. I’ve sat down with Laszlo Bock ‘99 to learn more about Google’s hiring practices, enjoyed dinner in Shanghai with finance Professor Zhiwu Chen and our Assistant Dean of Career Services, Julia Zupko, and watched Dean Ted Snyder interview Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press. I cheer on our current students and alumni when I hear about their accomplishments – for example, a student who I interviewed when he was applying to SOM recently made a deal with Mark Cuban on Shark Tank. I’m sure our students and alums don’t even realize that Admissions folks know them so well and that we are following along with their careers long after they’re admitted.
What do you think are some reasons the volume of applications has increased over the last few years?
There are many reasons why more students are interested in pursuing an MBA at Yale SOM in the last few years. It’s been a busy time for the school, and we’ve seen several major accomplishments that are meaningful for our students. I’ll highlight a few.
Prospective students are interested in studying at the most global US business school, and since Yale SOM launched the Global Network for Advanced Management in 2012, our students have leveraged this platform to engage with peers from 28 top business programs from around the world. They are participating in trips to partner schools to study in both established and emerging economies, taking courses like “Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise in Greater China” at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School and “Clean Energy and Green Infrastructure – Innovation at the Nexus of Politics and Society” at Sauder School of Business UBC in Vancouver. We also opened the Yale Center Beijing in 2014, managed by SOM on behalf of the Yale community, which has hosted programs involving the Yale Schools of Medicine, F&ES, Music, and Divinity among others.
At SOM, our degree and non-degree program offerings have strategically expanded with the introduction of our Masters of Advanced Management (MAM) degree and executive program offerings. The MAM in particular is relevant to our full-time MBA students because it allows them to network with MBA-holding global peers in elective courses.
All in all, it’s an exciting time to be at the school and prospective students are eager to see what’s next.
Tell me about the thought process behind increasing the class size.
Our class size increased gradually over several years, from 194 students in the Class in 2010 when I arrived, to the Class of 2017, which has 326 students. There are a few things to consider when looking at class size, and we feel that our current size is the best of both worlds – it’s small enough so that we can have the unique, SOM collaborative culture where everyone knows each other and teamwork is emphasized. Our community is important to us. We divide our students into cohorts of about 65 students, and further into diverse learning teams and study groups of 8 and 4 students. It’s an environment where faculty are accessible to students through our 8:1 student faculty ratio, and where we invest substantially in our teaching through team teaching. Some examples of team teaching: you’ll find Daylian Cain (a psychologist) and Barry Nalebuff (an economist) jointly teaching Negotiations. Jake Thomas (an accountant) and Geert Rouwenhorst (from finance) jointly teach Sourcing and Managing Funds. Also Olav Sorenson (a sociologist) visits the Customer course to teach cases on developing customer-centric organizations jointly with marketing faculty. It’s very unique to see professors of this caliber working together to teach in core courses, and something we’re proud of at SOM.
It’s also important that our class size be large enough for SOM to be an attractive place for recruiters to come on campus to look for talent, and so that our alumni chapters around the world are thriving communities of Yale SOM graduates. Those considerations made growing our class size the right decision, and our current size feels like a good fit.
What are some trends you saw in applicants this past year?
This past year, I was truly impressed by the quality of the applicants I saw. In particular, the quality of our female applicants has been excellent, and I’m so encouraged to see that efforts by the Forté Foundation and others to increase the pipeline of talented female applicants to MBA programs have been paying dividends. I also noted that our applicants did a great job of showing their quantitative preparedness through their applications, which is something we have counseled about in the past.
It has been more than two years since Evans Hall opened. How has the new building enabled the program to evolve?
By moving into our new home, Edward P. Evans Hall, in January 2014, we now have 16 state-of-the-art, high tech classrooms specifically designed for the Yale SOM learning environment, a gym, cafeteria, coffee shop, 350-seat auditorium, and grassy central courtyard where students can relax, barbeque, and come together for events. The architecture, designed by Lord Norman Foster ARCH ’62, is purposeful and reflective of our mission and belief in the need for transparency in business. There are several notable sustainability features of our new building: about 75% of the construction and demolition debris was diverted from landfills. Many building materials for Evans (such as steel and concrete) utilize substantial recycled content, most wood is FSC-certified, and over 10% of materials were procured from within 500 miles of New Haven.
Evans Hall is a convening space for students, faculty, and staff from around Yale, where we host major conferences on topics of education, healthcare, and financial stability, and where you can see speakers from Surgeon General Vivek Murthy MBA/MD ’03 to Lady Gaga!
I have been following SOM’s integrated curriculum and its evolution since it was released. What is the process for making refinements?
Our integrated MBA curriculum was launched in 2006 and we also continue to tweak it to best prepare leaders for all sectors by responding to changes in the economy, technology, and society. Last academic year we launched an innovative new course, Global Virtual Teams, which challenged our students to work together with teammates from Global Network partner schools EGADE and HEC on a project for their Operations course. This is an important course because it highlights the need for leaders in an increasingly interconnected world to have the ability to work effectively with teammates all over the world – tackling issues of virtual connectivity, time zones, language barriers, cultures, and working styles. This academic year we’re adding a new core course, “Power and Politics,” as part of our leadership curriculum.
The mission has always mattered at SOM. How do you see students getting involved in their own mission today and how is this evolving over time?
The mission pervades the ethos at the school, and as you rightly noted, at Yale SOM mission does matter. Not only does it motivate students, faculty, and staff, but it provides both long-term strategic guidance about what the school is and should be and informs decisions and actions on a daily basis.
Our mission of educating leaders for business and society means that our aim is to develop leaders who have the ability to think broadly about the problems business leaders face today, and will face tomorrow, and who bring a deep sense of purpose to their work. Yale is a place where students can connect with people doing amazing work across all the disciplines. Throughout our programs, we cultivate an approach to leadership whereby students learn to see the connections between decisions and the many stakeholders touched by any enterprise. Our mission-driven approach to business education is something that has remained constant about the school since it was founded.
What is your favorite part of the International Experience course? How does this change with global economic / political developments?
When we introduced the International Experience course several years ago, we were the first major business school to require international study as part of our MBA curriculum. Recently, we’ve expanded our international offerings so that students can now choose from a menu of 6 options to complete our Global Studies Requirement. Students can pursue an International Experience, a 10-day trip led by faculty taking a leader’s view of a country through visits with business and political leaders. They can pursue elective courses with a travel component – our Global Social Entrepreneurship elective links teams of Yale SOM students to mission-driven, social entrepreneurs in India, Ghana, the Philippines, Brazil, and other countries. They can study alongside Global Network peers in week-long trips and virtual courses. Or, they can study abroad for a semester with five partner schools. Many students choose to take advantage of more than one of these options, and we provide students with a global studies account that pays for 10 days of their international travels.
SOM has been attracting increasing number of well qualified applicants as the program grows in popularity. What does the future look like for SOM?
Looking forward, I’m excited to see us engaging more deeply with our Global Network partner schools, and I’m looking forward to seeing the ways in which the new Global Network alumni connect for professional and personal development. In March 2016, over 600 students from Global Network schools participated in Global Network Weeks in Brazil, Japan, and Mexico, among other countries. Global Network Perspectives is an online portal that showcases faculty work across GN schools, and our students actively participate in the Integrated Leadership Case Competition across the network. In the future I can only see the interconnectedness between the Global Network partner schools and their students, faculty, staff, and alumni increasing.
What other changes are you looking forward to at SOM?
In the last five years, we’ve seen the number of joint degree students at SOM double. I’m encouraged by the ways I’m seeing our students engage with the broader University, and I’m hearing alumni at our admissions events giving advice to prospective students not to miss out on opportunities to take advantage of Yale University as a whole. I’m looking forward to seeing how our students continue to engage with the whole University. Our foundational courses and seven new entrepreneurship offerings have drawn over 1200 students from across Yale to SOM in the last year. 65% of our class is taking at least one course at a Yale school outside of SOM. Our students recognize the wealth of resources they have at Yale University, and we’ll continue to think creatively about ways our graduate students can engage with their Yale peers.
We also recently welcomed several exciting new faculty members to SOM, including Gal Zauberman in Marketing from Wharton and Toby Moskowitz in Finance from Chicago Booth. We’ll look for ways to get them involved with prospective student events for Admissions!
What is a common misconception about the MBA program at SOM?
A common misconception is that a majority of students at SOM are pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. There is a good reason for this misconception –we are the clear market leader if this is your area of interest. Our MBA program was founded as a mission-driven institution dedicated to educating leaders for all sectors. Because of our history, we have a rich tradition in the nonprofit space and alumni at prominent organizations all over the world who are fantastic resources for our students. From a careers perspective, there is no better place to be for the connections and Career Development Office expertise we offer in the nonprofit space. We also have an industry-leading Loan Forgiveness Program that allows our students to pursue their dream jobs in the public and nonprofit spaces, rather than being deterred by concerns about servicing their loan debt. Students can study alongside leading faculty members in nonprofit elective courses like Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations. That all being said, the percentage of our graduates in the Class of 2015 who entered nonprofit was 4.4%. So, it is not a majority of our graduates.
What advice do you have for applicants interested in the Silver Scholars Program?
The Silver Scholars Program is a launch pad for ambitious college seniors to accelerate their career by pursuing an MBA directly after undergrad. It’s a 3 year program, with 1 year of academic study, and year-long internship (sourced with the help of our faculty and Career Development Office), and another year of academic study. In the Fall, we’ll be hosting an online event featuring our Silver Scholars and diving into that program in more detail, which I encourage prospective students to look out for. Silver Scholars can apply through our regular application process, and we provide a few application-related Q&As specifically for this group on our website. This program has been particularly attractive for female applicants, and has almost tripled in size in recent years.
How do you think the admissions process will evolve over time?
Our goal in admissions is to bring the best candidates to Yale SOM, and I’m excited by some things I see coming down the pipeline that will allow us to do that using new technology. We want the application process to be hassle-free from the prospective student perspective, while giving us a rich, holistic view of an applicant. We introduced video questions a few years ago, and have been very pleased with the results. This year, we tweaked our essay question with input from faculty member Amy Wrzesniewski, and I’m excited to read the responses to this year’s prompt. We’ll continue to look for ways to innovate in the application process while keeping in mind our goals and the overall applicant experience.
What do you wish applicants would do differently when applying?
Look to Admissions staff for tips! We frequently host application tips webinars, and we are very candid about what we’d like to see in each section of the application. Prospective students should register for our online events, even if you can’t attend during the event’s date and time. It’s great to participate real time because you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers, but we frequently send a recording after the fact so it’s worth registering to receive them.
Do you have any advice for applicants excited about SOM that isn’t easily found on your website?
Overall I want to encourage applicants to be authentic throughout the process, and focus on finding the MBA program that will be the best fit for them personally and professionally. When we encounter happy alumni on the road, we know that we’ve done our job well.
Contact me if you would like help applying to Yale SOM or any other business school. We can set up a consultation for you to learn more about my unique and personalized support.
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