Ds Scholarship

Masters At Yale: Being The Change You Want To See

One of the hardest things about an MBA is how fast it goes. Before you know it, you have classes, coffee talks, club events, speaker events, meetings of all kinds, if you’re not careful, your two years are over before you can make an impact in all the ways you planned as an MBA student Business.

As we head into semester and head into the holidays, I am grateful to all the change agents who have attended Yale SOM and other business schools before me. One way I can thank them is to offer them some advice for future change agents in business schools.

Tip 1: Before you start school, think about what interests you and how you can immerse yourself in it.

SOM’s mission – to educate business and community leaders – attracts many students who are passionate about society’s most pressing challenges, including environmental issues, equality in education, advancing women’s rights, access to health care, and advocating for greater economic equality. If these or other concerns are very important to you, consider how you can be a champion for them in your two years of study. Ask yourself: Are there related clubs on campus? From your first days on campus, there will be opportunities to join clubs in student government as leaders, or to work with existing club leadership to advance the cause of your choice.

Claire Masters (22), Yale School of Management

For me, advancing the cause of racial equality was a top priority in my time on campus. In June of 2020, about two months after my commitment to Yale SOM, this priority was amplified by the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests around the world. Many of us committed to business school wanted to hear about the resources available on campus to combat widespread racial inequality and discuss issues such as police brutality.

Many of us were locked down completely, as this was also the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we felt even more isolated from our communities. Dozens of my future colleagues gathered on Zoom to address our experience with race and privilege, and how we hoped to foster the conversation while on campus. The call ended up running for hours longer than planned. It was the first moment after accepting my offer of admission that I felt really validated in my choice not only to attend business school, but to come to Yale SOM in particular.

Tip 2: Identify the main areas in which you can make a difference in the past two years and beyond.

The importance of dreaming big is close to being realistic. Within two years, they are not likely to have a serious impact in, say, systemic racism or the climate crisis. By identifying key actionable areas, you can avoid burnout and ensure that you spend your best energy where it can make the most impact.

The Zoom conversation we had before we came to SOM eventually turned into a club on campus, Business Students for Racial Equality. Much of our time so far has focused on developing the club’s mission and key areas of influence. In early 2021, business schools were invited to participate with Emory University in the second annual John R. Lewis Racial Equity Case Competition and seized the opportunity. Because I knew promoting racial equality was a priority for me, signing up to learn how to host the contest was an easy choice. The competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate students of any university. More so, the competition welcomes students from any field of study, as racial justice is a wide-ranging issue that influences and can benefit from any academic discipline.

By the time Yale SOM hosts the competition in January 2022, I had spent nearly an entire calendar year working on making the competition a reality, along with my classmates Penelope Williams, Laura Brennan, and Kristi Meyer. Although it was a tremendous amount of work, it was incredibly rewarding. I recently had the experience of watching our semi-finalist teams meet with a representative from our sponsoring company, and was delighted to see the creativity, intelligence, and rigor with which the contestants approached the problem statement. Wherever our after-school jobs take us, the experience of considering all stakeholders in solving the real corporate problem of racial equality will serve us well.

Evans Hall. Credit: Harold Shapiro

Tip 3: You don’t have to start a new club to make an impact on campus.

Whether or not you want to be a campus leader for the cause of your choice, there are ways to make a big impact. It’s very important for clubs to get turnout at events, so being there in the first place is great. Beyond that, you can contribute by asking thoughtful questions, participating in challenging topics, and undoing topics that come up in class.

In one of our first weeks on campus, the professor discussed using modeling algorithms to determine who should be given leniency in conditional hearings. Before we move on, I nervously raise my hand and point out that algorithms have been shown to have an incredible bias along race lines. The professor responded better than I would have liked, acknowledging that was true and noting that segregation — given red segregation and persistent structural racism — US ZIP codes are an almost perfect proxy for race. The whole class learned that models that use postal codes in their analysis effectively use race as an indicator.

I am so grateful that the Yale SOM mission has bought so many passionate people together at Evans Hall. I’ve learned so many conversations with my classmates and beyond, and can’t wait to see what other changes students can make on campus, next year and beyond.

Claire Masters is a sophomore at Yale School of Management from Nyack, New York. Prior to her work at SOM, she worked for Moody’s and the Council on Foreign Relations, and trained with Hillhouse Capital. At SOM, she is involved in racial equality efforts, investment management, and admissions.

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