As the academic and business landscape changes in the twenty-first century, many graduate students training for careers in the academy are considering opportunities outside of traditional university roles. While Yale Ph.D. students might be adept at navigating the worlds of conferences and academic publishing, many find themselves unsure how to adapt to non-academic professional environments. The Yale Student Business Society (YSBS), a student organization at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, saw an opportunity to deliver a foundational set of business skills to Yale graduate students, while also building relationships across the university as a whole: last spring, YSBS piloted a “mini-MBA”* program designed to prepare non-MBA graduate students for business-related careers.
“Harvard and Stanford already have programs like this,” said Chun Hu, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Pharmacology, and vice president of the YSBS. “It’s difficult for non-MBA graduate students to cross-register and take courses at the School of Management, and it’s a huge time commitment. But there’s a growing interest in this kind of training because students are seeing the value of having business skills in addition to the technical or academic skills you develop in graduate school. For humanities students too, this can be especially valuable if you’re considering a career outside of the academy.”
YSBS organizers interviewed their counterparts at Harvard and based their curriculum on The Ten-Day MBA, an abbreviated business skills guide by Steven Silbiger. They also collaborated with School of Management MBA students interested in entrepreneurship to build out and teach the curriculum. The three-week intensive course, which ran from March 24 to April 8, introduced students to integral areas of business knowledge: marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, strategy and business development. The course culminated in a challenging final case study and a networking session for mini-MBA participants and SOM students.
If the program runs in the future, Hu foresees an increased emphasis on soft skills like management, and a larger role for non-MBA students to teach short courses for SOM students on hot technical topics like artificial intelligence, block chains, or any variety of medical subjects.
“I was amazed by the engagement of our students,” Hu said. “The level of participation was phenomenal. The MBA students and faculty who participated were really impressed with the sophistication and intellectual depth of the graduate students. And our networking sessions weren’t just the usual food-and-drinks cocktail hours—we saw really substantive discussions about research and entrepreneurship, discussions that could lead to really productive collaboration in the future or even start-up companies.”
“I applied for the YSBS Mini-MBA because I wanted to develop basic business acumen that would enable me to better conceive of how my particular skill set can be best applied within the business sphere,” said Chloe Papadopoulos, a fourth-year student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. “The program was designed to expose participants to a range of topics, presented in a condensed and accessible format. This survey structure worked for my purposes, as I was looking to better understand the breadth of opportunities in private enterprise. It allowed me to evaluate where my interests lie, as well as to identify gaps in knowledge. My favorite session was our final case study, which allowed us to apply the material in a practical manner. I think that more sessions of this type would enhance the program and student engagement. Overall, I came away from the program with a great deal of knowledge and I enjoyed the experience immensely. I would certainly participate in similar programming in the future, if given the opportunity.”
*The Yale Student Business Society is unaffiliated with the Yale School of Management.
by Sean Blink, Website and Social Media Fellow