Thursday, May 5, 2011

3 out of 5 ain't bad

I am almost done. Three of my five classes are totally finished, with a presentation yesterday and two exams today. When I wrap up a class I like to give some closing thoughts on it, since that's kind of a central goal of this blog -- to share the MBA experience.

Leadership Strategies for Music Presenters. This class was taught by the dean of the music school, Robert Blocker, and was taken by about a dozen Yale School of Music students and five School of Management students, including myself. It was a weekly three-hour class that almost always featured a guest, and we hit on high-level themes (like artistic vision) as well as drilled-down specifics (like how to deal with difficult personalities on a board). In a contest to determine which course during my MBA left me having learned the most stuff, this one would not win, but it was one of my favorite experiences at Yale. I got to know some musicians, as well as the dean and music faculty, and the class was such a pleasure. We visited Steinway & Sons in New York and the City Opera, and almost every week followed class with a delicious and interesting three-course dinner in a private room at the Graduate Club. This was not like an SOM course; it was slow-moving without a lot of concrete takeaways, and it was more about teaching through experiences and relationships as opposed to readings, problem sets and PowerPoints. And I think that's a good approach for certain subjects.

Investment Management. I took this class for a couple reasons. I love math. I loved the Investor course in our core (Fall-2, second quarter of first year). And I think people with an MBA should know about financial things, even if they don't dive into them for a living. These were many of the reasons I took Corporate Finance last semester; that course was tough for me, but I'm glad I took it. Same here. The material in this class ended up being a lot more challenging than I expected -- everytime I blinked there were models with lots of Greek letters or calculus or natural logs or bell curves with shaded areas scribbled all over the board. I had several "Wha?" moments. We covered a shit load of material, including market history, arbitrage pricing theory, factor models, active portfolio management, behavioral finance, portfolio evaluation, private equity, endowments, hedge funds, options, futures, swaps, fixed income, international diversification, ethics ... each of these things could be (and in some cases is) its own class. So it really was an intense overview of this subject. But I've done well and think the final went great. I'm probably not going to get a Distinction, since that would require outperforming 90% of my peers who all seemed to be quite comfortable with all this stuff, but when I inevitably get my Proficient I may choose to believe I was close. This was taught quite well by a new professor named Justin Murfin, who was excellent.

Strategic Leadership Across Sectors. Nobody calls it that, first of all. Everyone just calls it "Sonnenfeld," after the professor. This was in many ways a bizarre class, kind of the School of Management equivalent of my music class. Each week, we met for three hours with an array of amazing guests you wouldn't believe. The details would be fantastic blog fodder, but I've been carefully mum about it because apparently a student a few years ago was expelled for blogging about something that was discussed in the class. So I'm afraid to even mention who our guests were. Just not worth it. Like the music class, it was weak on structure and takeaways, but I bet this is the type of class I'll always remember, if only for the proximity-to-fame factor.

So those are the three I've finished with. I'll give my two cents on the others over the weekend. Just about done! Can't believe it. Just can't believe it ...

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