Choose Your Own Adventure

Fellows from the Chae Initiative and Ludwig Program reflect on a busy year of events, immersives, and other programming
Yale Law School students in front of the U.S. Capitol
Students from the Ludwig Program in Public Sector Leadership spent time in Washington, D.C. as part of immersive programming in January.

The first three years of The Tsai Leadership Program have all been action-packed. But this year —which saw the graduation of the first cohort of students who began the program in 2021 — may have been its busiest yet.

The Leadership Program offers a diverse range of classes, workshops, training opportunities, and events to Yale Law School students each year. Designed to reinforce the School’s existing curriculum with robust, cross-disciplinary training and mentorship opportunities, the program also offers focused support to students interested in careers in the public or private sector through its Ludwig Program in Public Sector Leadership and Chae Initiative in Private Sector Leadership.

For student Fellows, it’s been a rewarding — and occasionally life-changing — few years.

Gretchen Rubin leading a workshop

Gretchen Rubin ’94 led a workshop based on communicating better at work with students from the Chae Initiative.

A Year of Opportunities

The 2023–2024 academic year brought a full array of Leadership Program courses, reading groups, workshops, and events.

Classes, which are designed to equip students with the intellectual foundation and skills that are transferable to any career they choose, including career paths outside of traditional lawyering, covered a versatile range of subjects.

For the second year in a row, the Program offered a course called The Lawyer as Leader, exploring the role of the in-house counsel, co-taught by Benjamin Heineman ’71, former general counsel of General Electric, and Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law.

Other courses included Corporate Finance, taught by Associate Professor of Law Natasha Sarin; Everyday Leadership, taught by Heidi Brooks, Senior Lecturer in Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management; and Public Leadership and Policymaking, taught by Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University, and Cristina Rodríguez ’00, Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law at Yale Law School. (Hacker and Rodríguez both serve as Faculty Directors for the Ludwig Program).

Rodríguez also led a reading group titled How to Be An Effective Policymaker in the fall. Two additional reading groups offered this academic year included Leadership Ethics with Amy Schulman ’89, co-facilitated by Dean Heather K. Gerken, Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, and Schulman, a Managing Partner at Polaris Partners; and Post-Dobbs Strategy, facilitated by Fatima Goss Graves ’01, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.

All Yale Law School students had the opportunity to attend financial literacy workshops on topics — with titles ranging from Understanding Financial Statements to Corporate Valuation Methodologies and Financial Modeling — that ran throughout the year.

Bob Bauer, Ben Ginsberg and Heather Gerken seated at the front of a classroom talking to an audience
The first Crossing Divides event of the academic year featured Bob Bauer (left) and Ben L. Ginsberg (center) with Dean Heather K. Gerken.

A series of events focused on New Haven Leadership hosted a tour of the Dixwell, New Haven-based arts center NXTHVN, as well as a social entrepreneurship alumni panel, and a visit from New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.

During Entrepreneurship Weeks in October, students heard from C-suite executives and company founders. Speakers included Madhuri Kommareddi ’00, who spoke about entrepreneurship through acquisitions; Jay Koh ’98, who discussed adaptation investment strategies for climate change; Basha Rubin ’10 and Mirra Levitt ’10, who shared how they create technologies to connect outside counsel; and Jane Park ’96, who spoke about consumer goods production and scaling her start-ups.

The Crossing Divides Speaker Series, which launched in October 2023, hosted more than a dozen events, including lectures, faculty panels, and conversations among experts and jurists on different sides of the political spectrum on how to work together across ideological differences.

Students also attended workshop series, including ones titled Procedural Justice and another called Negotiation for Lawyers, as well as many standalone talks and events.

An annual highlight of the Leadership Program is its educational trips, which are designed to expose students to a wide range of possible careers in the law. In January, Chae and Ludwig Fellows traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C., respectively, to meet alumni leaders in the private and public sectors.

“One goal of the Fellows programs is to offer students the opportunity to meet with and learn from leaders who have taken diverse paths towards their goals,” said Margie Adler, Co-Head of The Tsai Leadership Program and Executive Director of the Ludwig Program. “Participation in speaker events, small lunches with visiting leaders and student trips provide those opportunities.”

Another goal of the Leadership Program is to deliver the educational opportunities on multiple fronts, said Mary Herrington, Co-Head of the Tsai Leadership Program and Executive Director of the Chae Initiative. “Students receive in-depth instruction in courses with our visiting faculty and then augment their coursework with shorter format workshops that teach leadership practicums. These ample opportunities are spaced throughout the year to ensure that students can take advantage of any or all of them,” she said.

Professor Cri

A series of events focused on New Haven Leadership included New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and Professor Cristina Rodríguez.

Trying on Hats

A guiding principle of the Leadership Program is that many legal career paths are far from linear. The program aims to prepare students for nontraditional trajectories and enhance their competency across a range of sectors.

Deja Morehead ’25, a Chae Fellow, attended a lunch with Jay Koh ’98, Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Lightsmith Group, a private equity firm, that tackled just this subject.

“I left our lunch with Mr. Koh with three main takeaways,” Morehead said. “One, there is room to move in and out of the public and private sectors throughout one’s career; two, I should pursue the path, whether it is linear or nonlinear, that best suits my interests and skill set; and three, It is possible to have a role where you can leverage your many different skill sets, talents, and gifts.

“By speaking with alumni with varied interests and paths, I have realized that there is no right or wrong path. Leadership takes many different shapes and forms,” Morehead added.

Chae Fellow Jae Kwak ’25 echoed that sentiment. “I'm a risk-averse person, so I have a general fear of deviating from the traditional legal career path. Through the Chae Initiative, I met alumni who were also risk-averse at some point but still made the leap to do something untraditional, and this has been inspiring. Now, I'm thinking about alternative career paths and willing to seize interesting opportunities when I get the chance,” said Kwak.

This past spring, the Chae Initiative brought two alumni who discussed just that. Jim Geraghty ’80 spoke about his journey from management consulting to leading pharmaceutical companies, despite not having a scientific background. And Logan Beirne ’08 shared his experiences building and selling businesses, in addition to writing a biography on George Washington. Both speakers were eager to help mentor students who are contemplating paths outside the traditional practice of law.

Professor Doug Kysar and Jay Koh speaking to students
Jay Koh ’98 (right) spoke with Professor Doug Kysar about founding a private equity firm focused on sustainability.

D’Urso said mentorship is a critical part of The Leadership Program’s structure. When students join the program, they’re matched with mentors in their target field. D’Urso said his alumni mentor was a “near-perfect pairing.”

But D’Urso also appreciated the chance to offer his own input on programming. “Overall, I’ve found the program to be incredibly responsive to student interest,” he said. During the year, he was able to help organize several events, including a student-led panel that hosted two judges from opposite sides of the political aisle to speak about their collegial working relationship, which was supported by the Crossing Divides Program.

Allura Landsberg ’25, a Ludwig Fellow, said she was excited to participate in many of the Leadership Program’s offerings this academic year, including several workshops and the Leadership Ethics reading group. She also served as one of two student leaders for the Post-Dobbs reading group and was instrumental in planning the syllabus.

For her, too, the program’s robust and wide-ranging offerings is its strength. Most law schools don’t treat students as future leaders of corporations or in government — but they should, she said.

“With the Leadership Program, you get to try on many more hats than you’d otherwise be exposed to, in business, policy, or government, and that helps give you skills that will help you across many industries,” said Landsberg.