Sonoma State University welcomes a new executive director of Graduate Business programs, Soo Haylett. Haylett had been at Sonoma State for over four years as program manager in the same department before taking over her new role in March. She replaced former executive director John Stayton, who left the position to focus on consulting and management of his family business.
“I’m excited because it aligns with my passion, which is to help with the growth and transformation of our leaders, so that they can bring a positive impact to the world through business,” Haylett said.
Originally from South Africa, Haylett has experience with technology, sustainability, and education. Growing up, Haylett was committed to dance, attending an art ballet music school and then the London Contemporary Dance School.
At the age of 21, her fascination with other cultures inspired her to go travelling. She’s been to Asia, India, Nepal, Thailand, Europe, and South America. “I love to meet other people and see other ways of doing things, it’s such an eye-opener,” Haylett said. “Different ways of being and seeing the world are all valid.”
It was when Haylett discovered technology that her passion shifted from dance, and through technology her interest in business grew. “In my day not everybody even had an email,” she said. “I remember when email first came out, at the time it was amazing and I saw the power and the possibilities… It was technology that got me into business.”
Before coming to Sonoma State, Haylett consulted for Autodesk and San Francisco’s Department of the Environment. She developed and led programs for Venture Greenhouse, a business incubator at Dominican University, and managed projects and teams for MarketWatch and Dow Jones.
It was when Haylett attended graduate school and received her MBA in sustainable enterprise that her enthusiasm for education was sparked. “I was working at Dow Jones a few years back, and I wanted to change direction to do something a little more meaningful,” she said. “I went into the MBA program myself, and in that I realized the real power and impact that education can have, specifically through business. Business drives everything in the world.”
Haylett said one way that business has a positive impact is through sustainability. She has done work to help promote sustainable business in the bay area, including helping businesses see the benefits of adopting sustainable practices. “In this day, it’s become just good business practice to be sustainable,” she said. “But what we try to show them is the financial benefits. For instance, reducing their energy bill.”
It is Haylett’s love of nature that drives her passion for sustainability. “Bottom line, nature and the earth I care deeply about,” she said. “We can’t just take from the earth, we need to be very smart about it so we can continue to use it. The earth provides a place for us to live, and without that we won’t be able to continue.”
Haylett plans to improve the graduate business program at Sonoma State by staying relevant, keeping up on what is happening in the job market, and by increasing utilization of available technology.
Another way Haylett plans to improve the program is through faculty involvement. “How can we reinvigorate [the MBA program]?” she said. “I think a lot of that comes from our faculty. How can we make the courses that are available really relevant and exciting? I definitely want to collaborate with the instructors on that because I’m not a faculty member. They are the ones that bring their expertise.”
“Soo Haylett’s collaborative and inclusive approach with faculty, staff, and students, commitment to excellence in student learning and program development, and data-driven approach to decision-making make her an excellent fit for the trajectory and goals of the SBE’s Graduate and Executive Programs,” stated Karen Thompson, interim dean of the School of Business and Economics, on the Sonoma State website.