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Yale World Fellow Daniel Weisfield ’14

Daniel Weisfield, a J.D./M.B.A. candidate at Yale Law School and Yale School of Management, was one of two Yale students selected to join the 2013 Yale World Fellows cohort. The World Fellows program identifies mid-career leaders from around the world who have the potential to be change-makers in their societies. The Fellows convene in New Haven for an intensive semester of intellectual exchange and leadership training.

Weisfield's World Fellows class included a managing editor of The Economist, a leader of Venezuela's opposition political party, and Greenpeace's director of global strategy. "It was totally humbling to be selected for the program," Weisfield said.

Prior to law school, Weisfield served in two positions at the State Department, worked in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and founded a real estate investment company. He graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Humanities, magna cum laude, and won a Fulbright Scholarship for research in China.

At YLS, Daniel has served as entrepreneurship chair of the Yale Law and Business Society, as an editor of the Yale Journal of International Law, and as a fellow of the Information Society Project. He studied Chinese and Indonesian during law school and won grants to research foreign investment in Indonesia, Chile, and Mozambique.

Weisfield spent his 1L summer working in strategy at ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steel company, and his 2L summer as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.

How did you first become interested in applying to be a World Fellow?

"Back when I was an undergraduate at Yale, a friend invited me to have pizza with two of the 2005 World Fellows: Rui Chenggang, who is a prime-time anchor on Chinese Central Television, and Marvin Dames, who was chief of police for the Bahamas. I remember sitting in a wooden booth at Modern Apizza, 20 years old, talking about trade and inflation and crime with people who actually made decisions, or who directly influenced decision-makers. I'd grown up in Silicon Valley, where people were very focused on tech and maybe less focused on these other pressing issues. So that pizza dinner left a big impression on me. When I came back to Yale to do a J.D./M.B.A., I hoped I would get a chance to engage more deeply with the program."

Tell me a bit about your cohort group.

"Where to begin? We are 18 people. We come from five continents and many disciplines. We are entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, film-makers, activists. And of course we are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, black, white, and brown, Jews and Muslims and Hindus and atheists. We came from every corner of the earth to participate in this intense, aspirational, four-month experiment at Yale, and somehow we fused into a family. When our group is running on all cylinders, really humming, we inspire each other and critique each other, and we can generate ideas really quickly."

What was your experience as a World Fellow like? What events did you participate in?

"The transformative moment for me—and maybe for our whole cohort—was our retreat in the Berkshires. We went out to rural Massachusetts, to a little inn in the woods. After a long day of talking about the Fellowship and our goals, we had dinner, and we drank wine, and then we discovered that there was a zydeco band playing at the inn that night. So we danced until two in the morning, and Diala, who runs an arts organization in Jordan, learned how to play the zydeco washboard, and Enrique, Mexico's former director of crime prevention, DJ'd the after-party. I had a blast dancing with Sawsan, a Palestinian human rights lawyer. My family is Israeli. I already had immense respect for Sawsan and her work, but I think she and I reached a new accord there on the dance floor."

How was being a World Fellow significant for you?

"Being a part of the World Fellows cohort jolted me out of my comfort zone. I'd never been part of such an idealistic peer group. Spending every day with people like Carlos, who is risking his neck to bring democracy to Venezuela, or Janet, who runs global campaigns for Greenpeace...I experienced something that I have to describe as peer pressure. Peer pressure to try to make the world at least a little bit better, in whatever way each of us can."

What are your plans going forward?

"I hope to build businesses that employ people with dignity and preserve our planet's resources. I'm drawn to industries that involve some macro-level complexity but are fundamentally about a physical asset or process that I can see and understand. I'm really interested in real estate. Especially housing. I happen to be married to a talented architect. How can we design physical spaces that strengthen communities, reduce ecological waste, improve economic opportunity? I'm also really interested in mining, in trying to figure out how we meet the world's demand for raw materials while preserving our water resources, preserving plant and animal species, respecting the communities where mines operate. Those are the sorts of issues I hope to address through innovation in the private sector."

 Read more about the Yale World Fellows.