In April 2013, when Brandon Meloche arrived at the University of Michigan’s Ross School for Go Blue Rendezvous, a “sell” weekend for prospective students, he knew two things: He wanted to go to Ross, and he wanted to change industries with his MBA.
A mechanical engineer from a small Canadian town across the border from Detroit, Meloche pursued an auto industry career “by default.” Now, he was ready to blaze a new trail and was leaning toward management consulting. But after attending alumni career panels in consulting and technology, he changed his mind. “When I sat in on a tech panel of Ross alums, they were so passionate about what they were doing and really loved the work they were doing, that it drew me in immediately,” he says. Rather than jumping ship for a more geographically strategic school in Silicon Valley or at one of the East Coast’s innovation hubs, he stuck with Ross – and joined a club.
The 300-person Ross Technology Club filled a void, giving him instant access to more than 1,000 tech club alumni on both coasts who were eager to dispense advice. “I came in very concerned about whether I was going to be able to find an internship in this space, not having a computer science background. The tech club reassured me that it was possible, ” he says.
He joined the club’s corporate relations team his first year and developed working relationships with alumni and recruiters. An alumnus provided a referral for Google that led to a summer internship offer. “For Ross especially, the tech club is a crucial element if you want to get into the tech space. It’s pretty much essential unless you have a tech background and are well established … it’s a starting point for the recruiting process,” Meloche says.
From the core curriculum and classroom technology to its alumni network, accepted students generally know a B-school in and out before committing to it. But many overlook a pivotal part of their MBA experience – campus clubs. Few schools track club involvement, but anecdotal evidence suggests that MBAs join three to five clubs and hold one to two leadership positions over the course of their two-year education.
It’s widely held that MBA candidates will devote as much time to professional, affinity, athletic, community service, social, and diversity clubs as they do to the job search (often clubs are a key part of it). Depending on the student, clubs may also supersede academics, and – depending on the school – they often fill voids the curriculum doesn’t cover, including the opportunity to gain invaluable leadership experience.
CLUBS ‘ADD TO THE FABRIC’ OF THE COMMUNITY
Campus clubs are the social glue of a B-school. They bring students from different backgrounds together and create the MBA experience that transcends the academic one, according to Wharton’s Vice Dean of Student Life Kembrel Jones, who’s affectionately called the Dean of Happiness.”The club system really adds to the fabric of what we do around here … the things that come out of it help us build a strong community,” he says.
Jones says nearly all activity outside the classroom is organized by the school’s 100+ active clubs, which range from the Yoga and Wellness Club to the Francophone Club – and once included a now-defunct Texas club that taught line dancing.