MBAs can usually be found hunched over cases, scouring market data or swapping business cards, but on May 9 through May 11 more than 1,300 students from Europe’s elite programs will dribble, sprint, climb, swim, row, bat and kart their way through 23 sports during the three-day MBA Tournament in Paris.
HEC Paris has hosted the annual event, informally dubbed the MBA Olympics, for more than two decades – this year marks the 23rd tournament. The invitation-only meet up grew from six schools in 1991 to Europe’s largest gathering of MBA students. In the 2013 MBAT more than 70 nationalities and 15 schools, including London Business School, IESE, INSEAD and IE, will be represented. Harvard Business School has also committed to sending a soccer team, signifying the first year an American program has entered the tournament.
‘THE IDEA IS REALLY TO GET TOGETHER THE TOP BUSINESS SCHOOLS’
Beyond an opportunity for MBAs to showcase their sporting savvy and defend their schools’ reputations, the event offers a prime networking opportunity through social events, including a formal Monte Carlo Night and a mini Woodstock Festival featuring an MBA Battle of the Bands. “The idea is really to get together the top business schools in the world,” says Emilie Flanagan, an HEC Paris MBA and co-president of the MBAT committee. “It has been a project for years of the MBAT to attract as many top business schools and future business leaders to campus…this year it’s super exciting because we’re finally getting Americans to come over.”
For HEC Paris’ students, it’s also a chance to roll up their sleeves and put their classrooms skills to the test. “It’s a real project with real people, and it has a deadline, and you have to get that going. In terms of your business education, it’s definitely a great opportunity,” Flanagan says.
The program is incorporated into the school’s curriculum, and MBAs receive class credit reflective of their roles – leadership positions count for five credits while volunteer or sporting spots merit two. MBAs also elect their MBAT planning counsel. New students form teams and campaign for several weeks for the coveted leadership roles – the winners take over the MBAT responsibilities from the previous class. Flanagan says coordinating the competition has been a pivotal part of her MBA. “It’s a great experience because it’s hands-on management on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “You’re learning about marketing and you’re looking for sponsors, creating a mascot, looking for logos, so it’s a really great way to apply your school knowledge right away.”