Why Clubs Should Factor Into Your B-School Decision

DUNLAP OVERSEES A BUDGET OF $3 MILLION TO $4 MILLION

That learning experience can also mean applying classroom lessons in real time by running a bona fide business. Dunlap oversees the Wharton Graduate Association’s budget of $3 million to $4 million. The association is fully incorporated as a nonprofit and is audited annually by an external firm. Jones says the B-school’s administration is largely hands off. “We end up mostly being a storage unit for T-shirts and other swag they haven’t picked up yet,” he jokes. Even the rugby team has a CFO, who makes sure the students pay their dues and the team stays on budget.

Meloche compares the Ross Technology Club with a nonprofit business – the leadership team manages a budget, designs the website, creates a marketing plan, and coordinates events and signs up sponsors.

A student performs karaoke during Kenan-Flagler's Legacy Cup, an innerschool competation

A student performs karaoke during Kenan-Flagler’s Legacy Cup, an innerschool competation

Even among smaller social clubs, the chance to lead a group of intelligent, intense, and very busy young professionals is important, according to Jones. “The leadership opportunities in clubs are excellent, and learning to lead a diverse group of really bright people is a great experience for students,” he says.

‘WE ARE COMPETITIVE AND THIS IS A SAFE AREA TO BRING IT OUT’

Business and leadership experiences aside, clubs offer a fun and, mostly, healthy outlet for cohorts of competitive students. Justin McShane, social chair of Wharton’s Rugby Football Club, says the sport leverages competition to build camaraderie. “The relationships and bonds of essentially doing battle on the pitch versus another team, where you have to count on one another, those last for a very long time,” he says.

Club events can also lead to vigorous inter-school rivalries. Duke’s Fuqua School and UNC’s Kenan-Flagler face off every April in the Blue Cup in which MBAs from both schools compete in 21 events, ranging from bowling and badminton to drinking games and volleyball.

Kenan-Flagler also hosts the Legacy Cup, where MBAs assigned to one of eight “legacies” compete in a series of events thoughout the year that culminate in the Legacy Cup Olympics. The event draws four-fifths of the student body, according to Jason Perocho, president of Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Student Association. “We are very collaborative and everybody looks out for each other here. But we are also competitive people, and this is a safe area to bring it out, where it is okay to get competitive between sections,” he says.

Students in Wharton's Boxing Club often compete in Fight Night, a boxing competition between U Penn graduate students

Students in Wharton’s Boxing Club often compete in Fight Night, a boxing competition between U Penn graduate students

For others, the outlet is more visceral. Wharton’s Boxing Club sends its top fighters to Philly Fight Night, an interschool competition that pits Wharton MBA candidates against Penn Law students. The event draws some 1,600 attendees as business and law students slug away at each other “for charity.””We get some of our Navy SEALs in the ring, and we usually are victorious,” Jones replies when asked about the outcome.

CLUBS AREN’T JUST FOR MBAS

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from campus clubs. The associations can also support students’ partners and families, who are often uprooted from their own careers and social circles. Kenan-Flagler runs the Kenan Connection, which provides support and a social network for those accompanying MBAs to Chapel Hill. Robin Ervin, whose husband is a current MBA student, says the club factored into their decision; it also gave her something to do when her husband was cramming for exams. “It’s not that I don’t do things without him, but it was great to have activities planned for when he normally would have been available,” she says. Ervin assumed the presidency of Kenan Connection in March and oversees some 100 members among six clubs, ranging from craft and dinner groups to those for families and international students.

CLUBS HAVE ‘A LASTING IMPACT ON THE VALUE OF YOUR MBA’

Kenan Connection's Craft Club organizes activities for MBAs' partners and families

Kenan Connection’s Craft Club organizes activities for MBAs’ partners and families

Overall, campus clubs serve a variety of functions, whether it’s exposing students to Kenyan versus Nicaraguan coffee or providing interview prep and support during the job hunt.  These benefits are worth weighing when choosing an MBA program, according to Jonathan Brallier, co-president of Wharton’s Rugby Football Club. “Whether it’s Wharton or any of the other schools, whether it’s rugby or any of the other dozens and dozens of clubs, the club environment should be an important consideration in determining where you go and where you get your MBA,” he says. “Almost invariably it will become a part of your social life as well as the network that you build, which has a lasting impact on the value of your MBA.”

Meloche is already reaping the benefits of his club involvement. He ultimately accepted a summer internship with Apple. He credits the offer to the tech club. “I never would have imagined I’d be working for Apple,” he says. “I grew up in a very small town of about 15,000 and ended up in the auto industry by default because it was in my backyard. But now I actually have the opportunity to work for a company I’ve been a passionate fan of for as long as I can remember.”

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