Just two weeks before the magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed thousands of people in Nepal and left much of the country in ruins, student leaders from the M7 business schools held their annual meeting. At this year’s gathering of B-school student body presidents from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, and MIT, the student representatives got on so well that they discussed the possibility of working together on student-led projects – a rarity among the M7.
“We were looking for opportunities to collaborate across schools,” says KR Ling, student body president at Booth.
Then on April 25 the huge earthquake and aftershocks laid waste to Nepal, killing at least 6,000 people, injuring more than 14,000, leaving millions homeless, and causing an estimated $2 billion in damage.
In the M7 schools, students began to organize donation efforts. Eliza Coleman, co-president of the student body at Columbia Business Schools, figured the time for M7 student collaboration may have come more quickly than she and her peers had imagined at the presidents’ meeting. She reached out to other student leaders. Student bodies at the seven schools had connections to Nepal and its humanitarian emergency: Nepali students, school-program trips to Nepal, and at Wharton, an MBA/JD student who was about to attempt Mt. Everest when the earthquake hit.
FEW DEGREES OF SEPARATION
At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, there are multiple Nepalis among the students, says former student body president Ben Dowell.“There are students at Kellogg who have family and friends affected by the disaster,” Dowell says.
The M7 student leaders were in – all in.
“This just felt like a very natural thing to collaborate on,” Ling says.
Very natural, but very rare. Aside from organizing a battle of the bands between Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan – facilitated by the schools’ proximity – the M7 student governments have not been in the practice of conducting projects with each other, let alone working together all at once.
“In terms of the heads of the student governments actually collaborating on something formal,” says Jackie Wong, executive VP of student affairs for the Wharton student body, “this is one of the first if not the first time all seven of us have come together and put together something that is for all seven of us.
A ‘PERFECT STORM’ FOR M7 COLLABORATION
“This is such a huge crisis that we all cared about, it was just a perfect storm for collaboration.”
Adds Sloan student body co-president Hema Bajaj, “This seemed like an initiative that we could collaborate on regardless of geography, and a very important issue as well.”
The group decided to use fundraising platform Tilt, which offered to waive the usual fees for its services, meaning donors will be making “a completely 100% money in/money out donation,” Wong says.
The online campaign is now underway.
“We have among the seven of us 7,000 students – that’s a large population to target,” Wong says. “If it grows, great, but even if it doesn’t we have a high market potential for the donations we can get.”