This Saturday (May 16) student teams from across nearly a dozen U.S.-based MBA programs will square off for ultimate bragging rights. Dubbed the “MBA Battle Royale,” the three-round virtual competition is a combination improv, presentation, and game show launched in response to closed campuses amid the coronavirus pandemic will run on Zoom beginning at 8 p.m. EST.
The event, with 30 to 40 current MBA students from 10 business schools organizing it, has been called the epitome of MBA ingenuity.
Here’s how it started. Some socially deprived MBA students created a WhatsApp group to brainstorm and share ideas on how student leaders at different B-schools could keep their communities connected and engaged in the new world of social distancing. Christina Troitino, a second-year MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, created the group. First-year Chicago Booth School of Business student Nick Weiss was one of the early members, which now has more than 40 members at about a dozen U.S.-based B-schools.
“We are very much so on opposite sides of the country, but our schools are experiencing very similar things in that when all of the shelter-in-place and everything with coronavirus was happening, this is not what we expected to happen during our time at our MBA programs,” Troitino tells Poets&Quants on a Zoom call. Both Troitino and Weiss were “respective leads” for their schools and communities and were looking to make the most of the social distancing because they were still “social MBAs trying to make new friends,” Troitino says.
‘WE STARTED THINKING ABOUT WHAT BRINGS ALL MBAs JOY’
What started as a way to brainstorm ideas and best practices for virtual hangouts, figuring out how to deal with things like Zoom fatigue, and keeping each other posted on their respective communities soon evolved into much more. One member of the group floated the idea of creating a social event that would span across the schools in the thread. “It was so fun getting to know people from other programs,” Troitino explains. “And we were like, it’s fun getting to know people from our programs but there are so many great people from other programs out there who are also looking for some stimulation and an outlet.”
And then the MBA Battle Royale was born.
“We started thinking about what brings all MBAs joy,” Troitino says. “And our idea basically spiraled into this virtual, comedic game show.”
ALL MONEY RAISED WILL GO DIRECTLY TO DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS
People who want to watch can buy tickets for as little as $12 or donate as much as they want. For each ticket sold, the person buying the ticket can give credit to one of the 10 schools participating. The school with the most tickets sold will have an additional $5,000 donated by Leveredge on the school’s behalf. All donations will go to Doctors Without Borders. As of May 13, over 1,000 tickets have been purchased and about $32,000 raised. Stanford’s GSB is currently leading the competition of tickets sold with 189. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management is in second with 125. And Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management follows with 112 tickets sold.
The actual event will include three rounds where teams of two from each of the 10 participating MBA programs compete head-to-head. Each team will compete in each round, which includes rounds in improv, presentation, and a game show. The goal is for the teams to “best represent” what the MBA experience is actually like. “There is a competition component to it to stir people to do their best,” Chicago Booth’s Weiss says. “But in reality it’s just for some laughs and to have everyone come together and have fun around hilarity of MBA programs.”
Troitino says the rounds and prompts have been set up so each school has a chance to thrive. Teams have also already been submitting one-minute videos, showing why their teams deserve to win, which will be played during the two-and-a-half-hour event on Saturday. “The content coming out of MIT right now is probably best,” Weiss says. “But UCLA has also been stepping up its game over the past few days. We call the guy producing the videos from MIT the Christopher Nolan of MIT because he’s such a good cinematographer.”
Judging the competition will be popular MBA-themed influencers like MBA Mikey, Corporate Bro, Crazy Management Consultants, and _FiDiGuy.
CREATING A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE IN UNPREDICTABLE AND TOUGH TIMES
The reaction to the event has been overwhelmingly positive. When first launched a little more than a week ago, Troitino says the tickets “flew out the door faster than we anticipated.” Soon after, both Troitino and Weiss couldn’t help but “MBA it” and began business development sponsorships and began receiving items to auction off. Two of the popular companies donating auction items have been Cards Against Humanity and Soylent. “They were so generous, too,” Troitino says of Soylent, laughing. “I guess they know their audience and that’s great.”
No matter which school ends up winning on Saturday, Weiss says they’ve already benefitted from the experience.
“I think, out of all of this, one of the benefits is we’ve been able to come together and share a number of things,” he says. “Christina (Troitino) and I have never actually met in person but I text her more than I text any of my friends.”
“A silver lining is we’re all making friends with people at other programs,” Troitino agrees.
It has also already provided a positive outlet for its organizers.
“This whole experience has been such an uplifting thing to go through where we now have a collection of 30 to 40 MBA students that are involved in this experience,” Weiss says. “No one is getting paid and we’re all students full-time. And we are all just deciding to come together because we want to host something fun for everyone to enjoy.
“I hope this can be a catalyst for future things like this. There is a lot of connectivity across these programs that we do share that might not have been noticed in the past.”