For the first time since the pandemic, HEC Paris held the three-day MBA Tournament in-person, from May 5-7.
The three-day event attracted more than 1,500 MBA students from top business schools around Europe, including Esade Ramon Llull University, London Business School, Imperial Business School, and this year’s tournament winner, University of Oxford Saïd Business School.
As the largest MBA gathering of its kind in Europe, the MBAT includes sporting and cultural activities, networking opportunities, and celebrations to foster inclusiveness, inspiration, and innovation — all alongside a healthy dose of competition. This year, it was the 31st edition of the tournament, and the first post-covid, in-person event since 2019.
“There was definitely an appetite from our students to get back to the HEC Paris campus and take part in a flagship event amongst European schools,” says Matthew Conisbee, Saïd Business School’s MBA director.
“Coming out of two years of reduced events and social activities, it was so nice to see so many people in the same place again, cheering each other on,” adds Saïd MBA student Guadalupe Oliver.
CREATING AN INCLUSIVE, DIVERSE SPACE
Conisbee describes the MBAT as a unique annual opportunity to network with other students. He says that the return to an in-person MBAT after two years of virtual events was incredibly well-received. “We were keen to support the students in attending the MBAT once we knew the Omicron wave had passed its peak,” he says. “This was the first time we had over 200 students travel together since the pandemic.”
The competition works like this: For each event, there are first, second, and third places. First place receives 30 points, second place 20 points, third place 15 points, and all participating teams get two points each. “The idea of this tournament is to create an inclusive, diverse space to bring people together and try to win as a team,” says Taimur Tanoli, an Oxford Saïd MBA student.
Out of the 30 competitions, Oxford Saïd placed first in 15 of them. “Our goal was to have as much fun as possible while still taking it seriously and competitively,” says Tanoli.
For Tanoli, the tournament allowed him the opportunity to speak with people in his cohort he’d never had the chance to speak to before. “It was a great way to socialize in a non-drinking manner and do something athletic to create bonds,” he says. “This competition is something that business school cohorts can look forward to, and helps to create a sense of camaraderie.”
“Throughout the year, everyone is so busy,” adds Bartek Ogonowski, a Saïd MBA student. “Being in an environment where we had over 200 people cheering for each other brought us all together.”
ORGANIZING THE EVENT
As volunteers in charge of organizing their cohort’s participation in the MBAT, Oliver, Tanoli, and Ogonowski began planning as early as September 2021. “We put in many months of effort,” Tanoli says.
Ogonowski says the planning committee’s goal was to make sure that they had a successful team. “We tried to get as many people as possible involved,” he says. “And we succeeded. We had over 220 Oxford students participate, which was by far the most from any business school.”
These three students had a few highlights over the course of the three-day event; Oliver lit up when speaking about her gold medal football game, Tanoli enjoyed watching the high-caliber level of basketball, and Ogonowski most enjoyed the music competition, where Saïd had 12 of their ‘rockstars’ — as described by him — on stage singing and stage diving.
Plus, Tanoli says the experience allowed him to better understand the cultural differences between people, and how it affected their behavior. “Putting aside our biases and norms to find out what our cultural differences are was a huge learning curve.”
‘THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE SMILING’
On the final gala night, when Saïd received its trophy, Tanoli recounts looking at the crowd of not only classmates, but new friends made during the event. “I’m most proud of our cohort’s sportsmanship,” he says. “We were gracious and humble in our victory, and we were friends with everyone by the time we left.”
Since returning from the event, Ogonowski says that people are more social and bonded. “There are more people smiling and talking to each other now,” he says. “There are moments in your life that you’ll remember for a long time, especially in a post-Covid world. This event is one of those moments.”
Learn more about the MBA Tournament here.