Life As An Elite MBA Student’s Partner

Dicky Kwok was concerned about how he would spend two years in the U.S. while his wife completed her MBA. Then he learned about the Joint Venture Club.

The club, with about 820 active members on Slack and 1,600 on Facebook, is run by the spouses and partners of full-time MBA students at Kellogg, whether in the one- or two-year program or one of Kellogg’s dual-degree programs. With 16 officers organizing everything from club finance to marketing and event planning, the JV Club organizes mixers and other activities big and small. On the big side: a major upcoming trip to Turkey that will include more than 550 students and JV Club members.

More broadly, the club is about participation — keeping partners involved and employing their skills to the benefit of the program.

“I really want to stress the point that JV’s are not only able to have a good time through parties and mixers,” Kwok says, “but practicing leadership skills is also an essential part of a JV life here at Kellogg.”


It’s not always easy to get MBA partners involved, Kwok says, particularly international students, who are often so overwhelmed that they become insular. He takes particular pride in bringing those spouses and SOs out of their apartments and into the group.

“Many struggle with language barriers, and tend to stay at home,” Kwok says. “That can be tough and that’s something that I’m trying to solve and see if we can get as many people out as possible, and just let them know that it’s actually a friendly environment. With our club, just doing big activities and doing small activities makes a massive difference. Because not everyone is comfortable, especially when you’re from a background that is a little bit more introverted, I’d say. It’s just not as easy to come out.”

Kwok wants to build up the JV Club’s alumni network, using it in the same way the Kellogg School uses its network of MBAs to mentor and otherwise assist prospective and current students.

“If someone who’s coming in to become a JV, there could be some context that they could get in touch with and have a chat about and just ask about life in general here or something like that,” Kwok says. I know that for student alumni even after they graduate, they have alumni leaders within different countries that incoming students who\ just got an offer from Kellogg will be able to reach out to, and speak to a few people from the alumni program. Obviously that’s a big thing. I don’t know if we are going to be able to achieve that from a JV perspective, but that’s something that I want to aim to.

“Because yeah — my experience was great, but it would’ve been even better if I had known more about what to expect before I came here.”


Kwok’s involvement with the JV Club quickly became an exercise in leadership skills, which itself became a springboard to more opportunities. He is now also co-president of the Kellogg Cares Club, which encourages volunteering and community service among Kellogg students. “We aim to raise awareness of community issues and organize service events for the student body and the Kellogg community,” Kwok says. “Our mission is to help Kellogg students make volunteering and community service a fun, memorable, and impactful part of their business school experience.” Kwok is one of a few non-students listed among the club’s officers.

“Slowly this year I’ve encouraged a lot more people, a lot more JVs, to step outside of their comfort zone and really get involved in the other clubs that the students usually run and see if we can run it, since the resources are here and some of us here don’t have work or anything like that,” he says.

“Kellogg is one of those schools that really encourage JVs’ perspective, and even JVs have knowledge from different backgrounds and different industries, which could offer a lot of insights. And I guess that could help with the development of the school system, with the club system — not just within the JV Club, but also within other clubs as well.”

Recently he encouraged five incoming JVs to join the executive board of the Kellogg Cares Day Committee; they have organized a big one-day event, Kellogg Cares Day, that will involve more than 800 students, faculty, and staff doing community service and giving back to Evanston and the Greater Chicago area.


Kellogg’s JV Club is a model for other schools, Kwok says, Though they work and communicate with a handful of other B-schools, notably nearby Chicago Booth School of Business, the Kellogg JV Club is singular in its reach and level of involvement, he says.

Other schools “have nothing close to what we have,” he says. “The business schools on the East Coast are not as inclusive with partner programs. And that’s why it’s something that I think would be really great to get that out there to see — just to showcase, this is something that can happen. That might even be part of the reason why some students might choose Kellogg over other peer programs — over Harvard or Wharton. It does make a difference, I think.”

The bottom line is that the happier your partner is, the happier you as an MBA student will be, Kwok says — and the better you’re going to do in the program.

“If you live in downtown Chicago — and I’ve seen this happen many times — and your partner just hates being involved, it just makes it harder for the students to be involved with extracurricular activities.

“Doing things just to make partners feel a little bit more included, makes them say, ‘Hey, I’m actually part of this society. This is going to be good.’ And that gives the student more opportunity to dive into the Kellogg programming and get much more out of it as well.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.