The Most Popular Traditions At Top Business Schools

MBA traditions

MBA traditions

You hear about them. You imagine them. And you can’t wait to be part of them.

Traditions. Celebrations. Customs. Rituals. All passed down, class-after-class, generation-after-generation. Every year, these events bring MBAs together. They create shared memories that connect classes to their program’s history, values, and standards. They build bridges between differing backgrounds and worldviews. They rally, educate, reinforce, and unify. In the end they remind students what their community really represents – and why they came here in the first place.


In business schools, these events can take many forms: ski weekends, dinners, conferences, and competitions. In a breathless world defined by packed schedules and side hustles, traditions remind MBAs to slow down – reflect and renew – and focus on building relationships (and the understanding that comes with them). That’s the idea behind Partio, an event held every Thursday evening at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School. Think of it as a themed family reunion – replete with food and beverages. Not only do full-time MBAs, faculty, and administrators gather, but the ranks include families, and Master’s students – and alumni and employers too.

Late in the year, for example, the school hosts an International Partio, explains ’23 grad Siddhant Pawar. Here, students share the delicacies from their home countries, with some adding cultural performances to heighten the spirit. Afterward, students hold a Follies event, filled with school-based comedy skits and tongue-in-cheek awards like ‘Best Dressed.’ “These events are a reminder that we are one big Rice family and we share the joys of life as a community, Pawar adds. “It shows we can laugh at, and make fun of each other, and come out of that experience as a tighter knit group. But most importantly, it instills the confidence that no matter where you are from or what your background is, you belong here!“

The best traditions preserve an institution’s identity – and the relevance of its mission. More than that, they foster a continuity as time erodes and change distorts. Wondering what business school traditions left a mark on this year’s graduates? During the Best & Brightest MBA nomination process, P&Q asked candidates to list their favorite business school event or tradition and why it resonated so deeply with them. Here are traditions from 44 elite MBA programs that shaped the experience of the Class of 2023.


Manchester Matters: “It is effectively a Ted-talk style lecture series in which any students can volunteer to present to the rest of the class on a subject of their choosing. I have taken part twice, first presenting “If Manchester United Had an AMBS MBA: We Wouldn’t Be in This Mess”. I am a huge fan and season ticket holder at Manchester United, so this was a fun way of linking the MBA with a passion of mine to present to the class. I’m happy to say this was in the first 6 months of my MBA, United are doing much better right now. Most recently, I presented to the incoming cohort, welcoming them to Manchester with my vast local knowledge.”
Joe Blackburn, Alliance Manchester


International Dinner: “Hosted every year, all graduate students get the opportunity to host a table with cuisine from their country that they share with all the other students, faculty, and staff. Beyond food, we also have student performances of cultural dances or music – and our students put a lot of time, effort, and preparation into making it a special evening. I love being engage with each other through food from all over the world, but most importantly to have a dedicated space to learn so much more about our colleagues’ home countries and what they love about their own traditions. It is such a fun, joyful, and really special experience that I look forward to.”
Martha Buckley, Babson College (Olin)


College Formals: “Being that the University of Cambridge is a collegiate system, the formals in any of the 31 colleges provide the perfect networking avenue; you can be sat next to a fellow, a PhD student, a master’s student, or an undergraduate. Still, the intellectual richness of the conversations will still be engaging. Cambridge is a hub of knowledge, and the college formals provide a structured way to network, which in and of itself is important for any MBA candidate.”
Daisy Moraa Ong’angi, Cambridge Judge


Friday B**rs: “Most Fridays the student services team at Tepper puts together a happy hour in the Tepper Master’s Commons. Students, faculty, and alumni all gather to mark the end of the week. This tradition reflects the community feel of the Tepper program – we like each other so much that we’d come all the way to campus on the day we don’t have class to share a drink together!”
Christopher Elston, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)


Random Walk: “My favorite tradition at Chicago Booth is the pre-orientation Random Walk experience. Each year, incoming students can elect to join 12-20 of their future classmates on a week-long domestic or international trip. Prior to my first year of school, I joined 16 of my fellow first-year students and four second-year students on a trip to Savannah, Georgia. I am beyond grateful to have met such an incredible group of people so early on in my MBA experience. Our group has remained tight-knit throughout our time at Chicago Booth and each of these individuals has been such an integral part of my business school journey. As a second-year student, I was selected along with three other students from my Savannah, GA Random Walk to lead a group of incoming first-year students on a Random Walk to Croatia. As corny as it sounds, it was incredibly rewarding and exciting to see this group experience a similar level of bonding and camaraderie that we found in our first-year Random Walk group. More so, I’m excited that so many people from the Croatia trip enjoyed their experience and are now embracing Booth’s pay-it-forward culture and will lead trips for the incoming class of 2025 this fall.”
Saron Strait, University of Chicago (Booth)

Liquidity Preference Functions (LPFs): “These are weekly social events where Boothies, partners, and faculty mingle while enjoying free food and frosty beverages. The punny title embodies Booth’s duality – we simultaneously cherish our proud heritage making history in finance and economics, while also embracing tongue-in-cheek levity that hints at our tradition of challenging the status quo. This year, our LPFs (wonderfully organized by my friend Morgan Tuff) spotlighted communities like OUTreach, POLO, Hispanic American Business Students Association (HABSA), and many more!”
Jeff Yao, University of Chicago (Booth)


Columbia Africa Conference: “My favorite MBA event at CBS was undoubtedly the Columbia Africa Conference. It showcases the immense potential and opportunities Africa has to offer while fostering meaningful discussions on the continent’s economic, social, and cultural development. As a student who had the privilege of helping plan this annual gathering, I found the experience incredibly rewarding. The conference has become a cornerstone of the school’s commitment to promoting understanding and collaboration between the global community and the African continent. Last year, it grew to become the second-largest conference on campus. The Conference brings together an impressive lineup of influential leaders, entrepreneurs, and academics from various sectors who share their insights, experiences, and visions for Africa’s future. It offers a platform for in-depth conversations, panel discussions, and workshops that dive into pressing topics such as sustainable development, technology, entrepreneurship, and social impact.”
GT Svanikier, Columbia Business School

CBS Matters: “At Columbia, we have something very special called “CBS Matters,” a tradition that allows students to share their story: what shaped them, what brought them to business school, and why CBS matters to them. Presenting students invite family, friends, faculty, and beyond, and share in whichever manner they wish. I’ve seen crisp PowerPoints, photo-dumps, video content, and stories expressed through song – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It is personal, intimate, and serves as a powerful reminder that we are not alone and never will be. I will forever cherish the memory of the day I shared mine.”
Sean Conley, Columbia Business School


Sage Social: “This takes place every Thursday at our beautiful main building, Sage Hall — which has a strong Hogwarts vibe! The social is a get-together for all 600 students in our program where we have the chance to mingle with one another. It reflects well about Johnson’s close-knit, small-class culture, as we have the opportunity to meet everyone and get to know them better. I attribute the strong Johnson bonding partly to this critical weekly social event.”
Calvin Tong, Cornell University (Johnson)


Small Group Dinners: “At least once a term, a team of Tuck second-years organizes “Small Group Dinners”, where you are randomly placed into a group of six Tuckies and invited into the home of a host student to enjoy a meal together. These dinners epitomize everything that Tuck is about, because it allows you to lean into our tight-knit culture by making connections across classes and between communities to get to know each other on a human level. You are pretty much always placed with a few people you have had little to no interactions with previously, but everyone walks away feeling better connected to each other and more aware of what they can lean on each other for – whether it’s a professional pursuit, mutual TV interest, or just shared life experience. It is always such a joy to participate in these and I am grateful for all the meaningful connections I have made through this established Tuck tradition.”
Sam Haws, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Diwali: “My favorite MBA tradition at Tuck is the Diwali event hosted by our South Asian Business Association. The tradition is my favorite MBA event because the organizers take such care to invite the community into the celebration– from choreographing dances for hundreds to participate in (and presenting on the origins Diwali), to lending classmates traditional clothing and beautifully decorating our common campus spaces. Most notably, I will never forget my amazing friend Geet Kalra (a professional dancer) performing the Bhangra with a hockey stick. In addition to him being a phenomenal dancer, it was a beautiful integration of the Tuck tradition of hockey into the traditional dance and an unforgettable audience experience!”
Destinée Mentor-Richards, Dartmouth College (Tuck)


Post-Internship Gathering: “After summer internships, Fuqua gathers all newly-minted second years for a day of fun and fellowship at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. It felt like a family reunion and field day combined into one! After spending a summer in Seattle away from my friends, I reconnected with my C-LEAD (small group) and friends while enjoying outdoor activities. We went paddle boarding, zip lining, whitewater rafting, and more! It was such a good time and one of the many moments I felt grateful to be a part of Team Fuqua.”
Christen Baskerville, Duke University (Fuqua)


KEGS: “A major benefit of starting the MBA in the fall of 2021 was that our class benefited from the return of a many traditions post-COVID. One tradition I had the pleasure of bringing back was Summer KEGS. Every Thursday during the school year, we have a Keeping Everyone at Goizueta Social (KEGS) event. This summer, while we were all interning, we hosted a larger “Summer KEGS” event. The goals of Summer KEGS were threefold: reconnect with fellow classmates interning at different companies that summer; integrate the 1-Year MBA candidates with the 2-Year students; and promote cross-business school camaraderie because we were allowed to invite our fellow interns (from other schools) to attend. It was so special to see how many people came out, to hear how everyone’s summers were going and to meet your friends’ new friends from other schools. Summer KEGS demonstrated to me Emory’s deep commitment to community, both intraschool and across the entire business school network.”
Madeline Davis, Emory University (Goizueta)

“Every Thursday, Goizueta Business School hosts KEGS, which stands for Keeping Everyone at Goizueta Social. This event invites both students and faculty to connect outside of the classroom in a less formal setting. There is usually food, drinks, and a theme. I love this event because Community was very important to me while selecting my MBA program. At KEGS, I get to check in with classmates that I may not share any classes with. It is a great way to stay connected and meet new people.”
Shanae Hillhouse (Smith), Emory University (Goizueta)


Gastrofest: “Every year, we host Gastrofest, which is a chance for all the different nationalities to cook their country dishes and have everyone try it. As the only Australian in the cohort, I roped my (Aussie) partner into the event too, and we spent all day baking pavlovas, making fairy bread, and hunting down vegemite in Barcelona. Shout out to the Peruvian table for the amazing pisco sours, the Indian table for the best chicken curry, and the Gambian table for the delicious tree of life smoothie!”
Melinda Keys, ESADE Business School


Warrington Cup: “This is organized during the MBA Association General Body Meeting in January, which was a series of minute-to-win style games with a big finale. Each student was put into random teams and played to win for bragging rights and having their name etched on the infamous Warrington Cup trophy. This event is held each year and was an amazing bonding experience. It really reflected the cross-cohort camaraderie and engagement, as well as how having small cohorts (which UF MBA is known for) helps form tight-knit bonds that will last forever. By keeping the cohorts small, you get to know each one of your classmates, make your UF MBA experience personal, and get continuous support from your peers in all areas – academic, extracurricular, professional.
Charline Pommeret, University of Florida (Warrington)


McDonough Cup: “[It] is a week-long competition between our MBA cohorts. The best part of the McDonough Cup for me was the field day at the National Mall. In the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, over 100 MBAs engaged in friendly competition over flag football, tug-of-war, ultimate frisbee, and a kickball tournament. It was a great reminder of our school’s strong sense of community and the amazing opportunities and experiences that come with being in D.C.”
Eric Saldanha, Georgetown University (McDonough)  

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