The Most Popular Traditions At Top Business Schools

During the Outdoor Leadership Seminar, HEC Paris students spend two days proving – and improving – their team-leadership skills during a series of increasingly difficult field exercises supervised by military-trained professionals.

Schell-X: “My favorite tradition is Schell-X, an event I get to help produce as part of our Peer Leadership Committee. It’s a TEDx-style series of short speeches or presentations that can be about absolutely anything. My personal favorites have been about overcoming failure, fun facts about macaws (apparently they have a great sense of humor), and a brief history of Madonna’s music career. I’m always excited to see what niche knowledge or wise anecdotes my classmates have to share. It’s an event that highlights my two favorite things about Scheller: our strong sense of community, and the diversity of experiences among our cohort.”
Courtney Felinski, Georgia Tech (Scheller)


Outdoor Leadership Seminar: “Every year, HEC MBA students go through para-military and leadership training over an intensive two-day period. The course is a combination of practical group exercises set and completed amidst physical challenges such as rope courses and makeshift boat construction. It may seem unorthodox to take part of an outdoor leadership seminar focused on intensive physical and mental activity, but when you think about the best leaders in the world, you often find that their skills were honed under duress and in overcoming crisis. While the best in the business could have the natural talent and charisma to pull it off, for the majority of those who enter the C-suite and take lead of a major organization, it often takes practice and many “trials-by-fire” to become great managers and leaders. In the stress of the moment and through overcoming the challenges of the day, you are forced to step up and be the leader who you need to be more, which often is more than the leader you think you can be. In a special way, the outdoor leadership seminar presented a thorough opportunity to test participants’ limits as individuals, team members, and, most especially, team leaders. It was an incredible opportunity to make real connections and memories with my classmates, an experience that I will never forget.”
Vernice Arahan, HEC Paris


International Country Nights: “[This is] where students from a certain nationality invite the entire section to experience their culture. Since we have over 40 nationalities in the MBA, we have tasted the ‘haute cuisine’ from Peru, the beers from Germany, and next week we will be experiencing an Arabic night. This reflects our diversity and the things we can learn from one another.”
Wouter Jaspers, IE Business School

Splash Project (Outreach): “During our orientation week, we were given the opportunity to participate in a Splash project, which is an outreach project in partnership with a local charity organisation. There was a single goal to be achieved for the entire class, in our case building an outdoor recreational area at a charity, broken down into daily tasks and divided amongst the sections. For me, this was not only an incredible opportunity to give back, but also to develop relationships within our class. This allows us to develop skills we may not have had (many of our classmates had not used power tools before), exercise our problem-solving skills and develop teamwork not only within our section but across an entire week and our whole class. This highlighted the human skills that are even more important to develop during our MBA as the hard skills. I will cherish the memory of this experience for many years to come.”
Nicola (Nicci) Gowing, IE Business School


Multi-Culti: “The most important events/traditions at IESE leverage on the vast diversity of students. My favorite one is called “Multi-Culti”, which happens during a Saturday in February in a large open-air architectural museum in Barcelona called “Poble Español”. During all the afternoon and night, each country (or group of countries) has a stand where they do cultural activities related to the country (from Chinese calligraphy to Spanish Flamenco music), including also regional food and drinks. It is a large event where most 1st- and 2nd-year MBA students join (usually with other friends/partners) and a fantastic opportunity to discover other cultures while having fun with your MBA classmates.”
David Boix Nebot, IESE Business School


Thumping the Desk: “The practice of thumping the desk by students when something extraordinary happens in the class stands out to me as my favorite tradition here. It may have happened when someone exhibited academic genius, gave a dose of perspective; or even when someone said something exceptionally funny. The gesture of thumping the desk had the effect of expressing camaraderie and appreciation among students.”
Dr. Rohit Singh Malan, IIM Ahmedabad


Discovery Expeditions (DE): “Each year, the IMD cohort goes on a Discovery Expedition to various parts of the globe. This is done to get an immersive learning experience in an array of different business and cultural contexts. At the same time, a lot of fun is had! I spent one week in Buenos Aires and one week in San Francisco. The similarities I witnessed between Argentina and South Africa made me more cognizant of how important it is to take lessons from people in different but similar contexts to us.

IMD’s tagline is “Real Learning. Real Impact”. The DE is an example of how this tagline is personified. Our learning was not only confined to the classroom or the European context, but encompassed a global outlook with tangible interactions, discussions, and experiences. The DE reflects IMD’s stance on academic, experiential, and diverse learning, and it speaks to IMD’s global focus.”
Craig Ian Plaatjes, IMD Business School


Faculty Auction: “Every winter, the Kelley Women in Business host an auction and the proceeds benefit the Bloomington Boys and Girls Club. Students and faculty submit items from rides to the airport to beer making classes to Taylor Swift tickets. We all have a really great time for an incredible cause, and it’s a fun chance for everyone to come together and bond outside of the classroom. Last year, I won a custom-built coffee table built by Professor John Hill (an excellent woodworker) and this year we raised over $26,000!”
Ben Krebs, Indiana University (Kelley)

Kelley Clap: My favorite tradition is, without a doubt, the Kelley Clap, where at the end of each class period, students and faculty clap for the learning that occurred during the session. The tradition was started by Walt Blacconiere, a professor of accounting who passed away in 2007, and it’s memorialized with a statue in atrium of the graduate business building. To me, this tradition reflects the collegiality woven throughout the Kelley culture, and more personally, it allows me a moment to reflect on how much I’ve learned since my first class in August 2021.”
Sarah Kiley, Indiana University (Kelley)


Maser Strategist Day: This event allowed us to apply our strategic thinking and problem-solving skills to a real-life company facing significant challenges. This year, we had the opportunity to work with Chateau de Fontainebleau, which was an exciting and insightful experience. In diverse teams, we leveraged our individual strengths and backgrounds to analyze the Chateau’s current situation and provide innovative solutions. The event provided a unique opportunity to engage with the company’s management team, learn about their business first-hand, and network with industry professionals. My team might not have won, but I take great comfort in knowing a team from my section won – Go E9!!”
Albert Kweku Gyamfi, INSEAD


Social Impact Days: “One of the most memorable traditions we have at Ivey is our Social Impact Days. Here, students in the MBA cohort step away from the rigors of business school in order to volunteer with local non-profit organizations and give back to the London community. Immersing ourselves in these non-profits, we as business students are reminded of the immense privilege we have, as well as the duty we owe as future business leaders to continue to aid society.

In our latest full day, a number of us had the opportunity to volunteer with local non-profit 519Pursuit, an organization that aims to support and reintegrate community members facing poverty and homelessness through a friendship-based approach. On that stormy winter day, we delivered warm meals, blankets, and clothes and chatted with some of these community members – an experience that was eye opening and incredibly humbling; a day I hope to never forget.”
Ramsey Andary, Ivey Business School


Ross Bus: “Hands down, the Ross Bus for tailgating and after parties is my favorite MBA tradition. During my entire time on campus, we never lost a home game. We had lots of visitors from neighboring schools and especially from the fans of the teams we would play. My fondest memory was the after-game party after beating Ohio State. To have hundreds of students and fans across the entire University of Michigan community partying in sub-20-degree weather in the snow is priceless. It speaks to just how committed and connected we are as a school beyond the “four walls” of our business school. The Bus and the football team fandom is also our not-so-secret sauce in connecting us with alums beyond our business school years. So many people remember and reminisce about their tailgate stories at The Bus. The recent success of our football team has just made things sweeter.”
George Okpamen, University of Michigan (Ross)


Formal Charity Event: “The formal charity event hosted by the MBA Association at the end of each semester is my favorite tradition. Both classes come together to connect and celebrate their triumph of successfully navigating through the semester. More importantly, we join hands to raise funds for a local non-profit organization. The event includes activity auction, artwork auction, raffle, donation, and ticket sales. We used the proceeds from the event as our contribution towards the non-profit organizations. Small Talk, Ele’s Place, and New Hope Pet Rescue are some of the recent organizations we partnered with. I appreciate this tradition as it promotes empathy among us and helps us connect with local community.”
Rajat Srivastava, Michigan State (Broad)


“The Carlson 4 Community (“C4C”) charity auction is my favorite MBA event as it embodies Carlson’s belief in “Business as a Force for Good.” The whole Carlson community, including professors, students from different programs, and career coaches come together for this event to raise money for a beneficiary. This year, in 2023, we raised $50,000+ for Operation No Limit — a Twin Cities based nonprofit that works toward enriching the lives of at-risk youth through education, and life and social skills development.”
Sanket Jasani, University of Minnesota (Carlson)


The Yard: “This one is easy. It is The Yarn! The Yarn is where Sloanies share their life stories in a captivating manner. We’ve heard devastating stories about deaths of loved ones, we’ve heard stories about how people stood up in front of adversity, and we’ve also laughed with some of the most outrageous dating stories ever. The common thread is the ideas and lessons all of these stories share. It unravels how these pivotal moments shaped my classmates’ lives. And, although I still haven’t been brave enough to stand in front of all my school, it has made me reflect on my own story. I reckon The Yarn reflects what Sloan is all about: Ideas made to matter – the ideas that truly mattered in their lives.”
Paolo Luciano Rivera, MIT (Sloan)


Dean’s Challenge: “This competition involved three top MBA programs in Singapore – National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Singapore Management University (SMU) – competing against each other in a series of events hosted by each school. The events included the MBA Olympics (organized by NTU), a sustainability case competition (hosted by NUS), and a talent show (hosted by SMU). NUS was fully committed to winning the Dean’s Challenge as it was an opportunity to increase our visibility and attract potential students. The competition was fierce and required significant time and effort to organize. I was thrilled when NUS won the Dean’s Challenge for the first time in 2022, achieving first place in the MBA Olympics and second place in the case competition and talent show. The event reflected the competitive yet collaborative nature of the business school and the importance it placed on teamwork, leadership, and a strong school community.”
Remy Tran, National University of Singapore


Blue Cup: “Every spring, UNC and Duke compete in Blue Cup. This historied tournament is a very important tradition in the UNC/Duke rivalry. From football and basketball to table tennis and CrossFit, the two programs face off head-to-head in a variety of sports in a week-long battle that is bookended by ceremony events. The program with the most wins receives the Blue Cup Trophy, and more importantly, bragging rights for the next year. It’s a fun celebration of the longstanding rivalry between the two universities. I have absolutely zero hand-eye coordination, but I am a great cheerleader!”
Paige Smith, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)


CIM (Culture Is Made): “My favorite Kellogg tradition is an exercise we did during the first week of school, at our orientation event called CIM (Culture is Made). At one point of the event, all of the new admits were invited to form a circle in an open field – hundreds of us holding each other’s hand, awaiting instructions from Professor Bernie Banks. He asked us to close our eyes and step forward If what he shared applied to us. Little did I know that this activity was designed to show us the diversity of the classroom. As the first person from my working-class family to attend beyond high school, I was convinced that I was the only one who was different, who didn’t belong. But as Professor Banks kept sharing different statements and people kept stepping forward, I knew that I wasn’t alone. There are many who felt the same way. Somehow, that made me feel at home and truly changed my perspective toward business school and my classmates. Words don’t do justice in describing the experience, you have to be there to feel it.”
Raisul Chowdhury, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Special K: “Kellogg has a show called Special K! and last year I was fortunate enough to participate as a cellist in the band. The show is written, produced, directed, and executed completely by students who make up the live cast, band, and tech crew. It’s as much a hilarious take on the Kellogg experience as it is heartwarming. I loved it so much last year I decided to come back this year as band co-director (with classmate Rae Hung) and cellist. In an MBA experience that can flooded with business cases and financial statements, Special K! has provided me the space to express myself creatively through music. Plus, I know I’ll walk away with friends for life through this unique experience.”
Michael Manzano, Northwestern University (Kellogg)


Grow the Good Gala: “I take pride in the fact that my MBA cohort initiated the Grow the Good Gala, an event that brings together MBA and other graduate students to raise funds for local non-profit organizations in the South Bend area. This new tradition aligns perfectly with the Mendoza motto, Grow the Good in Business, and the first year of the event raised tens of thousands of dollars for local organizations. The Grow the Good Gala truly represents the service-oriented and compassionate nature of what it means to be an MBA student at Mendoza.”
Kasey Kram, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

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