Do you remember the last time you had a first day at school? To be fair, you probably shouldn’t. Most people have their last first day as freshmen at their undergraduate universities. But for those going to graduate school, you get one last hurrah. One more chance to soak up the excitement of starting all over again. And if you go to business school, you get that experience much later in life, which can be pretty interesting. Well just yesterday, I joined 600 of my classmates in our first day of orientation at Kellogg.
Incoming Kellogg students have been waiting weeks for this moment. They’ve been meeting up all over Evanston, getting to know their classmates on KWEST trips, organizing get-togethers all over the city, and forming Facebook groups to get more organized. But just yesterday, we finally all came together on campus, in the building that Kellogg calls Jacobs. And the entire day was jam packed with fun and excitement, as we kicked out our Complete Immersion in Management (CIM) experience.
CIM is part of Kellogg’s Pre-Term and is an orientation program that was launched in 1969, and it’s since been a part of an effort to introduce first-year students to each other and to Kellogg’s collaborative culture. “CIM Week was a fun and critical part of my Kellogg experience” one of the CIM executive leaders said. So everyone was pretty excited when they arrived. And after an hour long “breakfast” which was really nothing more than a meet and greet, we all met in the auditorium to finally get the day started.
The new Dean Sally Blount kicked off the day with remarks. As part of her overall speech, she mentioned that Kellogg has been on the cutting edge the past few decades and the first business school to hire non traditional Deans. The former Dean (Dipak Jain) from a small town in India, and the current Dean – Sally herself – a woman. The entire crowd clapped at the last point.
Among other things she told us that to get the most out of business school, we needed to do three things. Her first piece of advice was to get to know our classmates. This is a no-brainer in business school, right? Well, she acknowledged that, but she also put a lot of context around it. Not only did she tell us to meet our classmates but also to get to know people we might not otherwise meet and also engage in discussions with professions and administration. She also said to get to know them both in academic and personal settings.
Her second piece of advice was to be sure to engage academically. After all we were spending more than $100K to attend Kellogg over the next two years. She advised those with less quantitative backgrounds to be sure to hone their analytical skills. Similarly, she suggested that the quants and engineers take as many soft skills classes as possible. And Dean Blount was speaking from experience. And although she was trained as an engineer before business school, she ended up coming to Kellogg and eventually getting PhD in Organizational Behavior (i.e. called Management and Organizations at Kellogg).
Dean Blount’s final piece of advice was to make time for self-reflection. To think not only about school and jobs but also about who we are at the core and to think about what that means for our careers and our lives in the longer term. She also reminded us to engage in self discovery and eventually find a career that lets us be who we are. Because in the end, we’ll be happier and better off. The Dean reiterated this message when she visited our section and gave a quick 15 minute talk and answered a few questions. It was good to have her out on the first day.
In addition to these formal sessions, we also met with our Kellogg sections, and prepared cheers for the annual section cheer competition. My section was the Poets, composed of 100 people, which is bigger than all the other sections at Kellogg, because we have half of the MBA-MMM students. We practiced for two or so hours, coming up with a unique cheers, and headed to the auditorium for the two hour cheering competition, which was a blast.
Describing it here won’t do the cheers much justice, but in sum each section came up with chants and cheers mainly to promote its own section, but also to support its sister section (i.e. our was the Big Dawgs) and to defeat its rival section (i.e. ours was the Highlanders). It’s funny how everyone engaged so quickly in the activity and also how creative everyone was right off the bad. The two hour competition flew by, and my section, the Poets, somehow emerged from the organized chaos of the competition victorious, coming in first place across the eight sections. But there’s a lot of competitions left this week and I suspect the teams will shift around quite a bit when it’s all said and done.
But perhaps more interesting than the cheers and the outlandish competition itself is the way that blatantly silly and non-business oriented activities could bring everyone together so quickly and inspire more teamwork, energy, and collaboration than the idea of school itself. And for a second we all forgot about the high paying jobs we left and future education and careers ahead of us and instead engaged in creative planning and relationship building. From working together in our sections to come up with songs and chants, to executing them in the auditorium, to teams waking up hours early today to practice for “the name game”, this unconventional teamwork was effective at helping form bonds and building connections with classmates.
Personally, I was also in awe at how we could have so many people really contribute and be leaders in the competition. Whether as the creative designer who came up with props, the artist or “poet” that came up with a chant for the group, the student with a good idea for organizing the format, or the energetic person who wanted to galvanize the crowd, there was room for all types of leaders, including unconventional ones. And it was a pleasure to watch that play out in a section of 100 people, and in the overall group of 600 people.
But this is just the first day, and I suspect that the week will even get better after this, especially as we continue getting to know more of our classmates and as we start engaging in more of these fun and interesting activities. I look forward to seeing how the rest of the week will play out, though unfortunately, I’ll have to skip one or two of the sessions today to go downtown and take my final accounting exam. It’ll be nice to finally wrap up my summer classes tonight and spend all my time engaging in the FT Kellogg program after it’s over.
Thanks Kellogg for a great first day. And stay tuned everyone, for more updates on orientation.