March 25, 2010

Elections: More than enough work to go around…

[Posted by Betsy Stiles, MS·MBA in Public and Nonprofit Management, Class of 2011]

It’s election season. After Massachusetts went through its own nationally anticipated and tension filled election, similar processes got underway at the business school (though with less national attention).

The turnaround is pretty quick in a two year graduate program. In order to faciliate the smooth turnover of responsibilities for programs, clubs and student government, the second years start bringing on first years early on. Usually at the start of the school year, clubs recruit 1-3 first year representatives to participate in clubs. Each cohort also has a first year representative on the MBA Council. This helps guarantee that at least someone knows what happens behind the closed doors of club/council meetings. Just kidding. Actually, just about every meeting is open to everyone. Any student can go to a council meeting and find out what is going on, what issues are they discussing this week, how does the process work. Club meetings are pretty flexible as well. Because all of us are busy, it isn’t always possible to make every meeting, and students drop in on the club meetings they care about and contribute whenever they can.

However, in order to make sure that the business of the clubs and the council are completed, it is important to have a committed core in every group. Thus, elections are born. Enough effort for candidates to show that they really care about an issue and enough visibility to create some accountability when they take the position on. (That accountability bit works fairly well in small environments, like the more intimate business program at Boston University – sadly not as well for larger contexts like Massachusetts or the United States.) The first year representatives in clubs are often students that seem to have a good sense of their career direction and know early on that they want to commit to a club related to that career – since the clubs really are resources for career growth. Some of the rest of us are still narrowing down our options.

The trick for clubs is to keep everyone engaged throughout the year, providing opportunities to learn about their industry/functional areas, and building up a community of people with common interests. As the rest of the first years sort of settle on our career paths and better define our interests (hopefully by early to mid second semester, in time to pitch ourselves for internship positions), the clubs then have to think about transitioning responsibilities. Which means, about the time you are getting the hang of being a first year student and figuring out your next academic steps, you start getting thrown into leadership positions.

Thankfully, unlike congressional debates on healthcare, we are a congenial bunch and a bit more collaborative as we make plans to take over the business school next year. While, there is some jockeying for positions, there is more than enough work to go around. And because we all have very diverse interests and skills (thanks to the diligent admissions staff), there is usually a position or responsibility that you will find both interesting and helpful to your own career development. MBA Council holds elections first, this year right before Spring Break. Those positions are a big responsibility, and so the students elected to hold them cannot hold elected positions in other groups (though everyone is definitely encouraged to remain active in clubs).

Then the clubs hold their elections, which has resulted in a flurry of emails all month. “Submit your platforms for the MS∙MBA Association!” “The marketing club is looking for nominations for the VP of Finance position.” “ Don’t forget to vote for VP of Marketing for the PNP Club!” It can seem a bit overwhelming, when you are also in the midst of trying to nail your summer internship down. However, slowly those internships are coming in. And, the second years already have one foot out the door (if not more), so they realize they have to get all the information passed along to the next group of leaders. It is a real test of knowledge management. So, amidst career research, internship interviews, homework and team projects, the first years are also meeting as new club leaders to start to plan what the next year will look like. Nothing to it.

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