Hello, and welcome to HBS!
As you begin a new chapter of your life by being here at HBS, you’ll quickly discover the many traditions, conventions, and idiosyncrasies of this institution and its community. This article attempts to shed some light on a little piece of the greater HBS culture – the piece around “sections.” You’ve probably heard your share of stories about section antics, class dynamics, and the degrees of camaraderie dependent upon the personalities assigned to your new second home. Believe all those stories. You will have little (actually no) control over what section you’re assigned to, but the good news is it’s only for a year and the bad news is it’s only for a year. From now through the rest of your life, you’ll be in few situations where you spend as much time involved with the same eighty faces as when you get assigned to an HBS section. As the school year begins, you’ll hear/see/read about countless tales from the new Section F, new Section A, and undoubtedly the Old Section D, better known as “The House of D” with their section mantra: “Who let the D’s out?”
Then there is Section P, the section that caters to the better half of the HBS community. It, too, is not a section you join or choose to participate in, but rather it is one to which you’re assigned due to your natural affiliation with HBS.
“P” is for Partners. That term itself- “partners”-I had never heard used in that context until I got to HBS. It’s a new PC word to add to your vocabulary and another box to tick off the HBS cultural learning list. Partners consist of the significant others, boyfriends, wives, girlfriends, husbands, fianc‚s of the students at HBS. And considering that many of us have moved ourselves from thousands of miles in support of our students’ academic endeavors, we really are the better half. Some of us are working professionals who bring home the bacon as our students slave over cases, study groups and exams-well, the slaving lasts for at least the first six months before they start loosening up about school. Some of us are full-time parents appeasing the kids who are unhappily cramped into tiny SFP apartments (SFP stands for Soldier’s Field Park-there another new vocabulary word-actually isn’t that bad considering the rent, location and security).
Like the student sections, section P consists of a diverse set of people from many countries, backgrounds, and interests. For example, a good friend and fellow partner, Michelle, is an ex-lawyer hailing from South Africa. Ruby has her hands full with two, going on three, kids and drives back up to Maine whenever the weather permits. There’s Chris, an “urban planner,” who works for Boston’s city government to manage public use of land, roads, and lakes. You can ask him about the infamous Big Dig. I grew up on the other side of the world in the dynamic and bustling Taipei, Taiwan but most recently moved here from the heart of the Silicon Valley. I’m now a strategy consultant riding the waves of an economic slowdown. My friend, Mari-Carmen, also comes from afar. She recently moved from Germany but misses her family in sun-drenched Barcelona.
If the diversity of Section P alone doesn’t excite you, the sheer size should. In the 2001-2 year, we’ll consist of more than 300 new partners plus 300 second-years. We’re definitely a section to be reckoned with! So relish your role as a member of Section P as much as your significant others will relish their own section experiences. The first few months will admittedly be tough because the school does after all focus on its students. You were transplanted from a comfortable existence to now confront a sea of strangers in a foreign environment for the next two years. But fear not, as a part of Section P, you are among friends who have undergone what you are about to embark on or are in the same boat of anxiety mixed with excitement.
To give a better sense of how Section P works, I should tell you about the HBS Partners’ Club. Because we don’t sit in Aldrich together every day from 8am until 4pm, the Partners’ Club’s activities and efforts are the true life behind Section P. The Club is like the social organization, open forum, and communication vehicle of Section P. Together we enjoy the best of Boston restaurants, share stories of being a part of the HBS community, ask each other questions regarding kids and HBS balls, and provide advice on a multitude of topics from international work visas to babysitters to first-year stress levels.
Having been at HBS for a year now, I know that the Partners’ Club has helped make my transition into the HBS community a smoother and happier process than it might otherwise have been. Admittedly, when I first got here last fall I was not actively involved with the club and its activities. I was starting a new job, settling into a new apartment, and also coping with not seeing my boyfriend very often – too many circumstances and too many excuses deterred me for jumping into this new community. Then after befriending a number of my new
counterparts who happened to be part of the club and hearing their happy stories of places they had gone as group, I decided to test the waters. I’ve never looked back since and I only wish I had gotten involved sooner.
So I’m inviting you to come try us out. Take control of your own orientation just as your student will be wrapped up in his or her own. Playing an active role in Section P only requires coming to our fun events, not being shy about asking questions (we’re all accessible by email, too) and opening yourself up to the many new people you’ll meet in the next few months.
We’ll be visible at all the orientation events as participants of Team Olympics, dealers at Casino Night, and actors of the HBS Show. Just look out for us. More importantly, the Partners’ Club (or Section P if you will) will be hosting a luncheon during the first few days of Orientation week so please do come and join us, or at least come for the free lunch. It may be daunting to tear yourself away from your student and come alone but some of the friendliest, most easy-going people at HBS belong to Section P. You’ll have fun and you’ll get a chance to ask us face-to-face all the little niggling questions you’ve had swimming in your mind since hearing that you were going to move to Allston, MA 02163 for the next two years. A panel of partners will be interactively discussing a spectrum of topics and we’ll make sure someone who has been at HBS for six months or more will be seated at your table.
Another thing to put on your to-do list is make sure you pick up one of our Welcome Packets. These will be given out throughout the first weeks of the year and are filled with need-to-knows and nice-to-knows to get yourself oriented to the campus, its environs and much more. If you get to campus before Orientation begins, feel free to reach out to Ruby Simonds (firstname.lastname@example.org) to pick up one of these packets ahead of time.
Finally, if you’d like to find out more about Section P, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ruby, myself or my friend and co-president, Mari-Carmen Calzado. Visit our website at //wasat.hbs.edu/partners. You’ll find pictures, contact information and advice on a variety of topics.
Again, welcome to HBS. We send our best wishes as you transition to this new home and join our community. I’m looking forward to meeting you soon!
Debbie Liao is the co-president of the HBS Partners’ Club. Debbie is a girlfriend (or “partner”) of September 2003 cohort, Ethan Bernstein. She has come to love living in Boston although she still misses Northern California dearly. If any of you San Franciscans ever have pangs of homesickness, feel free to seek Debbie out for tips on chasing away the winter blues. Ethan and Debbie will be in Boston for at least another two years because Ethan is pursuing a JD/MBA. She always welcomes correspondence, so feel free to shoot an email to email@example.com.