If HBS’ preparations to handle the arrival of all members of the Class of 2003 at one time can be compared to a battle plan, the volunteers who will be running Orientation are on the front lines.
While details about venues and specific scheduling are still being finalized, the three coordinators-Ipsita Dasgupta, Trisha Jung, and Jill Allen-say they are confident that they will be able to uphold its mission-to provide a fun opportunity for the new students to get to know as many of their classmates as possible.
Maintaining that thrust is not as simple as it seems since it is difficult to find venues that can accommodate almost 1,000 students, plus their partners.
While administrators can rest easy knowing that Burden Auditorium can hold the entire class for academic events like Dean Kim Clark’s welcoming address, adding partners to the mix for an event like the Orientation Show will tax its capacity.
At the moment, however, the organizers are optimistic that they will be able to handle the large groups.
“We’d like to try to keep the group together whenever possible,” Jung said. “We are trying to ensure that we have the right amount of space and the right venues so that people can get to know each other.”
From the customer-service perspective, Dasgupta said the organizers are aware that assigning the class into different groups would either lead to confusion about who was supposed to be in which venue at which time, or to the development of “two separate groups of 500 people who only know each other.”
And with Foundations starting the following week, Dasgupta said the incoming students will learn soon enough how to live in a tightly scheduled environment.
One event that may have to be broken up is the annual Team-Building Olympics. However, Jung noted that since the main structure of that event involves 8- to 16-person teams, holding it in multiple sessions won’t change its fundamental character.
Meanwhile, the event will also benefit from some added flexibility because organizers will be able to use the Spangler Center as a venue for events like Casino Night for the first time.
The three coordinators, all members of the Class of 2002’s Section B, have taken on specific areas of responsibility. Allen is responsible for locking down the venues for events like a Boat Cruise on the second night of Orientation, Dasgupta is lining up the volunteers and making sure the group’s work is documented to provide assistance to future generations of Orientation planners, and Jung, who was also a coordinator of last year’s January Cohort Orientation, is overseeing finances and lining up corporate sponsors..
Dasgupta, who is lining up the volunteers who will be needed to execute the event, said that for the first time, the organizers have reached out to the HBS student clubs, as well as the Partners’ Club, to provide volunteers.
She said they will seek to avoid having the incoming students used as volunteers, although they may recruit some of their partners for the Team-Building Olympics.
In addition, the group is seeking to attract January Cohort members who will be in the Boston area from August 21st through the 25th, although they are aware that it is the middle week of the January Cohort’s abbreviated summer break, which could make it difficult.
“We know the January Cohort is extremely busy, but if they are around, this will be a great chance to really bond with the incoming class,” Jung said.
Show Me the Money
On the funding side, Jung, who is leading the charge to line up corporate sponsors for the events, said the additional cost from the larger class size is more than offset by the fact that the Orientation Committee only has to hold the events once.
One significant change the organizers are considering is having the provider of the gaming tables for Casino Night also provide professional dealers. Although that would add some expenses, it would also eliminate a logistical nightmare.
On the revenue side of the budget, Jung said the nationwide economic slowdown has not cost the event any of its regular sponsors, specifically noting that management consulting giant Booz Allen / Hamilton will again sponsor Casino Night.
“It’s a significant event, and it’s a significant investment for them, but they were clear that they wanted to be involved again, and we made sure it was there for them,” Jung said.
Efforts to sign up new sponsors have not fared as well, however, as many companies are restricting their spending to activities where they already have a track record, rather than getting involved in new areas.