First Year, First Week

The Class of 2010 enjoys its first week at HBS. 908 students get acquainted with each other, the faculty and the case method.

A week of sunshine in Cambridge lent itself to the daily inner struggle: formal attire to make that first impression, or sandals and short sleeves to celebrate the weather and radical life change? 908 members of the Class of 2010 began their HBS experience the day after Labor Day. Their first week was full of excitement, a fair amount of introspection – and homework.

Self reflection was encouraged at the Dean’s Welcome address, with a keynote speech from Dean Jay Light and a presentation from the Student Council Co-Presidents. “You have few chances in life to redefine yourself” – this theme provided food for thought at the beginning of the week. The rest of the opening day was devoted to learning team group exercises which highlighted a point: Each person can make a difference, but at HBS we work as a team to achieve more than can be accomplished alone.

“Why did you come to HBS?” Dr. Timothy Butler posed this question to the incoming student body during career development sessions this week. The answer is perhaps more complicated than one might think. Dr. Butler challenged each student to use the next two years to learn what fuels their inner fire. He is less concerned with one’s prospects of landing the perfect job upon graduation than he is with speaking to graduates thirty years from now and asking: “How did you enjoy your life’s work?” Well over half of the members of the Class of 2010 will either change their function, industry or both upon graduation. This fact indicates that there is a quest for something other than mere knowledge that occurs during the MBA curriculum.

The case method of study is the catalyst for this reflection. HBS promises its students an intense period of personal transformation. This is a tall order and new students come eager to learn. This primary method of study at HBS teaches a diverse collection of aspirants to learn from, and teach, each other. Much of orientation week was devoted to introducing the students to this unconventional method of learning. “If you’re not surprised five times an hour – you’re not listening!” Professor Isenberg offered this advice during the faculty panel on Leadership Challenges of Global Competition. Other “rules of the road” for the classroom were espoused: don’t be afraid to be controversial, come prepared to state your opinion, be respectful of others.

Amid the standard routine of to-do lists that accompany opening days at academic institutions (library tours, text book issue, ID card issuance) HBS also impressed upon its newest students the gravity of their next two years. There are still over one billion people in the world that live on less than a dollar a day. The Class of 2010’s second case study showcased a South African entrepreneur who is trying to rectify the very real shortage of basic infrastructure in classrooms throughout underdeveloped nations. In short, there is a lot of good work to be done. Future graduates of this institution are not encouraged to seek monetary riches per se – but to find a worthy calling that adds richness to the lives of others.

A sense of wonder pervades the atmosphere during the first week of the first year. New students meet their learning teams, begin to participate in class discussions and relax on the campus grass against the backdrop of ivy draped walls. The students came here with high expectations. It is no surprise that the institution in return has high expectations of them.