When the new Student Association executive team took office last spring, one of the first initiatives put on the table was an overhaul of Orientation and RC START week. In a series of conversations with administrators, the SA proposed what, at the time, seemed like a somewhat crazy idea.
“We remembered this problem at the beginning of our RC years where a lot of us just didn’t know what was going on or what to expect. It seemed like there were a lot of norms and traditions we were supposed to know, but didn’t really feel like anyone told us until we were pretty far down the road,” explained SA Co-President Jordan Strebeck, “So we had these discussions with Cory (Rothschild), Julia (Saxonov), Mhoire (Murphy), and several others about how to address that issue, and we came up with the idea for the EC Ambassador program. Our hypothesis was that if we could get a small group of absolute rockstar ECs to come back to campus early and interact with the RCs that it would really make a difference. We felt like it was so important to get off on the right foot and thought having students around who had been there, done that, so to speak, would really help the incoming RCs start to feel at home.”
The administration was immediately intrigued by the idea and asked the SA to present a detailed proposal for approval, which they quickly did.
“We were blown away by the level of support we received,” said SA Co-President Sarah Arora. “Even though this was something that had never been done before (second year students actively participating in START week), they were not at all afraid to try something new. They told us from the beginning, ‘If there is anything you need from us, just ask, we’re here to help,’ and we certainly took them up on that. Without their support and them taking a chance on this, not only would the program not have been successful, it would have never existed in the first place.”
A mere three months after SA leadership pitched the idea to administrators, the inaugural class of EC Ambassadors arrived on campus to help welcome the class of 2015. Clad in mint green START t-shirts, they went right to work.
What resulted was a series of firsts. A community service event on the first Saturday RCs were in town, which over 150 students attended. A MyTake the night before the first day of classes, hosted jointly by the SA and the JCD, which ended up being standing room only. EC Ambassadors taking pizza into each section during lunch and giving a presentation on what to expect from HBS. A Section Field Day the Saturday after the first week of classes to give the new section-mates an opportunity to get to know each other better, which drew over 700 participants.
Whether or not they knew at the time they were the guinea pigs for the EC Ambassador idea, the reviews from the RC class have been nothing but glowing thus far.
“I knew coming into HBS there was no shortage of talented people,” said RC Wyatt Smith (NJ). “But the number of EC’s who were willing to give up their vacation time to guide our matriculation process really opened my eyes to how service-minded the student body is as well. On multiple levels, I feel like the interactions we had with the ECs during that first week and the events they set up for us played a critical role in shaping how our class will experience HBS.”
Fellow first year student Bilal Saafir (NB) singled out the Section Field Day as a particularly memorable part of his first week.
“I had a blast at RC Field Day,” he explained. “It was the first major inflection point for my section and me. It gave us an early opportunity to leave our apprehension on the sidelines and really get to know one another.”
However, students weren’t the only ones who noticed the impact of the program. The Executive Director of the MBA program, Brit Dewey, said she felt like the Class of 2015 has been, “more easy-going and more comfortable than classes in years past,” as a result of the program, and MBA Chair Youngme Moon called the impact the program had on the RCs “tangible and powerful,” and said she would be, “deeply disappointed if it did not become an HBS tradition.”
And that would be just fine with the leadership of the Student Association.
“We certainly hope future ECs continue the tradition,” said Arora. “We want to leave a legacy at HBS of building a more inclusive and accessible community, and this is a big part of that legacy.”