The Student Association is focused on increasing campus activation through new events and programming. SA Chief Events Officer, Rachel Brown (MBA ’20), gives insight into the makings of ‘SNL’.
The night before students returned to class for Spring 2020, multiple calendar requests hit their inbox with the titles “SNL presents…”. Flash forward one week and more than 250 students were lined up outside Spangler Grille on Sunday night, waiting for dinner to be served and the National Anthem to start on Super Bowl LIV. From the “Super Bowl Watch Party” to “Trivia Night” and more, new events are being added weekly with the intent of giving students new opportunities to engage with each other on campus.
Spangler Night Live (SNL) is a brand-new series of event pilots that the Student Association (SA) is hosting in partnership with MBA Student Academic Services (SAS) and HBS Operations. Billy Tabrizi (MBA ’20), Chief Strategy Officer of the SA, says, “We are so excited to have launched this pilot this Spring. One of our big goals this year is to host more programming that brings campus to life and provides a way for Spangler to serve as a ‘gathering place’ for casual, unplanned interactions, even outside class windows. We loved seeing so many students come out, and we hope this tradition will stay alive.”
SNL was born out of student feedback that campus lacked opportunities for students to build these casual relationships across sections and across years. The SA came to SAS with a simple hypothesis: there is unmet demand for on-campus events, but given traditional budget constraints with the SA’s model, doubling or tripling the programming to meet it wasn’t feasible. MBA SAS made an investment this semester to test out various events, and the SA has made a formal funding request to think about how to keep these events rolling in the future, assuming they prove to be successful. (If you like them, join!)
Ideation began last fall with conversations between Dean Nitin Nohria, the SA, MBA SAS, and HBS Operations about how to best activate the campus—including the calendar, spaces, Restaurant Associates costs, club access, and more. Many ideas quickly arose about how the SA could plan more events, but an immediate question followed about how to fund new programming, given pre-planned student budgets for the year. “Seeing both the opportunity for new actions and motivated students willing to take on the challenge, our SAS team developed a plan to support a pilot program to test what could work,” said Mike Murphy, Director of Student Activities, MBA SAS. From there, SNL was born.
Spangler Night Live events are truly a pilot test. Each student-focused event has been crafted with specific hypotheses. After each event, feedback and learnings are captured, and plans are directly improved upon for the next event. For the Super Bowl Watch Party, the test was as simple as “Will people show up to an event in The Grille? Moreover, on a weekend?” This seems simple, but few events in the past two years have taken place in The Grille, and almost zero non-section events happen on a non-class day. Overwhelmingly, the Super Bowl Watch Party event showed the answers were “yes.” Feedback from the event was positive, and students remarked that it was “the most family-friendly event at HBS so far, outside of Fall Fest.” Evaluating the event holistically did provide many opportunities for improvement, including improved sound quality in The Grille and adjusted food and beverage orders. Elizabeth Kennedy, Assistant Director of Campus Service Operations, said “After the Super Bowl, we received feedback that students had trouble hearing the commercials. Working with Media Services, we adjusted the audio quality for the Oscars, but strong attendance led to calls for added closed captioning. We are ready with both of these improvements for the upcoming Bachelor Season Finale Viewing Party. Each event gives us more chances to learn and improve—both for SNL events and regular Spangler facilities use.”
Following the initial successes at the Watch Parties and Trivia Night, SNL broadened its scope to include more events that may interest students from different parts of campus. On February 26, SNL hosted a Silent Disco featuring DJ Bison in the Williams Room. While attendance was lower than at some other events, students who did attend had a lot of fun. Carson Lee (MBA ’20) said, “I had a blast. Silent Disco was a memory I’ll think about fondly. I appreciate the school trying new things. I can’t wait to see it again!” Artistic events this month include “Jazz in the Evening” on March 2, “Paint and Sip Night” on March 10, and “Salsa con Salsa” (featuring the dancing instructions of the Salsa Club and the culinary instructions of Restaurant Associates) on March 25.
The Spangler Night Live pilot series fits within a broader context of improved campus spaces and opportunities at HBS. Implementation of the Spangler Coffee Bar last year and new Spangler Dining Hall and Spangler Lounge furniture over winter break have not only reinvigorated the Spangler experience but also enabled relocation of regular COB Happy Hours into more regular, accessible spaces. Active work by the MBA Program, HBS Operations, and the Senate Capital Planning and Activation Committee have identified future space improvements that can continue to support increased engagement among students on campus.
Even though Spangler Night Live events are still in their infancy, Connor Cash, SA Co-President says, “I am excited about the buy-in SNL is getting from students and stakeholders all across campus. Our SA administration is actively working in our last few months to institutionalize this for future school years.” Feedback from event participants has shown that students are appreciating this increased sense of community. Whether that comes through Sunday dinners in front of the big game, Monday nights watching the Bachelor Finale, a big Trivia win, or some new dance moves, it is bringing a palpable change to the pulse of the campus. We hope you feel it too.
If you have feedback on past events or recommendations for future SNL events, please reach out to Rachel Brown at [email protected].
Rachel Brown (MBA ’20) is the Student Association’s Chief Events Officer. Before attending HBS, she worked at Deloitte Consulting in Washington, D.C., and she will be returning to Deloitte in the Chicago Office after graduation. Brown graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was also actively involved in changing the campus community through event planning. Also serving as co-Social Chair of Old Section C and the Community Director for the HBS Show, Brown thanks her sectionmates and Koalas for putting up with her millions of emails in the last two years.