Q&A with New Co-Presidents of the Partners Club

Olivia Hurst, Contributor
Jenny Drennan, Contributor
Olivia Hurst, Contributor

Co-presidents of the Partners Club share their plans for next year.

Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Jenny Drennan (RC Partner from Section J): I moved here over from Dublin, Ireland after I recently got married to my husband, Daire. I was practicing as a physiotherapist and as a clinical pilates instructor for the last seven to eight years. But as I cannot work in the U.S., I am doing a Master’s program in the area of chronic pain. Alongside that, I enjoy exercising.
A fun fact about me and Daire is that we grew up 20 minutes apart from each other in Dublin, and we went to the same university, but we actually met in Boston nine years ago.
In Ireland, it’s easy to get a visa to the U.S. for the summer when you are a student. You can work as a waitress, a cleaner, or whatever you want. We ended up living together in a group of 10 people—that’s how we met.

Olivia Hurst (RC Partner from Section F): I am from Virginia originally, but just moved back from Sydney, Australia. We were there for about two years. I am an engineer, and I’m now working for an Australian start-up in the U.S. I’m working full time from home, which is on campus.
Paul and I met as undergrads in one of the classes at Virginia Tech. We have been together for about 10 years and just got married in October.
We also just got a dog, a little puppy, because I love dogs! His name is Theodore. We named him Theodore because we want to get another one in the future and name it Alvin. So, I wanted to have Alvin and Theodore, like the chipmunks!

Why did you decide to run for Partners Club Co-Presidents?
Olivia: I wanted this Club to continue. When I just arrived on campus, I did not know anybody. But I had a good experience making friends through the Club. I think having Partners Club, especially in the first two weeks, helped me with a lot of my anxieties. Jenny and I actually spoke about it before we decided. The big reason is that we want the partners next year to have the same good experience. Also, I wanted to be the Co-President to get a chance to be involved in as much capacity as I can.

Jenny: One of the biggest reasons that we chose HBS as the school to go to is because of the Partners support that I heard about. It actually surpassed my expectations, and a lot of that was due to Partners Club. It made me feel that I was “not just a partner” but also a part of the HBS community and that I should be as much involved as the students are. I want the Partners Club to continue because I think it is hugely helpful and hugely beneficial to the partners. I hope that we can achieve the same for the incoming partners this year.

How did you come together to talk about applying for this role?
Jenny: Olivia and I met beforehand to decide whether we would go for it or not. We both worked together this year on the Community Committee, which is responsible for small-groups events, to try to create meaningful relationships between partners rather than just having large events. Because we had worked closely together for this year, we knew that we were on the same page. We both have the same vision for the Club and we both put in the work as well, alongside Katherine. [Katherine Anthoine (RC Partner from Section D) is the third Co-President of Partners Club who could not make it for this interview.]

How is the Partners Club structured?
Jenny: There are basically two committees at the Club—the Social Committee and the Community Committee. The Social Committee looks after big events, like the Christmas party. The Community Committee plans the social group lunches, small-group dinners, the weekly breakfasts, the Partners Perspective nights and My Takes.

What can HBS Partners look forward to for next year?
Olivia: We talk about having a wide mix of events, for everyone. For bigger events, it’s socials, wine tasting, or a paint night that we did recently. For the small events, we want to keep small-group dinners, like the Safari dinners we’ve been hosting every semester. We hope to have more events like these to make it more socially beneficial for everyone.

Jenny: We definitely want to appeal to everybody. We have different budgets for different scales of events. We want small events to be free for members while bigger events would be charged or subsidized. You can have a choice over which events you prefer to go to. And then we want to have events that appeal to everybody, such as date-night themed events so that both students and partners can attend.

What improvements would you make based on this year’s experience?
Jenny: This year is the first time we had the Community Committee, as the ECs suggested that they needed to have smaller group events. We would like to continue doing those events and promoting them alongside the large-group events.

Olivia: Like this year, we will do a survey at the beginning of next year about what people are interested in. Every class is different, and we can change or start doing something based on the feedback we get. Like Jenny said, the important thing is that we want all students and partners to feel that they want to go to these events.

How do you encourage partners to go to events in the second semester when people have already formed their relationships?
Jenny: At the start of the semester, we saw that there was a drop in the number of people coming to the events. People tend to feel more comfortable in the second semester because they have their go-to people now. So people may feel like they don’t need to make the same effort anymore to meet new people, which is a positive and a negative.
It’s a shame that this semester ended so abruptly that we don’t get to see how that continues throughout the semester, because we’ve had more events planned for the rest of the semester which could have encouraged more people to come. For example, Olivia was planning the wine tasting which got a lot of interest. We were looking at cooking classes as well. We were planning to have a lot more new activity-based and interactive events, rather than the same old events.

What was your most memorable moment as a HBS partner in this academic year?
Jenny: For me, the most fun event was definitely Holidazzle. The most memorable event was the Partners Case Night. I’m glad that I participated in that and I would encourage everybody to try it next year. It just gives you an insight into why your partner puts in so much effort into the cases. I often found my partner feeling overwhelmed by the workload, and so it was a good time to have the Partners Case Night to relate to his experience. The Q&A afterwards was also beneficial because I got to see that everybody was feeling the same way. Our partners might not talk among themselves about being overwhelmed, but we could then go home and tell them that “it’s okay as everybody is feeling the same and now I understand what you go through every day.”

Olivia: Mine would be the first breakfast that we had, organized by Partners Club. That was the most memorable for me, because that’s when I realized people come from all around the world and I’m going to make new friends with a bunch of different perspectives. That got me excited! It was also memorable because we made a Whatsapp group which attracted so many people. It was very exciting to meet partners for the first time and it made me feel excited to be here.

What is your one message or advice to EC and RC partners?
Olivia: I would urge partners to be involved. Being a non-student partner, you have to make a lot of sacrifices. It’s important to stay true to yourself and make the most out of your own experience. For me, it meant getting involved, having a separate group of friends than his friends, even though now they are my friends. Making other connections outside him is very healthy because I would never underestimate the sacrifices it takes to live on campus as a non-student.

Jenny: Get involved. One of the reasons I got involved early on was to force myself to just get involved with the club. If I was organizing the events, I’d have to go to them. Try to make it your own experience rather than the experience through your student or your partner. I encourage next-year EC partners to get involved as well because that would be their last year.

Jenny Drennan (Partner’s Club Co-President) has lived and worked as a Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor in both Ireland and New Zealand prior to moving to Cambridge with her husband. She enjoys exercising, socializing (with Section J) and is very proud to be Irish.

Olivia Hurst (Partner’s Club Co-President) is a proud member of Section F. Olivia and her husband Paul recently moved back to the U.S. from Sydney, Australia where they lived for two years. She currently works as an engineer and enjoys playing with her puppy Theo, going to fitness classes, and socializing with friends.