Families Step in to Experience the Case Method at Section I Parents’ Day

37 parents, mentors, and partners participated in class (and learned it’s not as hard as they think).

Lance Katigbak, Contributor

“So, if you were Rick Cohen, what would you do?” Professor David Fubini (MBA ’80) asked the students at Aldrich 010. It was Fubini’s second time teaching the C&S Wholesale Grocers case this year, but unlike last semester’s LEAD class, his students this time were much more… mature. However, just like their children, they were filled with the same hand-raising energy, talking-out-of-turn enthusiasm, and apparent disregard for double-dipping norms that you would see in any RC classroom.

On April 22, Section I invited over three dozen parents, mentors, and partners to sit in their seats at Aldrich 010, name cards printed and mounted, and discuss one of the cases that their MBA students tackled last semester. They came from as far as France and California, and as close as Watertown, MA and Wayland, MA. 44 other parents who joined via Zoom from China, Colombia, Germany, Nigeria, the Philippines, and all across the United States, complete with their HBS virtual backgrounds. 

While the event was originally dubbed Parents’ Day, students took their liberties with that description, bringing in grandparents, uncles, aunts, in-laws, and siblings too. Both Safiya Walker (MBA ’24) and Matthew Glynn (MBA ’24) brought their parents and grandparents, while the event’s organizer, John Keyes (MBA ’24) brought his parents, wife, and eleven-month old daughter. Keyes was inspired by a friend from the Class of 2022 who had organized a similar event.

Fubini, Section I’s LEAD professor, moderated the discussion with the same rigor and expectations that he would with any other HBS class. Described by parents as “inquisitive, inclusive, and thoughtful,” he cold-called a few of them to set the stage for the case, cut off those who spoke too long, and even called out parents whose points he disagreed with. “That’s what we’d call presumptive thinking!” he told one parent. He even called on Travis Fox, partner of Meghana Bansal (MBA ’24) to roleplay as CEO Rick Cohen telling his staff about the organizational changes he was going to make. 

“A bit of a sidebar,” Fubini said after writing ‘Circle of Doom’ on the board as the class had finished diagnosing the problem. “You guys solved that problem so much faster than they did last semester!”

While the class could have passed for an MBA (or Executive Education) class, there were a few telltale signs that it was different. As Fubini was pressing Fox on how his changes would affect supervisors, Ravi Somayaji, father-in-law of Rohan Dasika (MBA ’24), raised his hand to speak for the fourth time. “Can I be the CFO?” Somayaji asked. His huge smile suggested that nobody had told him about the double (or quadruple) dipping section norm, or that he was too excited about the discussion to care otherwise. He jumped in with an announcement that everyone’s salaries would be increased in light of Fox’s proposed changes, which made the room erupt in laughter.

Fubini wrapped up the class, as he did last Fall, with a video showing the protagonist sharing what decision he made and what the aftermath looked like. He also gave the parents a sneak peek of what went into preparing for a case, including showing his discussion outline and a color-coded seating chart he used to ensure that every student was able to participate. 

“I had a great time at parents’ day,” shared Christy Chen, mother of Sandie Xu (MBA ’24). “As someone who never studied in the US, I loved seeing the classroom dynamic at HBS. It was great to get an inside look at my daughter’s experience at business school.”

“The experience of learning and interacting on this level with so many diverse, intelligent and cooperative friends and family most of whom we had never met was unique, intellectually stimulating and certainly memorable!” shared Alan and Melissa Matarasso, parents of Dana Matarasso (MBA ’24), in a joint statement. Mr. Matarasso, a surgeon, was one of the more electric participants in the class who frequently and articulately voiced his opinions. They added: “It was clearly evident why, if you’re not at HBS, you really are attending your second choice!”

The class wrapped up with a potluck brunch featuring options from different cuisines. The parents of Sophie Mannai (MBA ’24), who flew in from France, brought some homemade madeleines while Glynn’s 88-year old grandmother brought a large pot of Italian meatballs and sausages. Yoyo Chidchanogarth (MBA ’24) made a big pot of Thai chicken curry, which was a crowd favorite, while Matarasso’s parents brought a coffee cake that was wiped out.

“Bringing my mom to participate in a class was a great bonding experience for us, as she got to see what my day-to-day looked like as a student,” shared Erik Rasmussen (MBA ’24). 

“I’ve told my parents a lot about business school, but them sitting in our classroom and doing a case was such a unique way of showing them what we do every day,” shared Bansal. “My parents especially loved seeing all the flags of our section’s represented countries.”

As heartwarming as the event was, students could not help but make a few poignant observations. 

“My mom drops irrelevant case facts, just like I do,” joked Rasmussen. 

“I’m not sure if this was a good idea,” joked Marcus Stromeyer (MBA ’24). “People might realize that what we do is not actually that hard!”

Meanwhile, Bansal marveled: “I learned that our parents are way smarter than us!”

While Keyes was cleaning up after the event, a few international students approached him asking about the next time. He shared: “Those whose parents couldn’t make it are asking if we can do this again next Spring, when they’re here for graduation. I think it’s a great idea but maybe next time we’ll book out a restaurant instead.”

That might not be too far off, at least based on Fubini’s predictions. “I’d predict, based on other sections’ reactions when I told them about [Parents’ Day], that this will become a norm in the next year or two.” 

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Lance Katigbak is the First Gentleman of Section I. He is originally from the Philippines, where he met his wife, Tricia Peralta (MBA ‘24). A graduate of the College across the river, he balances his time working at a fintech startup in New York City and cooking elaborate meals for the section.