Size Matters at Orientation

Eight-hundred and ninety-nine. That’s the number of students who arrived at HBS to join the Class of 2003. Call it thirteen hundred with partners and family. This group is the largest arrival party to hit the South Shore of the Charles in history, and the largest by far since HBS was split into September and January cohorts in the mid-nineties. Events over the five day period included a Boston Harbor cruise, a night at Big City Billiards, an outdoor TGIF followed by small group dinners and a pub crawl, Casino Night, and the traditional HBS Orientation Show.
The co-chairs for this year’s orientation were Jill Allen, Ipsita Dasgupta, and Trisha Jung, all from Section OB. Faced with daunting 50% year-on-year growth, the chairwomen focused on scaling the traditional orientation activities to accommodate the increased size of the incoming class, as opposed to dealing simultaneously with planning new events and managing the increased size. The sectionmates also split the work. Allen focused on event coordination, Dasgupta enlisted volunteers to man the events, and Jung signed up sponsors and took care of the finances.
Why volunteer to chair the Orientation Committee? Dasgupta says she wanted to get involved with an intense project that had a known completion date, and would allow her to gain satisfaction from seeing her efforts immediately affect others. Additionally, she wanted to participate in passing HBS traditions to the Class of 2003. “I had such a great first year and wanted to share some of my experiences with new students,” Dasgupta said. “For example, take the song in the Orientation Show where we mock the other business schools. It’s surprising how much bonding goes on when you start to make fun of your competitors.” The Show is also Dasgupta’s favorite event, because it’s where the themes that bond HBS students are first introduced to the new students.
As the event coordinator, Allen had to ensure that each venue could hold the increased amount of people that were expected. The committee looked at historical figures to determine the percentage of students that would turnout, and adjusted plans accordingly. For example, with 1000 people expected for small group dinners on Friday night, Allen decided to start earlier in the evening and expand to restaurants in Central Square. In previous years, all diners could be accommodated by the participating restaurants in Harvard Square. And instead of ending the pub crawl at the traditional Hong Kong, John Harvard’s and the People’s Republik were also included.

The economic downturn made it harder for Jung to find corporate sponsorship for the events, but she was eventually able to find participants. Eliminating the January cohort actually made her job a little less painful financially, as the cohort consolidation eliminated some overhead and made spending the budget much more efficient. “We attempted to fomalize the sponsorship process and create a lasting relationship with companies to ensure adequate funding for all of the orientation events,” Jung said.

Dasgupta says the most memorable moment for her occurred on the first night. “As an orientation committee, we’re making it easy for people to get to know each other and feel comfortable. People looked stressed out during registration on Wednesday, but when they got on the cruise ship, all their worries were left behind, and everyone was able to escape the anxiety associated with their arrivals.” Dasgupta also witnessed the bonding she felt as a new student last year at Casino Night, where she was happy to see first year students stepping in to deal when the volunteer dealers needed to go on break.

Dasgupta said the organizers want to thank all the orientation volunteers for their contributions, as well as the incoming Class of 2003. She said the first years were very understanding and complimentary of the monumental efforts involved in event planning, and they followed the logistics plans well, ensuring all the events ran smoothly.
Dasgupta encourages RCs to consider joining the orientation committee next year. She says that although she thought she’d be stressed the whole time, she couldn’t help but have fun at the events with all the excitement and new people. Her message to the class of 2003? If you had a blast at orientation, and if you want to make a difference and help pass down HBS traditions to the Class of 2004, be sure to set aside time next summer to volunteer.

SA Orientation Committee Co-Chairs Jill Allen, Ipsita Dasgupta, and Trisha Jung (All OB) would like to thank the volunteers who helped out with Orientation:
Peter Allen, OP
Gary Binford, OC
Lauren Brouhard, OC
Jesse Brouhard, OP
Chris Crane, OB
Gabriella Crane, OP
Neil Edwards, ’03
Arash Farin, ’03
Jose Fernandez, OK
Sasha Grinshpun, OH
James Jarrett, ’03
Jordan Kayloe, OF
Mickey Konson, OD
Amanda Krantz, ’03
Emily Kranz, OC
Ade Lawal, OK
Debbie Liao, OP
Claude London, OA
Patrick Manzanares, OP
Charles Masters, ’03
Jonathon Mendelson, OJ
Tomas Morales, OA
Lori Schock, OD
Pramo Selvaratnam, ’03
Jon Waggoner, ’03
Louise Willington, OE