“Got any sheep?”
“I’ll give you a sheep for two bricks.”
“Get out of here. I’ll give you one brick for one sheep.”
“Come on- anyone else? Sheep? Sheep?”
It’s lunch at the A.C. Nielsen Center and a game of Settlers of Catan is under way. The group usually consists of a few regulars and a few newcomers so that everyone is always welcome to try their hand at dominating the Catan world.
The “Center”, as the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research is fondly referred to, is bustling as it normally is during the lunch hour. Aside from the usual Catan game, there is laughing and joking about the classes that have just finished, a lively debate about which food cart to walk to for lunch, and the happy chatter of friends who often spend the majority of their days together. Students from other MBA specializations join in the fun and the joke of the A.C. Nielsen Center as the “U.N. of Centers” is tossed around.
Thinking back to my business school search, I remember feeling conflicted about which school would be the best fit. There were multi-tiered pros and cons lists, countless hours of informational interviews, and long conversations with friends and family. But the decision became abundantly clear the minute I began interacting with A.C. Nielsen students and alumni. The spring before I began school, I attended a small event for a non-profit in Chicago and randomly found myself chatting with an alumna of the center. The moment she heard that I was accepted she jumped up and down and hugged me, saying how unbelievably excited she was for me. That level of enthusiasm and sense of community has been matched by all those I have had the pleasure to meet since.
The transition back to school has been seamless, guided by the help of my new colleagues. The second-year students are ready to offer their expertise and guidance at any moment. Within days of moving to Madison, I met with my second-year mentor, who always set aside his own work to make sure I could ask any of the million questions I had. Each second year is committed to helping the first years excel, whether that be in classes, internship interviews or in extracurricular. You can tell that each is dedicated to preserving the amazing sense of community within the Center.
The other first year students and I quickly formed friendships and have come to rely on each other for many things. Once when I missed class due to an internship interview, my inbox was suddenly flooded by my classmates with notes like, “I noticed you weren’t in class today. Here are the notes of what you missed!” When someone mentions they are having a rough week, suddenly bagels and cream cheese or homemade baked goods show up at the Center the next day for all to share. If someone didn’t understand the class lecture that day, the Center turns into a mini lecture hall with students drawing on the whiteboard to teach the topic. Before Thanksgiving, the community committee hosted a Friendsgiving in the Center where everyone brought a dish that meant something to them. There are even “sleepover” movie nights and poker tournaments hosted in the Center. And though it’s well past normal school hours, everyone sticks around.
I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come to the Wisconsin School of Business and the A.C. Nielsen Center community reaffirms that every day. Even if sometimes my Nielsenite friends refuse to trade sheep with me.