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MBA Student Orgs: What are you a part of, what do they do and why?

by David Elster Friday, December 18, 2015

David ElsterWhile my fellow A.C. Nielsen classmates and I were very ambitious in regards to academic achievement and pursuing high caliber internships in our first semester, we all understood the importance of living active lives outside of the classroom. More often than not, this involved joining forces with other MBA students in various student organizations.

My first interaction with a student organization was during my first Thursday on campus. The Graduate Business Association (GBA) invited me to “TAPS,” which I incorrectly assumed was Wisconsin lingo for “board game night.” To my delight, the event was held at sunset on Madison’s picturesque, lakefront terrace. It took me months to determine what the acronym TAPS (Thursday After Professional Studies) actually stood for, but I soon found that the purpose of the weekly event is to congregate students at a local pub, bar, café, or beer garden to unwind, celebrate another school week in the books, and enjoy the company of fellow students as part of a time-honored Wisconsin MBA ritual.

Unsurprisingly, the day after TAPS, I signed up for the GBA—a dynamic organization that represents all graduate business students. Soon after signing up, I had the opportunity to play in a GBA golf outing where I networked with students, professors, and industry professionals. I also participated in many more GBA events throughout the semester, including “MBAs with a Heart”—an opportunity for MBAs to give back to the Greater Madison community. At this service event, I rolled up my sleeves, and got my hands dirty, trimming tree branches, clearing trails, and collecting seeds as part of the Prairie Seed Collection Project.

While the GBA exceeded my expectations, I was also searching for a student organization that sparked my interest as a student of consumer insights. I soon found an organization that met that need: the Graduate Marketing Network (GMN). I was first attracted to GMN after participating in their “Battle of the Brands” event. GMN had a room of tables with approximately 20 different unpackaged, branded products alongside private label products. The goal of the competition was to have everyone sample these products, and then decide if they were name brand or private label. Afterwards, there were awards given to those with the most correct answers, and also a lively discussion about the marketing implications of branding and private labeling.

Through GMN, I have had the opportunity to attend marketing seminars, go to industry networking dinners, and go on field trips that complement my academic marketing curriculum. I will also compete in a GMN-hosted team case competition at the beginning of next semester that is judged and sponsored by companies that recruit from the MBA program.

These first semester experiences have left a lasting impression on me. With this in mind, I plan to assist in creating unforgettable experiences for current and future MBA classmates as the newly elected GMN Communications Chair. In a GMN leadership role, I not only get to experience the benefits of being in this organization, I get the immeasurable reward of sharing with others the same joy I experienced in my first semester as an MBA student.