“Giving Back” Through Simon Clubs; Part of the MBA Experience

By: Brennan Day

When I was choosing an MBA program, every school I visited liked to talk about their “clubs,” and each school seemed to have more than the last.  And while some of them sounded quite interesting I was more focused on getting admitted and picking the right school than on what club(s) I might join.  Then I finally (and thankfully!) chose Simon and before I knew it the summer was over, I had moved to Rochester, and the first quarter was under way.  As the clubs starting putting up signs and sending out informational emails I decided I better put some thought into this.

As is so often the case, I found myself trying to walk the line between missing out and over committing.  I knew that the clubs each provided an excellent opportunity to broaden and deepen my knowledge of a specific area.  Equally important to me was the social aspect of the clubs – both the strengthening of relationships with my fellow Simonites and the unparalleled external networking opportunities that exist within some of the clubs.  I had also decided that I would like to run for a board position for one of the clubs to gain some additional leadership experience.  But which clubs(s) to choose??

I did a little bit of research on the clubs online (http://www.simon.rochester.edu/clubs–organizations/index.aspx), but the best information I got came via the Club Information Sessions that the Graduate Business Council hosted.  (The GBC is the governing body over all of Simon’s student-run organizations).  These informational sessions occurred during lunch time – when there are no classes in session – on three consecutive days; one each for Academic/Industry Clubs, Cultural Clubs, and Social/Sports Clubs.  Each club had a table set up on their respective day and some of the current members were there to help us understand the club’s purpose and what events each had planned for the upcoming year.  Talking directly to the second-year students was extremely helpful (as it generally is) and in the end I joined the following clubs:  Simon Marketing Association, Consulting/Operations/Technology Association, Simon Pricing Club, Simon Uncorked (Wine Club), Toastmaster, Simon Volunteers, and the  Winter Sports Club.

When it came time for elections of 1st-year Representatives I was fortunate enough to land a seat on the board of Simon Volunteers.  I quickly learned that, in addition to providing opportunities for Simon students to volunteer in the community, one of the Volunteers’ major initiatives is raising money for its Secret Santa fund.  Through three major fundraisers – a beer-tasting / auction in the fall, a date-auction in the winter, and a wine-tasting / auction in the spring – the club raises money for the purchase of Christmas presents for under privileged children in Rochester.  This year, through the generosity of Simon’s students, faculty, and staff, as well as the many companies that donate to our fundraisers, the Secret Santa fund topped $12,000 for the first time ever!

Once the funds were raised we reached out to several local agencies who work with underprivileged families.  They provide us with Christmas lists for children in need in their area.  Once the rest of the board and I accumulated these lists, we again called on our faithful volunteers.  Armed with shopping lists our members (as well as many non-members who wanted to help) generously made time in their busy schedules to go shopping for the kids.  Because our fund had grown so large, we were able to buy gifts for 160 children this year that may not otherwise have much under their Christmas trees come Christmas morning.  But the work wasn’t done yet!

A terrific Simon tradition is our annual Gift Wrapping Party.  This year, with several gifts for each of the 160 children, we knew we had our work cut out for us if we were to get everything wrapped.  But in the matter of just over three hours our students, faculty, and staff had completed the task at hand.  With holiday music playing and plenty of food to snack on, the Rotunda was a festive environment that was exciting to experience.   Dean Zupan, Bob Park (from CMC), and several members of the admissions team all stopped by to help.  This was in addition to the steady wave of students – many of whom were in the middle of studying for final exams later that evening of the next morning.  It was a true team effort and something I was felt lucky (and proud) to be a part of.

While my involvement on the board of Simon Volunteers has elevated my excitement toward giving back, I’ve also reaped rewards from the other clubs I joined.  And I see the same thing happening to my classmates – especially those who have become board members.  While I confessed that I didn’t put too much thought into clubs before arriving on campus, I’ve come to learn that I underestimated their relevance.  They truly are an important part of the MBA experience.

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