Preparing to do a two-year full-time MBA in an elite school is an exciting time. Students think of what the future will bring them, but they also wonder about what kind of new life is in store for them on the school campus. Those with partners and children also ponder how their MBA plans are going to change the lives of their families.
Not just students, their spouses and “significant others,” too, make a sacrifice adjusting to new life situations. Many business schools recognize this and try to make the “MBA experience” equally valuable for partners. Some time ago, Wharton created a vice dean of students affairs in Kembrel Jones, referred to as the “Dean of Happiness,” as he cared as much for students’ partners as for students. The challenge for schools is to make partners love the school as much as the students love the school, Jones says. “A happy partner means a happy student.”
Maintaining a friendly and helpful campus environment is a priority for b-schools. Amid all the rigors of academics, they strive to serve students’ partners with information and all assistance possible. They help partners and families address concerns such as housing, job opportunities, healthcare, and childcare and primary-school admissions for children. In this post, drawing from school blogs and other online resources, we try to find out how some of the elite schools make their students and their families comfortable.
Stanford GSB provides families and partners access to various organizations, including clubs, and facilities, such as housing.
Andy Turner, a GSB MBA student from Utah, explains in a webcast that there are two clubs for GSB families.
“Biz Partners,” for those with a partner or a “significant other,” brings together students and their partners for fun activities every week. “Biz Kids” is for students with children, and regularly conducts activities and excursions.
“It’s a fantastic place to be as a family,” Andy says, though students with children are in a very small minority—of the 410 students, only 15 to 20 have children.
Alice Martins, a native of Brazil who grew up in Belgium, adds that the Student Association organizes events for partners and kids, for example, a trip to Disneyland. Partners and children can also participate in an annual fair and carnival.
How do students balance their time between their studies and their families? Andy says that if he’s not in class, a lot of his schedule is flexible, but he usually has a lot on his hands besides schoolwork, such as socializing, attending club activities, and taking part in recruiting, he says.
Mai Bocquet, from France, a student and a parent, agrees. She says she has been able to employ a nanny to take care of her child, and she has been able to do some socializing since.
Alice, who is a single mom with a daughter, says that she combines school and home life. For example, when she is working on a group project but can’t meet some resource-persons during the day, she invites them home in the evenings. The community also comes to her aid when she has to attend a social event—her neighbors, PhD students at GSB, watch over her daughter.
About nearby nurseries and primary schools for children, Andy advises parents to apply early. Some schools are good and the fees are high. But financial aid is available for full-time, nonworking students to help them put their children in these schools.
As for accommodation, students with partners and children are guaranteed a place in the Escondido Village if they choose it. The Village has one- to three-bedroom options, with a shared garden. Accommodation is also available in other Stanford housing complexes, which range from single-occupancy studios to premium apartments with hotel-like amenities. On-campus accommodation is subsidized and cheaper than off-campus housing. As pets are not allowed, some families choose housing outside the campus.
GSB’s career counselling helps partners find jobs. Often, the alumni network also helps; even the spouses of alumni pitch in, sometimes.
Harvard Business School
At HBS, partners don’t fear they will be left out of social events: all students and their partners are invited to all events. The warm reception for partners at the beginning of the year helps them break the ice. The Fall Section Retreat is a great way to know people, Alex Kornswiet, whose husband is a student, says in an MBA blog post on the HBS website.
What about the facilities on the campus? Alex says that the main HBS resource for partners that she has taken advantage of is the job placement assistance. She got an on-campus job, with the same timings as the students.
Larry Lennox Choate, the partner of a student, says HBS strongly encourages partner participation in programs. He had thought that he would spend two years “on the backburner” while his partner completed an MBA. But he found that partners were equal to students in every way. “I think being a partner is the best way to do HBS—all of the fun and resources without any mandatory cases.”
Parents also feel welcome on the HBS campus. Children are invited to all events scheduled “before bedtime,” says Aubrey Chavez, a student-partner.
The Crimson Parents Club brings students, their partners, and their children together, says Debbie Nichols. The programs are fun events for children (soccer, swimming, field trips) and for parents (book club, cooking demonstrations), says Debbie. Many students and partners are new to Boston, and partners share tips about the city. Students and their partners are advised to live on the campus, and there are advantages for both adults (less expensive, more space) and children (playgroups, lots of friends).
At the Wharton Partners Club (WPC), a community for the significant others of students, friendships begin to blossom on Welcome Weekend. At that program, the WPC hosts sessions on housing options, career opportunities, international partners, and life in Philadelphia, says a blog post on “Wharton Stories.” The Club reaches out both to partners who have moved to Philadelphia permanently and to those visiting frequently.
Megan Kiefer, a blogger on Wharton Stories, says a big concern for her about moving to Philadelphia was finding a job. Through a posting on the Partners Club website, she found a job in the school’s MBA Admissions and Financial Aid Office shortly after arriving in Philly. Other partners found work through the MBA Career Management Office and Wharton Social Impact.
Megan says that like most other students, she and her partner decided to live in Center City and found an accommodation for their budget, with easy access to facilities. Partners get a chance to attend various events, such as apple-picking, the White Party, the Red and Blue Ball, and on-campus lectures.
Wharton clubs welcome partners to use its facilities such as gyms and the libraries, and participate in events such as cultural treks. The Food Club, Wine Club, Ski Club, and Tennis Club are also attractive hangouts. The Wharton Kids Club brings families with children and expectant families closer.
About 30 percent of the students bring their partners, spouses, and children to INSEAD. This not only helps improves diversity on the campus but also helps students and their families get to know various cultures and languages. Playrooms are available, and here, children are under the responsibility of their parents. On the Fontainebleau campus in France, a baby music class is among the facilities.
INSEAD also advises partners on residency and visa issues, and in identifying facilities such as childcare, schools, hospitals, and banks. Dedicated INSEAD staff members serve partners. Partners also have access to the campus gym and library.
At Fontainebleau, a special facility is available for partners’ activities. Programs include wine-tasting, castle visits, and trips to Paris. The MBA Office makes the arrangements. “The school will most likely change your life and your partner’s as well,” says an INSEAD student.
Vanderbilt has a very active international student and scholars’ office, which provides support and social activities to accompanying families throughout the academic year.
Kate Cote, a full-time MBA student at Haas who has work experience in the healthcare sector, married David Cote between the first and the second year of her MBA. She says that right from the beginning, she has loved the supportive environment at Haas. The welcome panels for admitted students and other events for new students and their partners have given them a sense of community.
David feels that not just Kate, he, too, has benefited from the unique experiences narrated by Kate’s classmates. Haas always tries to reach out to students’ partners and invite them to events, he says.
Kate suggests that those who aspire to come to Haas with their partners should attend the helpful new-admit welcome events. “We made friends that weekend that are still friends of ours today,” she says.
Peter Shearer, doing the full-time MBA program, and hailing from a Navy background, says a sizeable percentage of Haas students bring their partners. Partners are taken on trips with the group and allowed to attend other events, too. On his visit to Haas, Peter was interviewed by a person who had a partner at Haas, and this struck a chord.
Peter’s “significant other,” Laura, a speech therapist, says Haas has a great social aspect to it, and there always seems to be someone to hang out with or something to do. The number of social events may seem too much at first, especially for employed partners, but after the first year, they settle down to a less hectic lifestyle. Laura has two suggestions to students planning to join Haas: attend all possible events and make time for their partner every day, even if it is a few minutes over coffee.
The Smith School of Business offers many resources to international students and those coming with their families. The school works closely with the MBA Association and specifically the Vice President of International Student Affairs to develop programming and support for international students.
Columbia Business School
The Better Halves club conducts an orientation for spouses and partners of students at the same time as a similar program for students. Partners are briefed about getting a job at Columbia University, facilities such as gyms and libraries, and language programs.
The Columbia Business School has formed a Peer Advisors group as part of its school’s Program on Social Intelligence, consisting of second-year MBA students, who help in making newcomers’ transition to the CBS campus a pleasant and enriching experience.
The group is trained to counsel new students and help them make the most of their first year. Besides planning and organizing orientation programs, Peer Advisors guides students through the academic year, and answers queries on topics ranging from academics and career opportunities to school resources and New York City. Online resources on housing are available (see link below).
Queries about facilities for children are answered by the Work/Life Office at Columbia University. Many childcare options are available in the university, but parents are advised to contact the office early, as wait lists are usually long. The Office of Student Affairs provides assistance to CBS moms, such as videotaping classes and rescheduling exams when they have to be with their children at home.
Booth has a student group, Booth Partners, consisting of spouses, significant others, and families. The Partners Club conducts activities throughout the year, helping members integrate with the Booth community. It also provides answers to queries about Booth and life in Chicago.
In a “Booth experience” blog, a student, Drew Thomas, writes about an event in his life that throws light on the family-friendly nature of the school. Drew’s wife, Jen, was in hospital to deliver their baby girl. Drew was worried as he was supposed to attend a corporate finance examination the next day. According to the rules, rescheduling of exams was strictly prohibited, except in a “documented medical emergency.” Drew wondered: Is having a baby a medical emergency for the father?
Drew had informed his professors in advance about his family situation. He says that true to her words, his professor allowed him to reschedule the exam, without any document, and he wrote the exam the night after the baby, Cate, was born.
Drew says that the Booth Partners Club is a network with resources, consisting of people who have lived in Chicago for long and newcomers ready to help.
Helping students before they arrive on campus
Caroline Lukich says, “The Smith School provides a checklist of required and recommended tasks for students to complete before orientation. An International Student Handbook is prepared by current international students with a myriad of resources and information for incoming students. There are sections specifically for students with families, including schools and daycare for children, transportation, and housing. Incoming students are also paired with their current student partner over the summer and can utilize them as a resource as they prepare to join the Smith School.”
Kim Killingsworth from Vanderbilt Owen has some tips to share with students with families to make the transition easy.
“I recommend that incoming students and their families contact their local EducationUSA office to avail themselves of the resources available for living in the US as a graduate student and a family; they are located across the world and provide free resources. I also recommend they use all the aforementioned resources that the university provides.”
However, Kim also cautions students against getting over-anxious. She says, “I believe it is best to keep an open mind to the adventure of living in a new country with the potential for so many new experiences. I encourage students to reach out to local alumni to inquire their experience with family in Nashville; we gladly provide local alumni information for any incoming international student who requests it.”
Resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 | Image credit: Haas Berkeley