As appointments go, this could be the most consequential for the classes of 2018 and 2019, and indeed for all the future classes to come. The New York Times called it a “seminal decision”. Poets and Quants labelled it a “big step forward for Booth”. The ChiBus had nothing to say because its editors were too busy deciding whether nachos were “newspapery” enough to be included in their LPF’s menu. But regardless what you think of him, Raja Rajan’s (no relation to either the Dean or the Professor) elevation as a TNDC co-chair for 2017-18 is bound to shape Booth’s position in an increasingly competitive business school market. ChiBus finally got its act together for an interview with him.
Chicago Business [CB]: Why are you here and not somewhere else?
Raja Rajan [RR]: Every human being is lost without a purpose. The day of my first TNDC, in a badly lit, too small bar with the music blaring, tired after a long day of Orientation+ , I saw something almost magical as I watched the entire Booth slowly come together around me. FYs and SYs, investment bankers and techies, popular kids and invisible 200. I was hooked. Becoming a TNDC co-chair became my life’s ambition, my driving force, my raison d’être. As a first year, I enrolled in a daily resistance building regime that took me from wincing after my first beer to downing fireballs like there was no tomorrow. I’ve also spent the last year preparing a 10 MB spreadsheet on bars in Chicago, with their sizes, distance from MPP and chances of getting cheap drinks.
CB: I’m still a little confused. You clearly loved TNDC, but why not just stay in a practitioner’s role instead of looking for an administrative one?
RR: At LEAD, during the first impressions survey, all of my squadmates rated me incapable of organizing an event for 500 people. Rather than laughing it off as unreliable coming from people I’d met for the first time, I took it as a personal insult. I resolved to do something that would destroy this impression once and for all and heal the massive wounds to my pride. So I decided to become TNDC co-chair and organize a 500-person event every single week.
CB: What role do you see yourself playing at Booth?
RR: Booth was No. 9 on the Financial Times’ list of top MBA programs this year. Nine! Schools like Harvard and Wharton are worthy competitors, but when IE and Judge are ranked higher than us you know something is wrong. Do you know how I found out what Judge is? I had to Google it, I had to Google where it was, and then I had to Google “Why would anyone go to the Judge School of Business?”. A recent study by a top ranking agency showed that the most important thing that prospectives considered when choosing a school are its parties. Chicago’s nice, but compared to NY and SF it isn’t exactly a party city, so TNDC becomes particularly important. As a co-chair, I will enable this drive towards fun, rise in rankings and eventually glory and immortality in Booth history.
CB: Following up on that, what will the biggest focus of your administration?
RR: Let’s be very clear here. My biggest focus is on stamping out crime. I’m afraid that Chicago … Booth has become a breeding ground for organized crime. Just yesterday a friend showed me a video that had gone viral made by one of these gangsters. From daylight robbery at Kovler to deleting names off coffee chat signups, their infamy knows no bounds. We cannot and we will not hold TNDCs under this pall of fear. All options are on the table - I’m prepared to call in the University’s security forces despite their lack of arms to deal with this menace.
CB: TNDC has had a recent trend of hiring co-chairs from the Applied Econometrics Group. Do you think you need to expand your sourcing net?
RR: As you would know if grades did matter and you had paid an ounce of attention in baby stats, two hires is hardly a “trend”. I recognize comparisons with my predecessor are inevitable, particularly given how much we have in common. And I have a lot of respect for him - and am a big fan of the moustache that the Class of 2016 voted the “most influential in Chicago”. However, each new co-chair brings their own perspectives and vision and that’s what I hope to do this year.
CB: While they still play an important part in the rankings, people have increasingly begun to question the ROI on weekly parties (TNDC equivalents) across MBA schools. What’s your take on this?
RR: Well maybe some of the nerd schools (looking at you H**) might have such newfangled ideas, but I disagree. I believe that TNDC still plays a critical role in the lives of MBA students. Where else do you go to drown your sorrows after seven companies have rejected you in the peak of recruiting? Where else can you see future titans of the industry weave about unsteadily and ask you ‘Wassh up?’? We are Booth’s pressure valve, the mechanism that keeps us all sane, the destroyer of Friday scheduling. These is the mission I hope to further next year.