Helping to make Booth and Harper Center more sustainable

Sustainability is all the rage in the corporate world, so why not at business schools? That’s the question we asked ourselves as we set out to tackle a new challenge. As members of GBC, Kristina Lee, Raphaël Calabrese, and I were passionate about finding ways to illuminate sustainability principles at Booth. Together, we formed a Sustainability Task Force along with Sarah Clark-Hamel and Rebecca Li. Our charter was to explore actionable ways to reduce Harper Center’s carbon footprint and educate fellow Boothies about sustainable habits.

We kicked off our efforts in the winter quarter and immediately met with Booth’s Facilities director, Kari McDonough, to learn about the landscape. UChicago has an Office of Sustainability that was recently staffed by a new director, signaling that this has become a priority for the university. Being Boothies, we were interested in collecting as much data as possible to track Harper Center’s progress. Unfortunately, we learned that recycling and trash data is aggregated at the university level, not by individual buildings. We also learned that the City of Chicago governs the recycling programs that residents can participate in. Regardless, we knew that recycling habits could be improved. Kari’s team was in the process of creating new recycling signs that our Task Force provided input on. Since they rolled out in the Spring quarter, we have gotten many inquisitive questions and positive feedback!

GBC Social Impact & Sustainability Committee’s next target: box lunches.

GBC Social Impact & Sustainability Committee’s next target: box lunches.

We also sought to improve the sustainability of some daily activities that we all subconsciously ignore. Pollution from disposable plastic is a serious threat to our environment: the US alone produces around 35 million tons of plastic per year, out of which a whopping 91% is not recycled and ends up in landfills and in our oceans. This plastic comes in the form of daily items we all use daily: for example, at Booth coffee cups are conveniently provided but constitute an enormous source of waste. Imagine if all 1,200 MBA student purchased one cup of coffee per day. This amounts to 6,000 cups per week! It’s not just the cups (which are wax lined and can’t be recycled) - it’s also the plastic lids and cardboard sleeves! In a quarter, that’s around 60,000 cups. To think that’s just Booth and extrapolate that to the University, the City, and beyond, is absolutely mind-boggling! Our Task Force made a small dent in this problem by focusing on priority on reducing the use of plastic: we advocated for Facilities and Aramark to incorporate a discount for those who use reusable mugs. Thanks to their quick action, you can now get $0.50 off your cup of coffee at both Kovler and the Opening Bell. Compostable coffee lids have also been introduced recently. We have also requested compostable utensils to be incorporated into the dispensers. For reference, normal plastic utensils are made from crude oil and are not biodegradable.

Thanks to the quick work of our entire team and stakeholders, GBC decided to incorporate our task force into its committee structure. We are now part of the Social Impact & Sustainability committee, which is co-led by Sean Madison and me. As part of our early outreach this quarter, we have extended our impact to advocate for Student Life to provide all incoming MBA students with reusable coffee mugs! Our next targets are to try and mitigate box lunch and bottled water waste. Stay tuned for more progress as we try and make Harper Center and Booth more eco-conscious!

Retrospective from 2Y Juan Vasquez

Having been raised around “Los Barracones del Callao” - one of Lima’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods - it was never easy for me to ‘fit in’ as I transitioned into the corporate world of Peru. I always thought I lacked ‘something’, some sort of credential or membership card that would allow me to actually be part of a society other than Callao. Making connections or even friendships was always hard for me because I was entirely sure I lacked that something; which is why, when I got the chance to come to B-School in the USA, my eyes sparkled on the amazing value proposition that this offer entailed: getting my golden ticket to a life of ‘fitting in’.

However, reflecting on these 2 years of walking down the yellow brick road, I realize my Booth experience has successfully shown me that I already possessed what I had thought I lacked. Of course, LEAD, with its focus on developing one’s own leadership style, has played an important role; but, the main factor has been the people I’ve met here. Bringing such diverse people with different worldviews and backgrounds under one roof is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was only through tough conversations with them, learning to laugh at ourselves, and being comfortable with vulnerability that I learned three things: 1) life isn’t worth living if we have to pretend to be someone we are not just to please others, 2) the best way to demonstrate our charisma is through embracing our uniqueness, and 3) having the nerve to invite people to know the real you is a talent we should all strive to acquire.

A selfie with Francesca and DeMarrea.

A selfie with Francesca and DeMarrea.

I know this doesn’t come as a surprise to most Boothies, since we typically use these 2 years to engage in self-reflection. So why is this even a reflection worth reading? Because I hope that after reading this, you will also begin thinking about it in the reverse direction: might we be looking past some people just out of believing they lack that ‘something’? I certainly did, and I’m glad I was able to course-correct, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to meet incredible people such as Francesca Aguilar (ABM), DeMarrea P. Jefferson (Opening Bell) or the Follies star Paul “The AV Guy” Karabush. Harper Center is filled with people with amazing stories to tell, several laughs to share, and I’m sure the same will be true for most of our future workplaces, so I challenge you all to go and introduce yourselves to someone you otherwise would not.  You might find yourselves, much like me, wondering why you had not done so before.

Swing for the Fences

By Maria Del Toro

Booth alumna Maria Del Toro '19 reflects on her business school experiences in the selected excerpt below from her forthcoming autobiography, Just Like Sonia, due to be released in 2040. 

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Like many Boothies, I came here because my learning experience was largely defined by my ability to explore individual curiosities, and I wanted to be in an MBA program where that could continue. My studies were always a vehicle for reconciling my passions, often resulting in somewhat unusual, but thoroughly fulfilling hybrids. My undergraduate senior independent study for my psychology major was “The Artist and the Viewer: A Neurological and Psychological Perspective” which I designed with the director of my university’s Neuroscience Program, and examined how the brain and sensory systems interface during the creation and perception of art.

It was important to me to use the flexibility of the Booth curriculum allows to explore and integrate subjects I love.

I LOVE baseball.

I grew up in the Bronx, and we have this sort of famous team with a history of winning a lot. Baseball is home.

So when I was taking Strategy & Structure: Markets and Organizations last spring, I knew immediately what to propose to my group for our final project – Major League Baseball. Perhaps they humored me because of my passion or because of their pity, but they went along with the idea, and we focused our project around MLB’s potential strategies to address attendance declines. When we presented our final paper, it resulted into a lively, engaging cross-cultural conversation around Cricket2020 (a sport I knew nothing about) and the parallels around evolving sports and sports business models.

I eventually presented that paper alongside Melody Johnson at the Transcending Boundaries graduate research symposium – wearing team jerseys and giving out cracker jack boxes to anyone interested in learning more about our project.

WWSD

The guiding principle of my life is, “What would Sonia Sotomayor do?”

Before she was sworn in, President Barack Obama asked Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor promise something – to stay connected to her community.

I bought that promise with me to Booth.

My proudest accomplishment during my time at the University of Chicago was writing the Pilot-Something grant to establish a campus-wide Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. After the funds were awarded, I recruited a committee, and together we enlisted key stakeholders around campus, identified key partners like International House and the Center for Identity + Inclusion, and hosted the events.

The pilot was so successful that Vice Provost Melissa Gilliam renewed the funding for the initiative not only for 2019, but also for 2020, ensuring that it can become an annualized part of university programming. We have already onboarded a new committee of students and staff that span the entire university- the college, the medical school, SSA, Booth, Harris, even the libraries.

I helped create a space for students like myself to find a community when they arrive at the University of Chicago each fall. Which is exactly what Sonia would do.

It’s only a big deal if someone puts cream in the carbonara.

I had the extraordinary privilege of studying abroad during my second year at Booth. I ventured over to SDA Bocconi in Milan (cue hair flip). I also had the opportunity to visit a number of other countries as a result – Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and France. These are more countries than

I had visited in my entire life.

While in Italy, there were many times when the visiting students would become frustrated over, say, it taking multiple days to do something simple like reset an email password. We hypothesized that the IT guy must send passenger pigeons from his office to another office, probably after going out for another cappuccino and brioche.

One day, over aperitivo, an Italian classmate explained to us that there was simply a different culture around what was considered urgent. Very few things warranted getting worked up over. Email resets? That leak? A lingering smell of gas in your apartment? Relax.

That is, unless someone puts cream in the carbonara. Then all bets are off. Heads will roll.

But why, I asked? I was answered with a stern glare from across the table. You just don’t do that. There must be some boundaries around how things absolutely have to be done.

Know what your carbonara is. Few things are as rigid or formulaic as the real, perfect carbonara recipe. Recruiting, assignments, and networking are all important, but keep the carbonara in perspective. If there’s no cream in there, everything is probably going to be ok.

If you can understand 50%, you’ll be just fine.

I was a nontraditional candidate at Booth, with a social justice nonprofit background that spanned women’s leadership, civil rights, AIDS awareness, and educational opportunity. Even baby micro was a struggle for me.

Yet, by the time I was picking my classes for second year, I was bold enough to sign up for Pricing Strategy with JP Dube. I had second year swagger and was delirious with bid points to blow, so I enrolled in it.

I loved that class.

I learned this lesson again in a much more practical way during my time in Italy. I am a native Spanish speaker, and Italian felt like a small stretch as another romance language. Still, I struggled. There were plenty of false cognates that left me very confused – like burro being butter. I only understood about half of what was going on in every conversation, and that was enough to piece together the rest.

My proudest Italian victory: I was once trapped in a restaurant bathroom stall after the lock jammed and understood it would take multiple hours to get someone to unlock it for me from the outside (see #3 around urgency and the cream in the carbonara principle.) I was able to understand the instructions well enough to free myself.

Whether stuck in the bathroom or at a new internship, if you understand about half of what you need to understand, have confidence that you’ll figure out the rest.

There is more to the University of Chicago than Booth…

The University of Chicago is more than Booth. Much more than Booth. Tap into it proactively and don’t underestimate what we have to learn from our counterparts in other programs. I cultivated a group of friends from the Law School, Harris, SSA, and even a PhD candidate in the neuroscience program. Their passion and drive are inspirational and help me think harder and broader about how our work intersects.

There are events outside of coffee chats and corporate conversations, if you just walk out of that winter garden and into the academic wild.

Last year, Natalie Jaresko of Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight Board came to speak at the Institute of Politics for an event called “Puerto Rico’s Financial Future” where she was talking about PROMESA. I had just covered the visiting students for my first article as an editor of this publication, and attending that event was important to me – but I almost didn’t make because I wasn’t on the IOP mailing list. It made an extraordinary difference that I did. I met several of the friends who would become instrumental to my U of C experience as well as one of the leaders of Chicago’s Puerto Rican Agenda.

…And there is more to Chicago than the Loop.

I live in Hyde Park and no, I am not 1) a dual degree candidate 2) a parent or 3) a double maroon. Living in Hyde Park allowed me to have access to the broader university and colleagues at the other schools. (see above...)

This year Booth actually had to incentivize students to leave the Harper Center with the “Fresh Air Funds” that they could use at other places on campus. Coming from the Bronx, it was hilarious to me that living in Hyde Park bought me street cred at Booth. I understand if you all want to live together in an MBA commune or pay $2,000+ for a luxury studio downtown (actually, I really don’t) but in any case, remember that there is a world outside of the loop and the Harper Center. I mean this beyond just Wicker Park or Logan Square where you go out for brunch. If you get worked up about the Bucket Boys playing outside the building, then yes, the rest of Chicago may be way too urban for you.

Otherwise, try venturing over to Humboldt Park to see the steel flags and eat some mofongo. This city has so much to offer and so do Chicagoans – meet them, and not just while swiping.

Onward

While I was working on Hispanic Heritage Month communications, I often signed my emails “Pa’lante” meaning onward. I received a scathing response from one alum who felt that this was reducing a phrase to improper Spanish slang used by local communities who are not actually well versed in the Spanish language.

My local community is the Bronx. See promise above.

Pa’lante,

Maria del Toro

Interview with Constantine Yannelis by Simon Tiu

by Simon Tiu

ChiBus is starting a new column dedicated to interviews with Chicago Booth Professors. We hope these interviews will allow our reader to get to know our teachers outside of the classroom!

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What's your background?

I'm semi-local. I grew up in east-central Illinois in Urbana. My father was a Greek immigrant. I went to University Laboratory high school. James Tobin went to my high school. He's a Nobel laureate economist, much more famous than me. I did my undergrad at the University of Illinois. Then I did a master's at Université Paris-Sorbonne in math. I met my wife in Paris while visiting the Musee d'Orsay.

Oh really? how did you meet?

I met her inline actually. Now I think a lot of people meet each other online, I did "inline." We struck up a conversation. Then I returned to the states and did a PhD at Stanford in economics. That's where I really started focusing on student loans as an area of interest.

Awesome, we'll dive into that in a bit, but before that: what do you do in your free time?

Well, I don't have a lot of free time. I'm pretty boring between being an assistant professor and a dad. I have one daughter, her name is Anne, named after my mother. I like to read Middle-Eastern, Byzantine, and European history quite a bit. My daughter takes after me, she's very much a bookworm. I'm very happy to encourage that behavior.

Did your experience at the fed shape your interest in student loans?

Not really student loans specifically, but it definitely shaped my interest in applied work. I think student loans are really interesting because it's a tremendously important area which is significantly understudied relative to other forms of debt. It's the largest area of household debt outside of mortgages, but there's a surprising dearth of research given that these loans are supposed to finance human capital investment, and the primary source of wealth for the US, well, for any nation, is human capital. It's really important that we understand student debt because we need to make smart human capital policy choices. I really like this subject, and while it may not take the rest of my life, I imagine it'll keep me busy for at least a decade or so.

So let's dive into your research on for-profit colleges work. At a fundamental level, how do these for-profit colleges work and what's the problem?

Well, their basic models are quite similar to those of the typical universities you're familiar with-- students pay tuition and take classes. For-profits derive almost all of the revenue from government sources. They're either government grants or federally-guaranteed student loans. No banks would make these loans due to high default rates Unfortunately, the way the system works now leads to a misalignment of incentives. The for-profit institutions sign up students and the students pay tuition, but the dollars for tuition payments ultimately come from the government. In most lending relationships, if the borrower defaults, the lender usually eats the cost. But here, the lender isn't a bank, it's the government, so essentially the taxpayers are on the hook. So, in short, the for-profit universities are strongly incentivized to sign up students but have relatively little incentive to provide actual value and make sure that students can get jobs and pay back their debt.

Is that so much different from other universities or community colleges?

Well, it is different because the money for most community colleges come directly from the government. By the way, I'm not saying that for-profit colleges are inherently bad, only that there's a misalignment of incentives under the current system stemming from the loan guarantees. If you look at the model of elite incentives like Booth, it's quite similar to a VC incubator. Colleges lose money on the median student, but very high earnings students tend to give generous donations back to the school. Clearly, Booth's namesake is a great demonstration of that!

So, how do we fix this?

Well it's a hard problem, and there are some interesting proposals out there, but it's something we're still working through. The best question to ask here is how do we design an incentive system where the incentives of the colleges are aligned with the incentives of the students. One such proposal that is interesting is to arrange some sort of income sharing agreement. Essentially, make it so that the schools have equity in the students so that the schools are incentivized to make their students successful. This isn't a debt arrangement like garnishing wages or income-driven repayment, but more of an income-based arrangement or income-based repayment which could work better than what we have today.

What is visiting the CBO like?

It's actually a really nice place to do academic work. It's essentially a non-partisan organization that does budget estimates for Congress. As an academic, I want to be someone who directly seeks to answer questions, and seek the truth, independent of political or other motivations.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a few things. For example, I have a new work coming out that argues that almost all the time series variation in student loan defaults is driven by for-profit college expansion and contraction. Ultimately, for-profit expansion and contraction are driven by government policy, so it's pretty relevant to the current debates in student debt now.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, are there any general words of advice that you would give to us as students?

Booth students are great with student loans. I don't worry about Booth students struggling to repay student loans, because their earnings are typically so high. The data shows that some of you will have high levels of debt, but that our students have an extremely low default rate, especially since there are so many alternative payment options such as income-driven repayment in the rare cases that they do not have high earnings. Booth students almost always have amazing outcomes.

Outside of student loans, I'd probably tell you that the single biggest predictor of success is hard work. I encourage them to work on something with high value and high return, something that's important. I say that because you can work really hard on things that don't matter. Don't sit at a job where you can write a script to automate it away easily. It's hard to say what careers I would recommend because it depends so much individual preference. Option value is extremely important and think about being able to acquire human capital in the future, as the workplace is constantly changing and you will need to learn new things. Geography may also play an important role in your chosen industry. If you want to do tech, many companies are located in California. If you want to do finance, then probably New York City is your best bet.



Being a Mother at Booth: Choose Your Own Flavor

This month women across the globe celebrated Mother’s Day. Some families celebrated with serving their mothers breakfast in bed and some by taking them out for brunch and spending quality time with their moms.

I celebrated Mother’s Day on campus doing an all-day financial modeling training for my upcoming summer internship, followed by a family dinner with my son and husband and ended it by having dessert with few of my classmates. As I was walking out of the house that morning to attend the training, my 2.5-year-old pointed out to my husband, “Mumma School”. Over time, setting expectations with my son and spending scheduled quality time with him has allowed me to have a true Booth experience.

At Booth, we have a great community of moms who are working to achieve their goals and experience MBA life. This commitment to the school is governed by a few key factors which allow us to succeed. The most important being a strong family and friends support system - husbands, parents, friends, and classmates play a critical role in that. When I was admitted last year as a part of the class of 2020, my husband nudged me to go on Random Walk, leaving behind my 1.5-year-old son in his care. The Random Walk experience shaped my choices at Booth, and this year I am leading the Random walk to China with my close friends. The school and professors also play a critical role in enabling our success. My career and academic advisors at Booth have allowed me to plan and work towards my goal of preparing for and securing an investment banking summer internship. Recently, when a professor set up a Sunday evening review session, I reached out to him and expressed concern over not being able to attend the session due to lack of childcare that evening. The professor instead asked me to bring my son to class and attend the session. At the same time, my classmates at Booth reached out to babysit while I attended the review session.

Mothers at Booth Brunch with moms from the Classes of 2019 & 2020.

Mothers at Booth Brunch with moms from the Classes of 2019 & 2020.

Being a Mother at Booth can have different flavors and the flexibility offered at Booth allows you to build your custom schedule. While I chose to experience Colombia over spring break with 360 of my other classmates, my fellow mom at Booth went on a family trip to Europe.

The support, the flexibility and the pay it forward culture at Booth makes it a unique place to balance the role of full-time MBA student and mom.

A Holocaust Survivor’s Tale

George Levy Mueller, a Holocaust survivor, shared his story with Boothies at a talk organized by JBSA in observance of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). His stoic, brutally honest and nuanced telling of events gave us a personal window into a horrifying time in human history.

Lessons in Lead(HER)ship

You have probably heard the term leadership many times throughout your Booth experience, but how about Lead(HER)ship?  In 2019, Booth’s Leadership Development Office launched a brand new leadership program for first-year women designed to equip them with an elevated sense of self, enhanced leadership identity, and strengthened community network in preparation for their summer experiences and beyond.

The genesis of the program began when the Leadership Development Office recognized a gap in programming tailored toward women’s leadership at Booth. Katie O’Malley, Senior Associate Director of Leadership Development, felt empowered to fill that gap so she created a program to address the needs of first-year women. For O’Malley, it was important for the program to address how women connect with one another, and how they can remove power differentials that occur in the workplace; thus, she built out a program in which these first-year women could build a sustained community over these shared experiences, while also supporting their upcoming summer internship experience. The program is comprised of three modules and two small-group coaching sessions. The three venues for each of the modules were mindfully selected, with the intent to meet a female owned and operated businesses or where that was not possible, being thoughtful about the space that was selected.

Booth 1Y Lead(HER)ship participants at evolveHer

Booth 1Y Lead(HER)ship participants at evolveHer

The first session took place at evolveHer, a female owned and operated co-working space, where participants focused on understanding and promoting their own top strengths via the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment. Women were placed into small groups based on complementary strengths in order to foster a sense of admiration in the strengths of others within the community. Furthermore, the first-years participated in hands-on interactions in which they could explore their strengths as a group, and had the opportunity to self-reflect upon these strengths as well. During this session, participants were encouraged to focus on developing and celebrating their strengths in order to become more excellent at those characteristics (rather than focusing on perceived deficiencies). In addition, the women were educated on the differences between self-care and squad-care, learning that the encouragement of a community/squad elevates can provide care without the pressure and burden to be self-reliant as is proposed by the self-care mentality.

The second session took place at the official practice rink of the Chicago Blackhawks, MB Ice Arena, where they discussed the role gender bias plays in the workplace, particularly around hiring, feedback and performance evaluations. Although MB Ice Arena is not women-owned and operated, hockey is considered by many to be a male-dominated sport. Given the venue, it was only appropriate that participants ponder the question of how a male-dominated environment impacts how women give feedback to one another. The women tried their hand at ice skating, played broomball and even got to tour the Blackhawks locker room. The women also reviewed their 360 Feedback results previously received back in the fall to determine whether gender biases crept into any feedback received, discerning whether said feedback was biased or unbiased. In their post-session small group coaching session, the women debriefed on the experience, complimented each other’s strengths and provided bias-free feedback.

The last session will be held at Revolution Brewing, where each small group will showcase a 7-8 minute presentation to share about what it is unique, brilliant and strong about each of the women in the group. This synthesis event is intended to leave the participating first-year women feeling confident and supported going into their summer internships. The Ink Factory, a visual notetaking firm, will be present to capture the presentations in an artistic mural. Participants will receive a tour of the facility by female brewers and will close out the session with a frosty-beverage laden celebration. Participants will enjoy a couple of kegs of one of Revolution Brewing’s Spirit of Revolt, a special-edition beer brewed each year by the female brewers of Revolution Brewing.

Although this is the inaugural year of Lead(HER)ship, O’Malley would love to see the program expand in future years, hoping to have as many participants as the program can accommodate for. For any questions about the program, please reach out to leadership.development@chicagobooth.edu.

The language of music speaks to the soul

If you're at the Battle of the Bands on May 10th, there's a moment I want you to look out for: it's in first few seconds when the musicians walk on stage, plug in their instruments, and launch into the opening song. Imagine the feeling you have when a childhood friend's name unexpectedly appears as an incoming call on your phone screen. Or that rush you get when standing up to deliver the opening words of a speech. And the thrill of seeing someone special walk through the door to join you on a first date.

Amplify it by an order of magnitude: that's the experience each of your classmates will have when they walk through the backdoors of the green room and step onto the stage this Friday night. It's like creaking open the door to another universe. It's a moment filled with promise and affirmation. There's nothing like it.

Up until the Battle of the Band auditions in March, I had forgotten that moment. I grew up playing music. The first time I felt the potential for success was when my middle-school punk band played in a talent show. A few years later I began playing rock clubs in Macon, Georgia. I'm still not sure how many local ordinances must have been violated by booking 14-year-olds to play in downtown Macon's dive bars. I continued playing music all through college. And as is all too often the story, I let it go when I graduated and ramped into my career. Joining AudioBooth this year has given me the chance to rediscover that love.

But the high points of joining AudioBooth and Booth's community aren't just about personal discovery. It's the daily reminders of how incredibly striking and talented my classmates are outside of class, interminable recruiting events, or group projects.

A while back I was reading a listicle of the greatest words in the English language. A word stuck out: sonder—the realization that others have a life as rich and complex as your own. I'm not convinced that it's a real word because I haven't been able to find it in mainstream dictionaries. But nonetheless, the idea behind it resonates.

Nothing has helped me appreciate the richness of others' lives the way that music has. The serious second-year who grilled you during mock interviews transforms into a freewheeling guitarist. Your seemingly reserved friend becomes a strikingly confident keyboardist. A buttoned-up professional unfolds into an unrestrained lyricist. A laid-back introvert unwinds into an incendiary horn player. A drummer shares music from their country and the boundaries of percussion and rhythm are forever expanded.

I invite you to come out--not just May 10th--but to any AudioBooth event, informal jam, open mic event, or weeknight night concert with your classmates. Witness that take-the stage-moment. And rediscover what your take-the-stage moment is. Maybe you're a musician, and it's through AudioBooth. Perhaps you're an actor, and it's through Follies. Maybe you're an undercover sommelier and it's through presenting a new libation at Wine Club. Whatever it is, seize these moments. And most importantly, marvel at those timeless moments of wonder with your classmates.

The Booth Partner Experience

Booth Partners at an axe-throwing event

Booth Partners at an axe-throwing event

When I made the decision to move to Chicago along with my partner, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. I had spent most of my professional career in Dallas and would be putting a distance between a nearby brother and most of my friends. What I did know was that I wanted to be witness to and where possible, a part of what I was sure would be a life-changing experience for her. How would I make friends? Would I fit into this community? Will we have time for each other? I hope that after being here a year, I can share some insights and experiences that will help ease some of these anxieties that partners of admitted students may be facing.

As a partner, it’s easy to feel like an outsider at first. Conversation between Boothies often revolves around courses, recruiting events, or who’s spamming the Slack channel today. However, Booth offers many options to make partners feel welcome and integrated into the community. A prime example of this is the Partners Club, designed to host events throughout the year aimed at introducing you to other partners with similar experiences. As a co-chair myself this past year, I met some incredible people during axe-throwing, group workouts, and a myriad of other events. That’s not to say you should limit yourself to hanging out solely with fellow partners. The Booth community is a diverse body, with a wide range of interests. Partners shouldn’t feel reservations about raising their hand to participate in student activities they are interested in. I personally have been welcomed by members of the rock climbing and board game community on campus and have never felt unwelcome in these settings. Additionally, Booth activities such as formals, TNDC, LPF (you will learn the acronyms), etc., are all incredibly welcoming to the partner community. Lastly, watching your Boothie perform scholarly activities may just spark your long dormant academic and intellectual interests. If that is the case, I encourage you to inquire with professors about auditing courses. It’s a rare opportunity to leverage the talent of a school like Booth.

At Booth, you’ll also find yourself an invaluable asset to your partner (who else will water the plants during random walk?). As they experience the gamut of stress associated with recruiting, clubs, attempting to keep up with coursework, and just remembering to eat, you will be their support mechanism and source of encouragement. As a Booth student, it can be easy to get caught up in meeting incredible expectations and forget you are in a world where everyone is exceptional. It is your role to remind them of that. You also represent a link to the outside world and a bit of normalcy. You may find yourself to be a welcome relief from the regular series of questions (‘how are classes going?’) amongst other students. Be ready for your newfound popularity. Finally, on a serious note, The Booth experience is a commitment that requires compromise and sacrifice from both parties no matter your situation. However, with the right perspective and approach, it can be an adventure that brings you closer together and leaves you with memories for a lifetime.   


Representing Booth at the Adam Smith Society’s 2019 National Meeting

Boothies bond over photobooth fun

Boothies bond over photobooth fun

When we descended on the Intercontinental New York Barclay hotel in Midtown Manhattan, it was abuzz with activity. Suited professionals filled the lobby, hotel employees hustled around helping guests, and I struggled to catch an elevator. It set the tone for an energetic 2019 National Meeting hosted by the Adam Smith Society. Over that mid-April weekend, more than a dozen Boothies and I attended to learn and engage with other MBA programs and business leaders.

What is the Adam Smith Society? According to the group’s website, the society “is an expansive, chapter-based network of MBA students, professionals, and business leaders who work to promote debate and discussion about the moral, social, and economic benefits of capitalism.” The society describes its mission as advocating free enterprise and promoting free markets. Backed by the Manhattan Institute, the Adam Smith Society has grown significantly since its founding in 2011. Indeed, there currently exist over 30 student chapters and membership of over 4,000. Booth itself has 129 current full-time students as members.

We began that Friday evening exactly how we wanted to – with an open bar. As we enjoyed our frosty beverages and snacks, we met members from other chapters and were surprised to learn that they came from as far away as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Soon, we were ushered into the keynote speaker event titled “How We Get Our News.” Though I felt the speaker was somewhat partisan and spent a little too much time criticizing politicians, the conversation did cover some interesting topics such as student debt and the evolution of the 24-hour news cycle.

What I found most intellectually potent was a talk the next morning given by Oren Cass, former Director of Domestic Policy under the Mitt Romney campaign. One of his central ideas is that relying on a metric like GDP to understand well-being has consistently led to under-performing labor markets. He contends that consumption, as measured by GDP, is very different from production, which is worker-centric. In a practical example, Oren noted that workers who are put out of work due to heightened international labor competition do not care that they now have access to much cheaper overseas goods. Thus, he disagrees with many contemporary economists regarding the usefulness of GDP, but does still advocate for free-functioning markets.

Other highlights over the weekend included a more in-depth review of Adam Smith’s ideas, a lively debate on the viability of driverless vehicles, and a closing reception on an airy rooftop near the Empire State Building. The other co-chairs in attendance and I also had some time to plan out our next steps and brainstorm upcoming events. We were energized by this conference and hope to bring some of these intellectual ideas to campus!

The JD/MBA - A rare breed

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By Dane Christensen, JD/MBA Candidate

With only a handful of us pursuing the joint-program, we JD/MBA students are a bit of a rarity at the Harper Center. Throughout the first two years of my program, my law classmates and fellow Boothies have asked tons of questions about the JD/MBA program. Here are just a few of the most common queries:

What’s the biggest difference between law school and business school?

The first year of law school (1L) is extremely academically demanding. I had to study about five or six times harder than I had ever studied during undergrad just to keep up with my law school classmates. During 1L grades matter for legal recruiting, which produces pressure to perform well academically. However, the Law School does a fantastic job fostering a collegial classroom environment and student community that has never felt overtly cut-throat or competitive.

Through grade nondisclosure, Boothies have effectively avoided the Nash equilibrium of excessive studies, which allows us to spend greater time on other experiences integral to graduate school such as relationship building, taking tougher classes, participating in student groups, and competing in case competitions. Despite grade nondisclosure, I’ve been pleased to find that, the level of intellectual rigor and curiosity among Booth’s student body—both inside and outside the classroom—rivals that of any top law school.

At the law school, there are no midterm assignment or examinations—only a final exam for each class. Conversely, almost every single Booth class I’ve taken has required me to participate in weekly group-based assignments. This has been a fantastic opportunity to further refine my teamwork and project management skills.

Do you want to be a lawyer or go into business?

I don’t see being a “lawyer” or “going into business” as being mutually exclusive, but I definitely want to work at a law firm as an attorney. I plan to use the skills and knowledge I’m gaining at the Harper Center to differentiate myself in a law firm as someone who understands the underlying competitive strategies and financial implications of my clients’ decisions. Working on countless group assignments at Booth and participating in case competitions has also given me a better sense of how my future MBA clients think about issues and how they approach problem-solving. I know this will allow me to serve their legal needs more effectively in the future.

Four years is a lot of school…are you sure it’s worth it?

When you crunch the numbers, adding a fourth year to an already three-year law degree can get expensive. The cost of tuition paired with the opportunity cost of a foregone years’ salary adds up very quickly. However, the value I place on my joint-degree is difficult to translate to dollars and cents. Much of the of the value I perceive is intangible. It’s difficult to place an exact value on the relationships I’m creating, the classroom experiences I’m receiving, and the dual alumni networks I’m leveraging as a JD/MBA student—but I’m convinced it far exceeds the additional costs of extra schooling.

Dane Christensen is a second-year JD/MBA candidate at the University of Chicago Law School and Booth School of Business and currently serves as co-chair for Booth’s JD/MBA Association. He currently works as a UChicago Innovation Fund Associate and will be joining Sidley Austin Chicago’s corporate law practice this summer.


Making the most of the Booth Experience

Time is equal. We all have only 24 hours a day. In business school, time allocation is extremely challenging, since there is always so much going on. Maximizing my time has been my primary purpose since I joined Booth. Looking back on my two years, I truly believe that I was holistic in year 1 and I have been focused in year 2.

14th Annual CREDIT Conference Reviews Lessons of the Past to Guide a Path for the Future

This past Friday, March 8th, Booth’s CREDIT Group hosted the 14th Annual Credit, Restructuring, Distressed Investing & Turnaround Conference at the University Club of Chicago, with almost 200 attendees. This year’s speakers and panel members largely focused on applying lessons learned from historical empirics in order to assess where we are in the current credit cycle and to highlight risks that investors should be mindful of going forward.

By the Fireplace: Booth Stories

What if I told you of a place you could hear incredible stories from people from all over the world, from all walks of life. You could hear about their greatest triumphs, and their deepest losses. Their innermost dreams and their hidden insecurities. Would you go?