News & Events

MBA Students Learn Ropes

By Jane Slusark

Ropes courses and professional lectures are usually on the agenda for the first-year UI MBA students at an annual orientation designed to shatter cultural barriers among U.S. students and those from abroad.

But this year's IMPACT week, traditionally an annual five-day kick-off for the students, features an overnight camp-out, complete with dodge ball and board games, courtesy of Dwight Bailey, the program's new director.

The MBA students, who are 29 years old on average and have approximately four years of professional experience, spent Wednesday night at Boy Scout Camp Wakonda in Central City, Iowa.

"This is the thing that's going to get them through the next four weeks," Bailey said. "All the activities helped to break down barriers between the international and domestic students. Physical activities go beyond language."

In addition to shooting hoops and playing Pictionary, many of the domestic students taught their international peers Texas Hold 'em.

"They're able to just see each other's strengths," Bailey said.

Todd Nelson, 29, had worked for the international accounting and consulting firm Ernst and Young for the past seven years before entering the UI's program.

"This entire week has been much more than I expected," said Nelson, who noticed an initial separation between the international and domestic students. "These relationships are going to be important, because there are two years of intense study together."

Shamik Banerjee came to the UI from Kolkata, India and said the overnight stay and group activities helped foster relationships across cultural differences.

"I have come to know a lot of people; we are using each other's names," Banerjee said. "In the business world, you need to know people as a person, not just superfluously."

Students participated in both low- and high-level ropes courses, ranging from 10 to 30 feet in height. The low ropes activities focused on team-building, trust, and problem solving.

Bob Schuette, a ropes-course director from Marion, led the activity and then discussed the group's performance and how it related to business strategy. In particular, he noticed that future business leaders neglected their handicapped peers and jumped into the problem before strategizing.

The overnight camping will become a program tradition, Bailey said, because of this week's success.

Colleen Downie-Galindo, the assistant dean of the School of Management, also noticed the effect of the slumber-party bonding on the group.

"I've noticed a huge difference between previous ropes experiences and this one," she said. "Camping gave them a chance to get to know each other, and, because of that, they are more patient and productive."

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