Monday, March 07, 2005

Chicago Admit Weekend: Of meaningful Mascots.

I am back in Beantown after a fun weekend in Chitown. It was a packed schedule with everything from Dean's address to alumni panel, dinner with students/admits to laser tag with students/admits, sessions on career services to drinks at LPF, getting lost on the bus getting to Whirlyball to me getting lost on the train getting to the airport, afterparty to afterparty. Needless to say, I had a blast.

So, where do I begin?

How about the serious stuff. The evening before I left for Admit Weekend, I had my London interview. It was outstanding and by far the best interview I've had, probably ever. I get a very good feeling about London this time around - I may yet get to decide between the two schools - so this added an extra sense of purpose to my visit to Chicago.

There were several things I was looking for, and will outline them in subsequent posts, but this one is about what the school stands for. Now, every school has a particular 'image', if you will. Chicago's, to a casual observer, is probably quant-jock-y. It was definitely mine before I looked closer. I can attest that there is some truth to this, though. Most people I met were either already doing, or wanted to do, finance. And they were unequivocal in their enthusiasm for the education and opportunities afforded to them by the school in this field. I, on the other hand, don't want to be a banker. My goals are entrepreneurial in nature and yet, the nutjob that I am, applied to the school.

So, why Chicago of all places?

My answer to this, posed indirectly as the Mascot question, was a vision of what *I* think the school stands for. It was a mix of my understanding of the program and an idealistic vision of an environment where I want to spend the next two years. I was accepted, so I guess this made sense to those who read it. But, I was looking for some sense of validation of this image this weekend. And, I am happy to report, I found it. There were things said and observed - in the Dean's talk, in the faculty's approach to their work, in the vision laid out for the school, in conversations with professors and students - that lead me to this conclusion.

So, what DO i think of Chicago?

I will let a mascot answer this one for me. Presented below is the question asked, and my response.

Chicago GSB is seeking a mascot to represent our new facility, The Hyde Park Center. What would be your choice and how will it represent the attributes of Chicago GSB.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to announce the unveiling of The Hyde Park Center’s new mascot, the ‘questideon’. Yes, it does look funny. It is, in fact, a modified question mark, “?”, with the dot replaced by a light bulb.

Who-the? What-the? Why-the?

I know, I know. Many questions probably come to mind, but allow me to recount a little tale first. I was at lunch during my visit to campus to attend Fall Preview. Being in an academic environment, sitting in mock classes, and interacting with the students brought back memories of high school. Not the good ones, mind you, but of being reprimanded for asking too many questions in class. I turned to the students at the table and said, “Do you guys ask a lot of questions at the GSB?” The response was smiles all around. “The reason we find the answers,” said one of the students, “is because we ask the questions.”

There is a purpose to this story, and the mascot I have chosen. I have come to realize that one of the core values of the Chicago GSB is the spirit of questioning. This is fundamental to the way knowledge is generated and imparted at the school. At the risk of overstatement, I will claim that if you do not question everything, you do not belong at the GSB.

So, you ask, where does all this questioning lead to? The answer is evident as soon as one walks though the doors of this breathtaking facility – Ideas. These ideas have shaped the world of business for over a century. These ideas have won Nobel prizes for their thinkers. These ideas have created entire industries, like passive fund management.

The mascot represents both these interconnected attributes of the school. Questioning leading to ideas, as represented by the universally recognized symbol for those “a-ha” moments, the light bulb.

Mascots, traditionally, are merely representative. The questideon, on the other hand, is intended to not just be a passive mascot. The Chicago GSB is a unique institution, and must necessarily mean different things to different people. It is my hope that this mascot inspires the observer to ask his or her own questions about the building, school, and program, and discover the ideas that makes the Chicago GSB so interesting to them.

I will be remiss if I do not talk about what excites me about the GSB. It should come as no surprise that there is a question involved.

Given an empty parcel of land to create the greatest business school facility in the world, why did the school and its architects design the building the way they did?

In the exterior of the building, I see the homage paid to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. In the Rothman Winter Garden, I see a connection with the gothic architecture of the greater University campus. In the classrooms, I see the cutting edge of technology. The bigger message transcends the architecture of the building.

The Chicago GSB is leading the charge to the future, and at the same time, grounded in the fundamental values that have made the GSB the great institution it is today.

Can one even begin to imagine what ideas are yet to come?


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