My first day of class as a student in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business was the last day I would show up showered to a morning class. As the professor waited for late students to file in, she spotted my nametag, walked over, and I greeted her enthusiastically. I thought maybe she had heard good things about me from orientation. Instead, she said, “Bologna, Swordfish, Rick Carlisle?”
The smile dropped from my face and I remembered that survey I had done over the summer. It was one of what seemed a million tasks Ross had given to its sophomores to complete before the first day of school, and one of the last questions was, “What are the first three words that come to your mind when you think of the word, accounting?” I had thought it would be funny to put down literally the first three words that came to my mind because I knew virtually nothing about the subject. Now, after my first full semester in the school, I have been able to confirm the realization that came to me that fateful early September morning: Ross means business.
Founded in 1924, the school currently holds just under 3,300 students and offers MBA and BBA degrees, along with Master of Accounting, Master of Management, Master of Supply Chain Management, and PhD programs. After a $100 million donation (I know, right?) from alumnus Stephen M. Ross in 2004, the renamed and recently-renovated building is now home to 151 full-time faculty members, over 70 student clubs and organizations, and the top-ranked business programs in the world.
Gathering with purpose
The business school lobby or “Winter Garden,” is a high-ceilinged, vibrant, reservoir of young professionalism, where it’s hard to find an open seat. The bustling hub of conversation hosts an overflow of students, due to an emphasis on group work, with both positive and negative repercussions. On the plus side, group work prepares students for real-world careers. On the negative side, everyone has busy schedules that make it difficult to find times to meet. And despite trying to divide the work, efforts are never equal; someone is always pulling slightly more weight.
Test me, Test me
No matter how many groups we work in, the harsh reality is that exams must be taken individually. Some students think getting into Ross is the hard part and once you’re in, it’s a cake walk. It’s not. For a Sport Management transfer who’s not quite sure where his focus lies, it’s been tough. I’ve found that keeping your end goal in mind, along with pinching out a few leg hairs when you’re about to fall asleep in class, really helps. You don’t want to fall asleep in a Ross class because the rooms are designed with elevated rows of desks, so there is no hiding behind a student in front of you.
One class where I will never fall asleep is Business Analytics, a discussion of decisions that actual CEOs are faced with everyday, applicable to real world scenarios. We also come up with fictional companies like RAM SportsWHERE?: An athletic apparel company featuring an unattended ram roaming around its stores. While not the most realistic business plan, we used the concept to identify stakeholder interests and to design methods to satisfy those interests, an activity that provided serious perspective on operating a business.
Spend enough time at Ross and you’ll see that it is creating professionals in every sense of the word. The group projects teach students how to be team players, and the heavy workload prepares students to budget their time wisely. But the biggest challenge is not with the amount of work or the difficulty of the classes, but rather to do the work and still have fun in the process. Almost one whole semester in, and with a couple fewer leg hairs, I’d give myself an A+ on that assignment.
Best Kept Secret: The Cubano Sandwich served in the Seigle Café. Served exclusively on Tuesdays, this grilled masterpiece is not for the faint of heart. Or vegetarians.
Best Nap Spot: 2nd floor couches. Tucked conveniently right behind Robertson (formerly Blau) Auditorium is a hallway that ends in multiple leather couches for your sleeping pleasure. This hallway is out of sight from the general public and usually pretty empty. Pro Tip: These couches are not big enough to lie down on, but you can easily push two together and make a nice business bed.
Best Ross Staffer: Norma – Cashier in Seigle Café. Nicest woman in Ross. Always asks you how your day is going, and always is in a good mood herself. You’re going to wish your conversations lasted longer than a couple seconds.
Best Study Spot: Also on the 2nd floor. You must reserve study rooms in Ross, and this one is a hot commodity. On the opposite side of the building as the nap spot, the closest study spot to the wall is the furthest from civilization, which is exactly what you want.
Best Place to Network: Right where most students walk in, on the East University side of the building, there is almost always networking booths set up with recruiters eager to talk to business students. Even better: they usually have free food and/or pens at these booths.