“Community” is a big buzzword at Ross. The first time I heard the term community was during my senior year of high school on a Ross Campus Day tour. I remember the student ambassador speaking about what the Ross community meant to her.
She told us how she felt a real sense of community from her involvement in her consulting club. She also touted how the work she was doing was impacting a real Ann Arbor business. I knew right then-and-there that I wanted to attend a school where I felt like my presence mattered. I wanted to be where I could make an impact on a community – whether that be Ross, Ann Arbor or beyond.
Flash forward to freshman year of college. Here, I heard “community” being used everywhere – from coffee chats with business fraternity members (or “brothers” as they’re called) to Ross Club mass meetings. It seemed like everyone had found their community at Ross one way or another.
Honestly, at first, I would roll my eyes whenever I heard about “community” and how everyone finds their “people” at Ross. I could not envision what type of community I would be a part of at Ross. Business school had a stigma of being competitive and cutthroat; I did not see myself finding community that solely upheld those values.
Despite not knowing that I’d find my community at business school, I knew that I still wanted to be a business major because of the positive impact that I’d be able to make. I’m happy to say that my experience at Ross has actually proven to be the exact opposite of what I thought business school to be like: it’s collaborative, supportive, and stimulating.
I can’t believe that it’s taken me until senior year to realize and appreciate that I am actually a part of multiple communities at Ross.
Though “community” may seem like an overused buzzword, let me tell you that it is possible to find yours one way or another at business school. Today, I am going to share the communities that I am a part of at Ross and tips on how to find yours. (Also, feel free to comment below on how many times I use “community” in this column.)
FIRST TIP: STAY CONNECTED
I am a member of the Academic Success community, which is part of the BBA Outreach Programs at Ross. Academic Success has programs for both high schoolers and current undergraduates at the University of Michigan.
In high school, I participated in an outreach program called MREACH. This program brought high schoolers to Ross once a month (on a Saturday!) to introduce them to business concepts. I also had the opportunity to network with BBA students and hear from guest speakers from companies like Google and Shell.
Becoming a business major was appealing to me because it’s a pretty ] expansive major. I knew I was interested in marketing, but it wasn’t until an MREACH presentation from Ross lecturer Marcus Collins that my interest in pursuing a career in marketing was solidified. He spoke about his experience on the “Cliff Paul” for State Farm campaign and the different marketing strategies he employed. I was so intrigued by how creative and strategic the field of marketing could be.
MREACH was an amazing program because it allowed me to meet other local high school students who were interested in business. The program also let me really immerse myself in Ross. I felt cool sitting in the classroom and walking around Ross as if I were a student.
Now, it’s fun to see how full circle everything has become; some of the students that I met in MREACH are now my peers at Ross! Over the years, most of us haven’t really changed too much. It’s just crazy to see how we’ve gone on this journey from simply being high school students learning about business to becoming full-fledged graduating seniors with jobs in corporate America.
Through MREACH, I developed a strong relationship with the director of Academic Success, Rhonda Todd. She has become an amazing mentor to me. After my senior year of high school, Rhonda invited me to join another outreach program for incoming first-year students called Ross Summer Connection (RSC), where I was actually part of the first cohort.
RSC is a four-week residential program that provides students with the opportunity to fully immerse themselves at U-M. My cohort and I lived in West Quad and took a microeconomics course, a first-year writing course, and a calculus course (hello Michigan Math!). We also got to meet many of the Ross faculty and staff, including lunch with Dean Scott DeRue.
My Ross journey would not be the same without the support that I have received from Academic Success and I have Rhonda to thank for that. Rhonda made Ross feel like a community even before I was a BBA student with her magnetic and dynamic personality. Now as a BBA student, I love running into her around Ross on my way in between classes and catching her up with what’s going on in my life.
I am incredibly grateful to be part of the Academic Success community because of all the people that I have met and through all of the relationships that I’ve cultivated. I’ve even met some of my best friends through Academic Success and RSC.
SECOND TIP: PURSUE INTERESTS
Part of finding “your people” at Ross – or in any business school – is to join student organizations where you have similar interests. This tip might seem obvious, but sometimes it gets overlooked.
There are a plethora of student organizations that you can join at Ross. No matter how niche something might seem, there’s probably a club for it. You have your choice of business fraternities, consulting clubs, finance clubs, marketing clubs, and diversity-focused student organizations – just to name a few.
However, something I‘d like to emphasize is that joining student organizations or rushing a business fraternity allows you to meet people that you never would have met otherwise.
For example: I met my good friend Steven through Asian Students in Business (ASIB), which is another community that I am a part of at Ross. Steven and I probably would have never met had I not joined the club because we were in different grades. After meeting my freshman year, we were on board for ASIB my sophomore year and his junior year. Through our weekly board meetings, I really got to know Steven. I learned about his passion for cooking and that he was on the U-M Triathlon team. And eventually our circles overlapped even more when he began dating my best friend, Christy. So this meant I saw him a lot more.
Moreover, Steven has become someone whom I can turn to whenever I need help. I asked him for recruiting tips and class recommendations during my junior year. We even hung out a lot in New York during our summer 2019 internships.
ASIB allowed me to bond with other students over our Asian-American identity and share our experiences with each other as we navigate our way through business school. ASIB gave me a place where I could talk about niche and cultural things that my other friends wouldn’t understand. Here’s an example: we could talk about the different snacks we ate growing up or our family traditions for Lunar New Year. ASIB helped me to fully embrace my identity as an Asian-American.
THIRD TIP: DON’T BE SHY
My last tip for finding community is to not be shy! Allow yourself to linger after class and talk to your peers. Unless you have a meeting or back-to-back classes, there’s no need to rush out of the classroom.
I used to be guilty of this. During the Ross Integrated Semester (RIS) of junior year, I found myself staying after class more just to talk to my friends. We would walk to the Winter Garden together and, oftentimes, we’d bump into more people we know. I got to “expand my network” but it also just felt nice to meet more people. Meeting more people made Ross feel smaller and meeting them outside of the classroom made it feel less like school and more like an actual community. Sure we are all at school to learn, but college is also a time where you’re supposed to make life-long friendships and I’ve been able to do that.
That’s because the last community that I am a part of is the Ross community at large. I truly feel like I have integrated myself into this community through the multiple student organizations (ASIB, BBA Marketing Club, Michigan Marketing and Advertising) that I am a member of and through all of the people I know.
The Ross community is completely different from the University of Michigan community at large. At Ross, I would recognize a lot of names and faces in my classes. In my non-Ross classes, there would be a sea of new faces. I liked knowing who some of my Ross classmates were and I felt more comfortable approaching them because I knew we had mutual friends or because I had seen them around before.
I like the comfort and familiarity that Ross provides me whenever I walk into the building. I enjoy going to Ross because I always wondered who I would see. It’s fun stopping by my friends’ table in the Winter Garden and chatting before class. The community that I feel when I walk in the building is part of the reason why I like going to Ross and why I feel like I am always there – even now when I’m attending class and events virtually. I love that I am able to walk in the building, or enter a Zoom class, and am guaranteed to see at least one person that I know.
Ross became a community for me when I took the time to invest in my relationships with others. Finding community is intentional and is dependent on how you choose to pursue it. Finding your community takes work. When you do, trust me it’s worth it.
(For those that wanted to keep track, I use the word “community” 30 times throughout this column.)
My name is Alexa Tran and I am a senior at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business studying Business Administration with a minor in Religion. I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, so I knew that I always wanted to be a Wolverine! I am passionate about traveling, mentorship, iced coffee, and Trader Joe’s. I enjoy spending time with friends and family and managing my travel Instagram and blog: @adventuringwithalexa.
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