As the Tepper School of Business MBA Class of ‘15 arrives on campus this week, they’ll step into an exciting new world and a unique preparatory experience – BaseCamp. The three-week immersive program will give students an invaluable head start on success in both the comprehensive graduate program they’ve chosen and in effectively navigating an increasingly early internship search.
BaseCamp was launched in 2011 in response to the changing business landscape and Tepper School’s curriculum review. Unlike other orientations, BaseCamp was singularly designed for the Tepper MBA.
“BaseCamp is not a generic program – it’s very specifically geared to set up our students for success at Tepper,” stressed Laurie Weingart, the Carnegie Bosch Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory and director of BaseCamp and Tepper’s Accelerate Leadership Center. “That’s what makes it unique.”
And like the Tepper MBA itself, BaseCamp addresses both analytic and behavioral skill sets and provides students the ability to connect with fellow classmates, faculty, alumni and corporations. Continually re-evaluated in response to student feedback, the program has been slightly streamlined and further refined since its inception.
Highlights include the faculty-lead ‘Integrated View of Business’ series. These unique multi-disciplinary sessions allow students the unusual opportunity to truly comprehend the organization as more than the sum of its separate parts – as a working unit – by examining two corporations.
“It’s thinking about the company as a whole – how its many functions work separately and together,” explained Weingart. “It’s a valuable way to begin the MBA because it gives students a big picture view of an organization. Once they enter the program, they’re going to deal with each of these functions independently and we want them to see how the puzzle fits together at the very beginning. I don’t know of any other MBA program that does it this way.”
After each organizational study is complete, actual corporate employee panels – including Tepper alumni – are brought in to enrich the classroom experience with the real-world perspective.
With the broad view in place, the students then move into ‘Verticals’ – sessions that “take a deep dive” into the functional areas in which students typically seek employment, including operations, marketing, finance, consulting and entrepreneurship. For each Vertical, presentations by faculty, the Tepper Career Opportunities Center and an alumni panel give students a clear grasp of the functional area, potential careers within that field and the day-to-day realities of those positions.
“Many of our students are career changers and are uncertain as to their future career paths,” Weingart noted. “We want to give them a thorough understanding of their breadth of options before they start the curriculum and also begin to focus on summer internship choices.”
Ryan Burns, MBA ’13, now a principal at McKnight Capital Partners, concurs. “One of the most valuable components of the BaseCamp experience is the opportunity to participate in the many industry and career vertical discussions hosted by Tepper faculty and alumni,” he said.
“While many students may have some insight into the careers that they intend to pursue post-MBA, the open and honest discussion with alumni and faculty can be truly enlightening, either emboldening a student in his or her chosen career path or sparking a totally new and exciting passion. I think many students look at their career opportunities in a new light after hearing the alumni speak about the actual day-to-day activities in their respective positions.”
“I was focused on entrepreneurship when I came in and the discussions definitely made me think about different career paths. I did, however, choose venture capital/private equity which was in the entrepreneurial vertical, and was lucky enough to get an amazing opportunity.”
Other valuable skills addressed during BaseCamp include mathematics mastery, team building, ethics, leadership and networking. And corporations have their own opportunity to participate through sponsorship of the varying events, including team building and community service days.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, Weingart observed. Faculty members have noticed an appreciable change, as students enter the program as a close and cohesive class, ready to “hit the ground running.”
“BaseCamp introduced me to topics that were crucial to my success throughout my first year at Tepper – I couldn’t have imagined starting Tepper without it,” said Brigid Johnson, MBA’14, currently enjoying her internship as a product manager for tech at Amazon.
“BaseCamp allowed me to get a head start on thinking about my resume, elevator pitch, and networking skills and to solidify my career plans before recruiters arrived. It was also a great opportunity to learn about the abundant resources available at Tepper and Carnegie Mellon. Because I was introduced to Accelerate, the Career Opportunities Center, clubs and companies I was able to prioritize and plan how I was going to shape my Tepper career.”
“Our class formed an amazing bond early on and I learned that alumni not only want us to succeed, but will help us to do so,” she continued. “Learning this early encouraged me to reach out to alums for guidance from the beginning.”
“Every business school should have a program like BaseCamp.”