Friday, May 21, 2010

If It's June, It Must Be OP Time

If June approaches, then the Consortium's annual Orientation Program must be around the corner. This year Orlando (above) will host the big event--always a festive, memorable occasion to welcome over 300 new students to the Consortium family.

Orlando last hosted the OP in 1999 right in the shadow of DisneyWorld. The 44th OP is scheduled June 13-16 this year at the Hilton Bonnet Creek Hotel. True to the tradition of Consortium OP's, hundreds and hundreds of students, university representatives, corporate sponsors, and (more and more) alumni and other supporters will converge on the city to participate in one of the grandest and (increasingly) one of the most important business-school and diversity congregations in the land. One of the biggest networking sessions of all--where students and alumni have ample opportunity to connect with corporate representatives from every corner of the country. And where students get a head start on the business-school experience.

Over the years, OP has offered not only corporate contacts and introductions to b-school classmates and professors, but has afforded special experiences and lasting memories. On the surface, OP is a large-scale networking event. Beyond that, it is more than that--an uplifting event and confidence-builder for the 300-plus students, a launching pad to help them take full advantage of the b-school experience.

Students arrive excited about their having been admitted to top schools or having won fellowships. But they come wondering about the decisions they made and the engulfing academic experience they are about to encounter.

They leave OP energized by new friendships and encouragement from every person in sight. Many come away inspired and connected; many devise well-outlined game plans for how to manage the rigors of courses and recruiting. Some actually come away with actual job offers, although that's not a primary purpose.

Often at OP, there has been the perennially popular "Diversity Theater," featuring real actors playing roles in skits with diversity-related plots followed by lively, heated discussion afterward, an event students had to been torn away from. Through the years, there have been the career fairs, the industry panels, the university programs, and stunning speeches that rouse students and reps to standing ovations.

There have been prizes and events to meet whomever you want, to discuss whatever you wish. There have been private meetings, informational interviews, and academic competition.

There, too, have been the chances for a batch of Dartmouth students to convene for barbeque nearby to set strategy for the fall and just bond with each other. Or there are those moments when Michigan students spontaneously shout, "Go, Big Blue" a few dozen times to whomever around. A feel-good time to supplement the meetings, the connections, the business cards, and the we'll-there-for-you messages from mentors, staffers, and university reps.

There, too, have been the parade of colors--the assortment of reds, blues, greens, and oranges(mostly reds!) emblazoned on the students, who wear school attire, wave school pennants, or sit at decorated school tables. The fiery reds of Wash-U, Indiana, Wisconsin, Cornell, or USC. The cool blues of Michigan, Berkeley, UNC, Yale and UVA. The burning orange of Texas. The conspicuous purple from NYU.

In the 40-plus years of this frenetic, adrenaline-filled convention, experiences differ from year to year based on hosting sponsors, the times at hand, the dreams and desires of students, and the host city itself. That city gets to show off; the hosting sponsor gets to present itself as a most attractive prospective employer.

Minneapolis, for example, has hosted twice (the first time in 1997)--thanks to such sponsors as General Mills, 3M, and Target--and shown that a June Minnesota is as comfortable and fun as the visions of a January Minnesota may not be.

In 1998, OP landed in the middle of Times Square in New York City--thanks to host Chase Manhattan and host school NYU--where students could steal away to bustling Broadway in between sessions.

In Cincinnati in 2001, OP resided just down the road from lead sponsor Procter & Gamble, which had dozens of it reps from all over the globe around and about. San Francisco was a host in 2002, when many were at first concerned about travel in the wake of 9/11. Attendance and enthusiasm, nonetheless, were as high as ever. Well-known state politician Willie Brown addressed Consortium students at one luncheon.

It might have been hot, unbearable outside when the OP was in Atlanta and in Dallas (2008). Yet in both places, the 4-5 days were spirited, lively--with much to do and many to see inside. In Dallas, Pepsio-Frito Lay was a lead sponsor, and host school Texas gladly tooted its horns, happy to have been able to lure its Consortium brethren to the Southwest.

St. Louis in 2006 was a special year, as the Consortium celebrated its 40th year, taking time to reflect on significant progress, the organization's growth, and its evolution. Emerson was a lead sponsor. Banking and finance opportunities had peaked, and nearly a hundred students expressed interests in financial services.

Chicago hosted in 2000. In perhaps its last hurrah before its demise, with a proud public face, long-time contributor Arthur Andersen was a major host. In 2007, OP went to Indianapolis, thanks to sponsor Eli Lily. In one keynote addresss, Consortium alum Derica Rice spoke to students and described his career path from Consortium MBA (Indiana) to CFO at Lily.

Philadelphia and Washington have also been host cities over the past 15 years.

Ask just about any Consortium supporter, student, alumnus, corporate rep, or univeristy rep what they like best about the Consortium experience. The answers will vary, but inevitably they snap and admit "OP" is near the top. Ask others who have heard about the Consortium, some will say they are considering being a part of it--because of "OP."

"Make Your Move" is this year's theme for Orlando. So go ahead and make it.

(For more information, see

Tracy Williams

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