The Graduate Business Conference was conceived in the fall of 1982 at Columbia Business School by the president of Columbia’s Graduate Business Association, Jim Deveau. At the time, Jim faced several troubling issues. First, Time Magazine had recently published a cover story (replete with the usual stereotypes) touting the MBA degree as “The Golden Passport”. Second, Columbia’s 26 student organizations needed a more cohesive vision. Finally, Deveau faced challenges in several aspects of student services and administrative support.
Hypothesizing that neighboring leaders might have similar concerns, Jim phoned several Northeast institutions and proposed a “leadership summit”. The response was overwhelming. Additional topics were suggested, the guest list grew, and soon Deveau was making corporate sponsorship presentations for a national conference.
1983…One Group, One Voice…
The first Graduate Business Conference, “The MBA – A Student Perspective”, convened at Columbia University in the spring of 1983. The goal was to share true perspectives on the MBA degree. The forum of student leaders felt they could speak with “one voice” and dispel media-generated stereotypes. The first day of the Conference featured a delegate caucus and several free-ranging discussions with guest executives and administrators.
During this first assembly, Columbia introduced the “traditional” workshop day to promote the exchange of ideas and focus on improving the quality of the “student experience”. Thoughts were exchanged on the key challenges of student leadership and discussed innovative solutions. This cooperative effort has become a hallmark of the GBC.
The first Graduate Business Conference was a success, with 89 delegates from the nation’s 25 “top ten” Business Schools attending. Nabisco Brands was a gracious sponsor, Columbia was an enthusiastic host, and delegates were energetic (to say the least). Not even an all-night itinerary featuring a Chinatown banquet and dancing at the Red Parrot could daunt those bright spirits!
Where to go from here?
The 1983 closing session brought a flurry of discussion as we established what has become the “bid process” for selecting future host schools. UCLA was selected as the 1984 Conference host, due to an outstanding bid presentation emphasizing topic (“The Bottom Line of Leadership”) and locale (heavy on beach shots and palm trees).