Pamplin's first-year MBAs begin Quest orientation

An MBA student team works on a Quest challenge.

An MBA student team works on a Quest challenge.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 20, 2008 – First-year MBA students at Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business will undergo the traditional Quest orientation of outdoor problem-solving and team-building exercises on Friday, Aug. 22.

During Quest, teams of first-year MBA students will tackle a series of six challenges, including neutralizing a “radioactive isotope” — actually, a coffee can, which the students have to remove from a “toxic site” and place in a “safe container” (a bucket) without breaching the “contaminated area” around the can — moving through a “giant spider web” without touching it, and building a bridge to cross a “piranha-infested swamp.”

The aim of the exercises is to enable new students to “get to know one another in a fun and supportive atmosphere and to promote creative problem-solving and team-building skills,” says MBA Associate Director Barry O'Donnell, who organizes and leads the program and trains second-year MBA students to serve as facilitators for the new MBAs. “Teams are expected to work together to define the problem and set specific goals, brainstorm solutions, evaluate the alternatives, decide on a course of action, and execute it.”

Quest, he says, challenges students to trust their teammates, set goals, and learn positive ways to confront others and to accept criticism. These issues are further explored in debriefing discussions following the exercises. “We want to get across the idea that an MBA is more than books, research papers, tests, and a diploma.” The program is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the lawns around Pamplin Hall, with the rain location being various Pamplin classrooms.

This year’s incoming MBA class comprises 68 students, 72 percent of whom are male and 54 percent of whom are from other countries. The students’ average age is about 26 years. They have, on average, 3–plus years of work experience.

“Our new entering class builds on the success of our recent move up in the MBA rankings — more diversity, broader range of backgrounds, and deeper professional experience,” said Steve Skripak, Pamplin associate dean for graduate programs. “We're excited to have attracted such an outstanding class, and we believe that the outlook for our program is exceptionally bright.”