School News

Inaugural re-LAUNCH Orientation for MBA2s Kicks off with 24-hour Hackathon

Each Fall incoming two-year Full-time MBA students participate in LAUNCH orientation, which kicks off the Stern journey and immerses students in an experiential learning cycle of Thinking, Acting and Reflecting. This Fall, for the first time, Stern hosted a re-LAUNCH orientation for all returning MBA2s as a way for the community to reconnect and re-engage, and to use innovation to address Stern challenges emerging from the pandemic.

This virtual two-day program consisted of welcome remarks from Dean Raghu Sundaram, a discussion on the importance of innovation from Vice Dean of MBA Programs J.P. Eggers, conversations with members of Stern’s Alumni Council about the vital importance of the Stern alumni network in times of crisis, and a chance to reconnect with classmates. 

The core of the program, kicked off by Professor Hila Lifshitz-Assaf, was a 24-hour hackathon that challenged students to create an idea or initiative to strengthen networking opportunities that span across class blocks, program years and industry interests.   

In the end, two teams were named the winners after presenting to a panel of alumni judges and Vice Dean Eggers. One team, which included Johnny Fugitt, Lauren Marinaro, Calley Robin, and Ling Xie, presented an app solution inspired by the School’s pre-pandemic weekly “Stern Social” gatherings. The other team, which included Sam Greene and Krithik Tirupapuliyur, presented a solution modeled after Stern’s Pick Six visual expression admissions essay to connect students based on shared interests.

Team member Lauren Marinaro explained her team’s Stern Social app solution: “Building a strong network is an important part of the business school experience, but particularly difficult to do in a virtual environment. What’s challenging is that relationships require both an introduction and fostering to be valuable and fulfilling, something Zoom wasn’t built for.

“Our solution, aptly named ‘Stern Social’ after Stern’s Thursday-night shindigs of the pre-COVID days, is a virtual community where students come to find and grow connections, randomly generated or by common interest. We have two phases of the platform – Phase 1 that can be rolled out immediately via our Microsoft Teams platform, using a pre-built function for generating random connections; and Phase 2 – an app where students can search for friends based on common interests, segmented into the three foundational categories that define a business school experience – Learning, Social, and Career. Modeled off of dating apps we’re already familiar with, the UI allows you to ‘swipe right’ on a Sternie to chat and coordinate a time to meet, in-person or virtually, in the app itself. Stern Social ensures that, even in a virtual world, we can find and foster the friendships that matter and make the business school experience special.” 

Team member Krithik Tirupapuliyur explained his team’s Pic3 photo solution: “We pitched an idea to improve MBA2 networking opportunities during the pandemic without causing too much virtual fatigue. Our idea, Pic3, was inspired by the Pick Six admission essay. Students would pick three photos that represent activities they identify with and upload them to a Google Photos album. We would leverage Google Photos features to bucket the photos based on similarity. Each student would be part of three groups based on similar activities. The groups would then put together a 30-second video of the group performing the shared activity. The students do this virtually, in-person with social distancing measures, or in a hybrid manner. This allows for students to meet new classmates, do something they love doing, and not be exhausted from another ‘Zoom Happy Hour’. At the end of the year, all the videos will be stitched together and made into a movie for the entire class to watch before graduation. This would be a fun way for the entire class to get together and learn something about each other before leaving Stern.”

On engaging in the hackathon, Marinaro noted, “It was so fantastic to see friends and work on solving a problem that's created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety leading into the school year. It felt good to work together towards something productive and immediately impactful.” 

NYU Stern Leadership is planning to implement components of these recommendations to support all students in the two-year Full-time MBA program. The students will also be presenting their ideas to the Alumni Council. 

According to Vice Dean of MBA Programs JP Eggers, “The passion and creativity that all of the students demonstrated was really inspiring, and the solutions they presented were excellent. I’m very excited to get to work as a school to implement some of these ideas to help enhance the student experience.”

Team “Stern Social” shares a virtual high-five
Team “Stern Social” shares a virtual high-five. (Top left) Calley Robin; (top right) Lauren Marinaro; (bottom left) Johnny Fugitt; (bottom right) Ling Xie

Team Pic3 shares their passion for photography.
Team Pic3 shares their passion for photography. (Right) Sam Greene; (left) Krithik Tirupapuliyur