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How a member school gets ready for OP

Paula Fontana
Paula Fontana

With the 2017 Orientation Program & Career Forum just around the corner, we wanted to get perspective on what it takes for our constituents to prepare for this intense annual conference. For the member school perspective, we turned to Paula Fontana at Emory University—the neighborhood where this year’s OP will be staged in Atlanta.

Fontana is associate director of advising in the Emory Goizueta Business School career services department. We asked her a few questions about the preparation process. These are her replies.

As a Consortium member school, what goes into preparing for an event like OP? Is there a strategy behind how many people you bring, and who?

Even though we have been a Consortium member school for years, preparing for OP is always such an exciting time. Students are always so eager, apprehensive of the process and full of questions, so we make sure to connect with them well in advance of the conference to guide them in making the most of their experience. Our number of conference support staff stays relatively constant unless, of course, OP is held in our backyard. Then it is all hands on deck.

Do you have a “war room” where you work out how you expect the week to go? How do you measure success from your time and investment in an event like OP?

Absolutely! The “war room” is where the magic happens and students have the opportunity to test the strength of their preparation with members of our community. Students arrive with varied skill sets as well as varied career goals, so it would be unfair to measure success any other way than through individual growth. As long as I see growth in every student, then I deem OP a success.

What is your expectation from the Emory students who you will encounter at OP?

I expect them to represent themselves and Goizueta to the best of their ability, keeping in mind our core values: courage; integrity; accountability; rigor; diversity; team; community.

What is the most difficult thing for you and your colleagues about bringing young professionals, years out of school, back into an academic environment? And for the students themselves?

Students have to, at times, adjust from being subject-matter experts in their previous careers to being vulnerable enough to learn new skills and ways of thought, especially as it relates to the MBA recruiting landscape. Getting them to trust the process is usually the most difficult hurdle to overcome, but once they know how much we genuinely care about their success, then we are able to move forward.

Emory has been a member school since 2001. From your experience, or those you know, is preparing for OP a new experience every year, or has it become a well-oiled machine? What’s the same year after year and what changes?

The OP prep process has become a well-oiled machine as far as timing of deliverables and requirements pre-OP; however each year the needs of the student vary slightly with the population so we have to treat each class uniquely through the use of soft skills to ensure that they receive the preparation needed to be successful.

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