Incoming freshman across a variety of majors recently gathered at the Mason School of Business as part of William & Mary's PLUS (Preparing for Life as a University Student) program. The one-week residential transition program, which is operated by the Center for Student Diversity, introduces recent high school graduates to the W&M community and provides a positive kickoff to their first year of college.
For many students who participated this year, it was also their first foray into life at a world-class business school. And it wasn't exactly what they were expecting.
Known for its magnificent halls, high-performance conference facilities, and state-of-the-art classrooms, the Mason School is also home to the unique Jim and Bobbie Ukrop Innovation & Design Studio. It was here, amidst the room's industrial-style furnishings, rolling whiteboards, and exposed ceiling beams, where William & Mary's newest students discovered that Mason is not your average business school.
"Today, you'll be participating in the Marshmallow Challenge," Jennifer Dahnke, associate director of Mason's undergraduate business program, told the group. "The challenge," she explained, "is to work in small teams to build the tallest, free-standing structure using only spaghetti, string, tape and a single marshmallow." Students had 18 minutes or less to accomplish the task.
This merging of creativity and business surprised many of the students who participated – some even wondering if an MBA from Mason might be a possibility in a few years.
"I had a fantastic experience," said incoming chemistry major Naa-Kwarley Quartey. "Had it not been for the PLUS program, I don't think I would have been able to experience what life and classes were like at Mason."
Physics major Elisa Featherston admitted that the Marshmallow Challenge wasn't how she expected to spend her day at a business school. "The Design Studio was an amazing and interactive place," she said. "I really enjoyed the activities and truly felt honored to be involved with so many amazing students and faculty."
"The Mason School is a great place to be," Featherston added. "It has me thinking about getting involved in a business major in the future."