First-year MBA students at Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business will participate in the traditional outdoor team-building exercises known as Quest on Friday, Aug. 21, as part of orientation week in the full-time MBA program.

During Quest, MBA student teams 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.–2 p.m., on the lawns around Pamplin Hall, with the rain location being various Pamplin classrooms.

Applications to the full-time MBA program rose more than 50 percent this year over last year and have more than doubled during the last two years, says Steve Skripak, Pamplin associate dean for graduate programs. This year’s incoming MBA class comprises about 55 students: 35 percent are female, 44 percent are from other countries, and 77 percent have at least one full year of work experience. The students’ average age is 26 years.

“Our new entering class builds on the success of our excellent incoming class last year — more diversity, broader range of backgrounds, and deeper professional experience," says Skripak. “We're excited to have attracted such an outstanding class, and we believe that the outlook for our program is exceptionally bright.”

In addition to the full-time MBA program at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, the Pamplin College offers a part-time, Professional MBA program that meets in Roanoke and Richmond. A part-time MBA and an Executive MBA are both offered at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center, National Capital Region.

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