The stigma around business school is that it only teaches you how to make money for personal gain; that everyone who gets an MBA is greedy and power-hungry. That’s not been my experience at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where I am a student in the Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership, a yearlong MBA program designed for mid-career managers. I’ve spent the past few months helping to organize an art auction for charity, and I’ve been inspired by my classmates who have put in so much time and effort to make the event a success.
The auction, MIT ArtWork, will take place on May 10, 2012 at One Marina Park Drive in Boston. It will feature more than 30 works of art by 30 artists. These include Mick Rock, the legendary rock and roll photographer who has shot everyone from David Bowie to Lou Reed to Lady Gaga, and Milton Glaser, the celebrated graphic designer best known for the I ♥ NY logo.
The idea for the auction started with a lunchtime conversation in the Sloan cafeteria. I am on the board of Troubadour, a local group that improves student literacy via poetry, song lyrics and prose in Eastern Massachusetts, and one of my classmates is on the board of Humanity in Action. We began talking about ideas to raise money for these very worthy causes. Our Togolese-Parisian classmate—a curator in New York and Vienna, who is well connected in the art world—suggested we hold an art auction. It was a great idea, but how on earth would we pull it together?
None of us had much money to donate – we’re all spending it to attend Sloan! – but what we could offer is our network. (The Sloan Fellows program has 102 students, and we hail from 27 countries.) One classmate, who owns a series of restaurants, helped us find a trendy, undeveloped space in Boston for the event. Another classmate, who works with Mount Gay Rum, helped us secure corporate sponsorship; another, who had connections at Kirin, the beer company, helped secure a second corporate donation. The former curator helped get artists on board, and since I spent 15 years at Procter and Gamble specializing in digital marketing, I was happy to run publicity. One of our professors even donated a week’s stay at his cottage in Nantucket as a sweetener for folks buying tickets to the auction online. It became this virtuous circle, and the desire to help was contagious.
All in all, there are 10 students working on the auction. Some of them are doing it for credit—John Van Maanen, Professor of Organization Studies at Sloan, is overseeing our efforts as an independent study; while others are doing it out of interest and a desire to give back.
To me, helping organize this art auction has been about putting theory into practice. It’s an affirmation of what we talk about in class. So much of our classroom discussion has been about sustainability, and purpose-driven enterprises, and about how to effectively work on teams. With this project, we are living all of those things.
This is the first year for MIT ArtWork, and I hope it won’t be the last. This is an example of the good that business can do in the world.
For more on the auction visit MIT ArtWork
Sulynn Amrhein, SF ’12, will graduate in June
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