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B-school Newspaper Coalition: Chicago Booth’s ChiBus

This year, The Oppy started to reach out to other business school newspapers around the country to get a sense of how they’re running their papers. After meeting with several editor-in-chiefs from MBA programs, we are excited to announce we will be forming a coalition with a small but hopefully growing group of top graduate business schools. We are planning to partner up for future events and feature students from our partner schools, starting with the editor-in-chief of Chicago Booth’s MBA newspaper the ChiBus, Vikram Venkat.

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Vikram: ChiBus is the newspaper of The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. We are completely student-run – all content is written and edited by Booth students and alumni, and we have complete autonomy over the newspaper operations, while still retaining the support of the university administration. We publish a wide variety of content, including breaking news stories (at Booth and beyond), opinion, interviews, humorous pieces and much more. For example – our most recent editions have featured perspectives on the Gamestop trading frenzy, a retrospective of the Booth Healthcare Conference, startup and non-profit profiles, some delicious recipes, and even an article on the dank memes going viral within Booth!

In the good old days before the pandemic, we used to have a regularly published physical copy of the newspaper that students could pick up at the main school buildings (Harper Center and Gleacher Center), as well as at the downtown apartment buildings where several Boothies reside. Over the past year, the newspaper has transitioned to being purely online. Through these changes, the soul of the newspaper remains the same, providing a wide variety of Boothie-written content every month. We would love for readers of the Stern Oppy to read our articles and share feedback!

Deirdre: Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? How did you end up in Chicago? What made you want to get an MBA and why did you select Booth?

I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. I studied engineering (literally studied rocket science, although my IQ is nothing like what one would associate with a rocket scientist!) before pivoting into consulting. I worked with the Boston Consulting Group in India and Russia for nearly four years before taking the plunge and deciding to go back to school. 

My motivations to pursue an MBA are three-fold. First, while I had learnt a great deal on-the-job, there were still some basic skill gaps that I needed to fill – joining consulting straight out of an undergrad engineering program had left me a little short in terms of a theoretical grounding in economics, finance and core business skills! Second, I wanted to explore different careers and get a taste of life outside consulting (even though I loved most of the job!) as well – an MBA seemed the ideal opportunity to try out new roles and gain more experience. Finally, I wanted to expand my horizons and gain exposure to new perspectives by meeting people coming from different backgrounds and interests. Booth seemed the ideal fit for me – the strong academic culture of UChicago, the flexible curriculum, and diverse student community would help me achieve my goals. Plus, Chicago seemed, and has proven to be, a lovely city to live in! I was fortunate to obtain an admit from Booth, and moved to Chicago during Fall 2020.

Outside of work, I am an ardent sports fan (my weekends are often planned around English Premier League soccer matches) and an avid reader (more into detective fiction and thrillers than business books though!). I also love travelling, and am looking forward to visiting more countries once Covid subsides.

Did you apply to Stern and WHY didn’t you go here?! Kidding. Or am I?

Haha! I did not apply to Stern – while it is also a great school, I started my applications very late in the cycle, and applied to very, very few schools! I also hold a great admiration for the Stern Oppy, and am looking forward to our collaboration.

Now I’ve made this awkward… Anyway, what has been the best part of the program so far?

I have loved the diversity of opportunities that the program has delivered to me – a typical day could include listening to a panel of central bank governors across emerging markets discussing the impact of Covid, a class on leadership development (one of Booth’s most famous experiential courses), a session to understand VC term sheets with second-years, and a virtual/ distanced social group event (such as a cocktail making session organized by the Wine Club and LatAm group). This balance of academics, co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities, and social life makes the program super exciting!

How has it been…being virtual this past year and all that?

It has been a lot of fun – I have particularly enjoyed meeting my classmates as little two-dimensional squares on a screen. The fun gets multiplied when trying to match the faces in those 2-D squares to masked faces in the elevator. Or not.

On a more serious note, there have been some positives – recruiting virtually takes away some of the difficulties associated with travel; we have had some really amazing guest speakers in our classes and conferences, many of whom may not have had the time to fly down to Chicago in a normal year; and there has been a concentrated effort to adapt to the new normal across all aspects of B-school life. There has of course been an impact on some of the quintessential B-school traditions – missing the Random Walk, Winter formal, and diminished spring break travel seem the most egregious. 

Hopefully the vaccinations continue progressing rapidly, and we can return to the old normal some time soon. 

How did you get involved in ChiBus?

I have always loved writing – I used to participate in writing events (intra- and inter-college competitions) even at my undergrad institute, as well as idly scribbling pieces during the more boring classes! At Booth, I first met the previous ChiBus editors at the student group fair during the orientation. With their encouragement and guidance, I began contributing articles to the newspaper. I loved the opportunity to write, as well as the opportunity to find and publish stories from the amazing Booth community, and applied to be a part of the new editorial team a few weeks ago!

What’s the best thing you’ve done/had happen to you since you joined the editorial board?

I formally joined the ChiBus board in late March, so it’s been only a few weeks! However, there are a few exciting things happening. The Business School newspaper coalition is definitely one of them! We also have some interesting articles coming up in the next editions, including some very cool interviews (more on that later). We are also looking to expand ChiBus’ digital presence across Instagram and LinkedIn. There’s a lot of cool stuff that we are starting on, and we are excited for the next few weeks!

Serious question coming up. Does ChiBus have its own version of Stern Singles?

We do not. Yet. 

But we do have several ‘free agents’ at Booth – could be an interesting series for us to take inspiration from. 

Heck yeah! What’s the biggest thing you hope to accomplish as editor-in-chief of the paper?

As an editorial board, we have a couple of key objectives. First and foremost, we want to make sure that we are providing a voice to every member of the Booth community, and featuring the widest variety of content. This is all the more critical now, with the unfortunate rise in racist incidents and discrimination. Second, we want to expand ChiBus’ digital presence, as mentioned earlier. This is critical to our overall objective of further growing ChiBus, while staying true to its core tenets. 

Who is the most interesting person you’ve interviewed so far?

We just wrapped up a very cool interview on The Future of Work with an author of several economics books and articles. It was a very interesting interview covering a broad sweep of economic thinking across the ages, as well as an interesting analysis of the implications of the latest macroeconomic trends, politics, and of course Covid. I am deliberately not sharing more details – it will be published in our May edition, and I hope all of you read and enjoy it!

For all the Sternies reading this, what advice would you give them when it comes to joining a business school paper editorial board?

My advice would be twofold – stay true to the duties you have, but also have fun – this is one of the best ways to build community and leave a lasting impact.

As business school paper editors, we have the privilege to represent our school’s voices. This privilege comes with great responsibilities, including ensuring we stand true to that which is right. Additionally, we are one of the public faces of our school, which is also a huge responsibility! These two are great privileges, but we need to make sure we live up to the responsibilities associated with them in every edition! 

But it is not all as serious as I make it out to be! There is a lot of fun to be had in drawing out stories from the student and alumni communities – it is a great way to broaden horizons by meeting new people and learning from them. Do make sure you make the most of this opportunity by expanding your own horizons, while also creating lasting impact. 

The Stern Oppy is a great example of executing these responsibilities, while also having a lot of fun!

Aww, thank you! We really do try to do both. And thank you for chatting with us today! We are SO excited to collaborate with you and ChiBus going forward!

Thank you for featuring me! Super excited to be a part of the Coalition, and am looking forward to the journey over the next few months! Thanks for bringing us all together with this initiative.

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