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Full-time MBAs rewind time as Prom Royalty at Fall Ball

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This past Thursday, full-time MBA students attended the annual Fall Ball at the iconic Bowery Hotel in Manhattan. This year’s theme was “Prom Night,” enabling us to relive some of our favorite high school memories or, more likely, nightmares. The venue was beautifully decorated with balloons, photo booths and old prom pictures from our fellow Sternies displayed in all their glory. Per prom tradition, we also had prom royalty.
I had the privilege of speaking with our student-elected prom royalty: Paul Rothenberger and John Benson, both veterans, both sexy.

Congratulations on being chosen as prom royalty, Paul! Can you first tell us a little about your background? What did you do before Stern?

So, I went to UMass-Amherst undergrad and graduated in 2015. I went through the ROTC program there and then was commissioned into the army as a finance officer. I spent my entire military career abroad with a year in South Korea, and then a couple of tours in Europe.

Interesting, what’s a finance officer?

My role was advising commanders on their operations from a financial perspective. So, I basically manage budgets and advise them on how to best manage their finances. I also worked with them on logistics and setting up contracts, and dealt with international vendors. Stuff like that.

We have to talk about Fall Ball. You were selected as prom royalty. Were you surprised? Did you know that was happening?

I knew I was in the running for it. I heard through the grapevine that I was one of the people that was getting voted on, but it was definitely a surprise to me that I won. I feel very blessed.

What was your reaction when your name was announced?

I was speechless. I was without speech.

Someone actually made a joke that we were going to be slow dancing together, and I actually didn’t think I would have to. I didn’t think I would have the privilege of slow dancing with John, but once that was happening, I got really excited.

It was beautiful. We all teared up. Did you have fun at Fall Ball? Or do you not remember any of it?

Yeah, the entire thing went by super smoothly. Everyone had a fantastic time. Everyone was amazing. I was just super proud of our class for setting that up. 

Now, let’s move to our rapid fire questions: 

What’s a hobby you’re into right now?

Chess.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Seinfeld?

What was the last movie you saw?

Oh God, The Orphan.

Did you go to your high school prom? What was your favorite memory?

Yes. The after party weekend at the Jersey Shore was the highlight.

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming semester?

Now that recruiting is done, I can focus on learning in my classes. I know it’s cheesy, but I like focusing on classes and trying to learn as much as possible.

———————-

John, I just spoke to your other half, now it’s your turn. Tell everyone a bit about your background.

I was born and raised in Dover, Massachusetts. After high school, I went to West Point for college and majored in Economics. I graduated from West Point in 2014 and was commissioned as an Active Duty Field Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army. I spent the next six years after college as an Army Officer and was stationed in Hawaii and Oklahoma for the majority of that time. I enjoyed my time in the Army and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but decided that the time was right to transition out of the military and begin a new career. Business School seemed like a great way to make the career pivot, and I ultimately determined that Stern was the right fit for me.          

Now we have to talk about your prom royalty title. Did you have any idea you were being nominated?

Well, you know, I must say I did see the Stern Oppy article that came out…I believe it was two days before prom actually happened. I saw that I was mentioned as one of the frontrunners, which, quite frankly, surprised me, but one of my fellow Sternies and good friend, Paul Rothenberg, was also mentioned as a frontrunner. I think a lot of our friends, specifically from the Military Veterans Club, kind of banded behind us, and made every effort to get us voted as prom royalty. So yeah, it was great.

What was the moment like when you guys both won and did that beautiful slow dance together?

The moment was magical. It really was. I just remember everyone crowded around, and you know there’s a lot of energy at the Bowery Hotel. It was just such a nice venue. Then to hear my name announced and then Paul’s name announced…it was great. We both went up there and got our crowns. There was a bit of an awkward moment, when we were trying to decide who was leading and who was following, but naturally we figured it out and did a fantastic job.

I think I would have to agree. What was your favorite part of Fall Ball?

Seeing everyone there having a great time and taking pictures. Q (Fall Ball organizer Qurat Khan) put in a lot of effort to plan the whole event and I think that seeing everyone show up and really appreciating the space and having a great time was amazing.

Now, let’s move to our rapid fire questions: 

What’s a hobby you’re into right now?

One hobby that I’m into right now is cooking. Before moving to New York, I used to grill all the time. I really enjoy grilling and learned to grill many different foods. Unfortunately, having a grill in New York isn’t permitted in many apartment buildings, so I’ve been focusing on expanding my cooking abilities in the kitchen. I like to experiment with cooking new foods and trying new recipes. My cooking abilities are certainly a work in progress, but I enjoy it.

What’s your favorite TV show?

For an easy to watch, casual show, I’ve got to say “The Office.” I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every episode multiple times. It’s a great show that always makes me laugh. For a more serious, gripping show that kept me on the edge of my seat, I’d have to say “The Wire.”  Once I started watching it, I couldn’t pull myself away.   

What was the last movie you saw?

I’m honestly not sure. I don’t watch movies all that often.

Did you go to your high school prom? What was your favorite memory?

I went to prom during both my Junior and Senior year of high school. I’d say my favorite memory was that one year, instead of taking a limo to prom, my friends and I took a trolley. I think the main reason for that was because we waited until the last minute to plan and coordinate our transportation, and there weren’t many limo options left to rent. It actually ended up being a fun and unique experience.

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming semester?

I can’t believe next semester is our last semester of business school. The time really has flown by. What I am looking forward to the most next semester is spending time with my friends and classmates. The people that I’ve met during my time at Stern have been the most impactful thing about the business school experience for me. I want to make every effort I can to spend time with my classmates. I want to take advantage of the time we have together and build upon the relationships I’ve made so far.

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