The spouse of an MBA student could face a lonely couple of years in an unfamiliar city. But at the University of Notre Dame, there’s a program that helps newcomers make friends through social events, volunteer work and activities for the kids.
The MBA Family Life Committee at the Mendoza College of Business offers activities ranging from barbecues to live theater. Overseeing these events are Kyle and Mia Reini, the committee chairs. Kyle is in the two-year MBA program, and Mia is an attorney in the University of Notre Dame’s Office of General Counsel.
“Anyone looking at a business school should think about what the experience will be like for their spouse and family,” said Mia Reini. “Notre Dame takes it very seriously, to create a place that will be welcoming and a good experience for all, not just the student.”
It is invaluable for spouses who are coming with the student to Notre Dame to be connected “and have a social network, instant friends and support, especially for moms with kids,” Reini added.
At recruiting and welcome events, Reini gives a PowerPoint presentation about the MBA Family Life program, listing the activities families can look forward to, such as a Thanksgiving feast, snow tubing, Cubs and White Sox games in Chicago, and beach trips to Lake Michigan. One part of the program is aimed at families with children. There is a weekly play group and activities such as story times at the library and trips to the zoo.
The other part of the program is aimed at the spouses. It helps them obtain ID cards so they can use campus sports and library facilities on their own. The program also offers a bowling league, wine tasting nights, fondue parties and museum tours. “We have a book-to-movie club, where we read a book, then go see the movie. We just read `Julie and Julia,’ and one of the members cooked French food,” Reini said. In December, the group travels to the local dollar theater for a movie.
The program also helps newcomers learn about the South Bend area and provides information on day care, school districts, hospitals, shopping areas, employment, churches and even voter registration. When Reini finishes a presentation, she loads guests into vans for a tour of the South Bend area, ending up with a sweet treat at the South Bend Chocolate Company, a favorite restaurant and coffee hangout in downtown South Bend.
Each month, after studying upcoming area activities in the arts, culture, festivals, theater, concerts, music and movies, Reini e-mails a list of select events to about 75 participating adults. “When you look, there is so much to do here, and so much to do for free,” she said.
The MBA Family Life Committee doesn’t just support families, it also provides community outreach for local residents. The MBA spouses recently hosted a baby shower at Hannah’s House, a maternity home in South Bend. They brought baby gifts for a young new mother, decorated baby clothes and provided cookies and punch. “It was good for us to connect with someone locally,” Reini said.
Most of the activities are free or inexpensive. “Often when families make the commitment to come to Notre Dame, they are on a tight budget, so a lot of things are done with that in mind,” said Brian Lohr, director of admissions to the MBA Program and faculty representative to Family Life. “In season they organize to pick apples or strawberries; they do things that don’t cost a lot but get the kids out.”
Low-cost but fun activities like these are “the foundation for the Family Life Committee. It gets people talking; it creates strong friendships and a strong support group,” Lohr added.
And for the spouses, said Reini, “it’s a lifesaver.”