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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Unlocking secrets of Quest

By Sookhan Ho

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 07 - October 5, 1995

Teams of first-year MBA students grappled with a series of knotty problems during fall orientation, including depositing a "radioactive isotope" (a coffee can) into a "safe container" (a white bucket) with a rope-and-rubber-band contraption. The task had to be completed before "meltdown" (a pre-set time limit) and without breaching the "contaminated" area, a 16-foot diameter circle around the can. Other tests included trying to form a perfect square with a 100-yard rope while blindfolded, and moving through a giant "spider web" without touching the web.

The aim of the half dozen exercises, collectively called Quest (after the adventurous journeys of Arthurian legend), is to enable the 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.

In addition, Quest challenges students to face risk and fear, set goals, and learn positive ways to confront others and to accept criticism. These issues are further explored in debriefing discussions following the exercises, O'Donnell says. "We want to get across the idea that an MBA is more than books, research papers, tests, and a diploma."

O'Donnell built the props, and organized and led the program together with Hap Bonham, associate dean of administration and research, who also trained 20 second-year MBA students to serve as facilitators during the debriefing sessions.