Starting Days: report – the PGE Master’s in Management immersive back-to school seminar




For the past 4 years, the Starting Days have been organised by the Talent & Career services, responsible for implementing a personalised study track for each student. The PGE Master’s in Management students are taken in hand as soon as they arrive on campus by this event, which marks the beginning of their NEOMA BS integration process. Starting Days are a true springboard towards the beginning of courses, life on campus, associative and entrepreneurial projects and also to the business world. This seminar allows students to question their own position within a team, the importance of each individual’s skills and the wealth achieved by combining talents.

A warm welcome for a vibrant new school year

In a crowded auditorium, the ceremony began with an introduction from Delphine Manceau, the Dean of NEOMA BS. There is a friendly atmosphere on the whole, with many smiling faces, some showing signs of uncertainty and a few others obviously stressed.

A prestigious sponsor for the new class

Recollecting his prep school years, Jean-Baptiste Santoul, CEO, Groupe Ferrero France, outlined his international career in consumer products. “Learn to take risks and anticipate, this includes for your own career,” Jean-Baptiste Santoul advised the new students.

A round table to explore social entrepreneurship

The 2018 Starting Days were dedicated to social entrepreneurship. A prestigious panel of professional speakers were present in the Auditorium.
Isabelle Robert, Senior lecturer in Management Sciences at the University of Lille, took the lead and launched the central Starting Days theme: social entrepreneurship "If we tried to offer a simplified definition of this concept, it could be of acting for the common good". The question and its issues are therefore raised.
Half a dozen speakers, professionals, entrepreneurs, members of associations, followed one another onto the stage to provide their insights on the theme.

An afternoon dedicated to "brain juice"

Each team is assigned a coach. Indeed, throughout the Starting Days, each team is permanently accompanied by an adviser. The role of the coach is to assist the students in the development of their project.
“My role is to raise my team members' awareness of the problems facing companies. I would like them to have an overview of the key skills they will need to acquire during their studies at NEOMA BS in the coming years and relate them to the courses available to them,” explains Yahya Fallah, one of the coaches.

In order to project the students towards a creative exercise that is directly inspired by the business world, the day continued with a brainstorming session.
Objective: come up with a topic that could generate a social entrepreneurship project.

In the amphitheatres, small groups begin to settle down to talk. Students are sitting on the floor, straddling chairs, and the rooms are filled with discussion and outbreaks of laughter. It is not so easy to identify a business problem in just a few minutes. The discussions are heated, with many positions taken up. Armed with a battery of post-its, each student submits their ideas to the group. “Look, for me, migrants are totally excluded, and ironically, they’re often highly qualified... honestly, only the wealthiest can afford to pay traffickers...". Sometimes you have to insist a bit, "go on, give us your idea, we need a lot, anyway.”

Phases, ideas and targets

The next day, to consolidate their problems, students follow a working methodology built on a series of phases. This process should lead them to a definition of the social, societal and environmental purpose of their projects and to refine their target.

A pitcher who knows how to pitch

To launch the 3rd day, a conference is led by the Caisse d'Epargne’s Head of Innovative Financing, whose role is to clarify the different groups' ideas and provide realistic solutions for fundraising and the development of social enterprises under construction.
Each group designates a pitcher, who is given the important task of presenting the project to the jury. The pitches are prepared by the groups of students as a team. The campus comes alive as groups of students take over the lawns, benches, stairways and any place where the sun is shining. Listening, negotiating, exchanging ideas… and the most comfortable speakers leading the way. “Wait, what if we did it like this…while you’re speaking, I’ll be doing this…”. “Have you solved the financial question yet?” Does anyone know when the posters will be ready?”

A final climax

The next day, the final rehearsals are under way for the pitchers. Second year students are present and happily share their opinion and give advice to the teams. Arthur Nicolet, managing director of Transdev, lends a helping hand to those groups dealing with the question of mobility.
The atmosphere and stress are increasing. On the social networks, it is time for a final attempt at some good-natured intimidation.

It is now 2:15 p.m. In the thematic amphitheatres, the presentations to the intermediate juries begin. The teams have a minute and a half to convince. Following their presentation, the pitchers are questioned by the jury, who are entitled to ask only one question to assess the sustainability of the project.

The atmosphere is at fever pitch, each speaker is warmly applauded. Each point is assessed, highlighted and criticized by the audience. The presentations continue, and the tension rises. "I'm not giving the speech, but I'm stressed out for them right now...", they whisper along the rows, anxious by what is at stake.

After deliberation, the projects for the final are selected
In the auditorium, the Grand Jury, made up of professors, NEOMA BS directors and partners, is ready. The three finalist groups play out their scripted pitches. A series of testimonies, role plays, news reports and TV shows follow one another onto the stage.
After further deliberation, the winning project is announced by the Programme Director, Sylvie Jean, to thunderous applause. The winning project is awarded the Enactus prize, and a full year’s support offered by the association.
 
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