May is a busy month at HBS. First year students are finishing up exams and heading to summer internships around the world, and second year students are saying their goodbyes and preparing for life after HBS. The hustle and bustle of May culminates with Class Day and Commencement and the campus is buzzing with lots of activity (and lots of proud parents).

But once the students are gone the campus is quieter than usual; the Aldrich classrooms are empty, the Spangler dining hall is quiet, the Shad treadmills are unoccupied. It’s still HBS, but it doesn’t quite feel like it.

Luckily June is never too far off, and campus springs back into life with the arrival of our SVMP students. Each summer we welcome a class of about 90 rising college seniors for the annual week-long Summer Venture in Management Program. The program was first launched back in 1983 with the purpose of increasing diversity and opportunity in business education.

During their week on campus, SVMP students are taught by HBS faculty through the renowned case method. Participants spend evenings analyzing real-business cases, and use morning study groups and classes to examine and debate their ideas through lively interaction with peers and faculty.

So what’s it like to be part of the SVMP program? We reached out to Joshua Rodriguez, a first generation college student who completed the program back in 2012. Josh was attending Pomona College when he participated in the program, and is now based in Los Angeles. In LA, Josh works as a Regional Organizer for FWD.us – a tech advocacy firm that mobilizes the tech community to support policies that keep the American Dream achievable in the 21st century, starting with comprehensive immigration reform.

Why did you choose to come to HBS for the SVMP program?

All of the SVMP alumni that I had met raved about the program, and it got me excited about being in a room full of young and motivated leaders who want to learn.PomonaGraduation2_2013_JoshuaR.JPG

What surprised you the most about it?

I was most surprised by how much this week at HBS simulated a week in business school. From the courses, to the professors, to the networking events, the SVMP program did a great job in giving me preview of business school. I was also surprised by how approachable the HBS faculty and staff were. The HBS faculty and staff truly believe in the SVMP program (shout out to Professor Anita Elberse!) and they make it a point to encourage underrepresented groups and individuals to consider business school in their futures.

What was your biggest takeaway?

The biggest takeaway from the program was how business school could become a reality in my near future. As a first generation student, a school like HBS seemed unattainable. SVMP empowered me to shoot for the stars and dream big. Another big takeaway was the SVMP network. I was able to get plugged-in to a network of highly motivated individuals, a lot of them are first generation students, who are motivated to be leaders and change the world.

How has it changed how you think about the future?

Attending SVMP at HBS made me focus and target my next steps in order to get to business school. In applying to graduate programs, you often have to tell the story of self. You have to answer why is it that you want to go to business school, why specifically “x” school, and why now. If you can chart a roadmap early on, it is much easier to decide when you want to go to school and why. The other thing the SVMP program made me realize is that you should focus on yourself. There is no direct path to getting into business school. The best thing you can do is focus on you and work on things that you are passionate about. This will allow you to shine your brightest.

What would your advice be for people considering applying?

The simple advice is to apply! SVMP was one of the best weeks of my undergraduate career. I cannot think of a better way to spend a week than with a room full of bright and motivated individuals who want to learn.

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