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How can Executive MBA (EMBA) participants get the most from their College memberships? Our alumni share their experiences.

From Charles Darwin to Arianna Huffington, and from John Maynard Keynes to Zadie Smith, every one of the celebrated thinkers and doers that passes through the University of Cambridge has something fundamental in common: they are all members of a College. The University of Cambridge is a collegiate university, meaning its functions are divided between its central administration and its semi-autonomous constituent Colleges. Participants on the Executive MBA programme become members of a College, following more than 800 years of tradition towards personal and professional growth.

The College experience for postgraduates, including Executive MBA participants, is different from that of undergraduate students. Typically, an undergraduate student will live, eat, and socialise at their College. For many postgraduates, the experience is grounded in tradition, student welfare and opportunities for extracurricular activities. For EMBA participants, who may not spend as much time in Cambridge, the College experience can be as big or small a part of their Cambridge experience as they would like.

Becoming a member of a College

Each of the University’s 31 Colleges has its own rich history and personality, and maintains its own social, sports and activities calendar. As a participant on the Cambridge EMBA you are a fully fledged College member, and so can take advantage of these opportunities.

You will be with your College for two of the most important days of your Cambridge experience: matriculation and graduation. The day you matriculate is the day you ‘come up’ to Cambridge – signing the College’s matriculation registration form and becoming an official member of the College, thus beginning your journey as a Cambridge student.

Some students don’t interact with their College much between matriculation and graduation, and that’s fine. For others, their College is an additional resource to tap into during their time at Cambridge.

Augmenting your learning experience

Because Colleges admit students from across the University, as with the EMBA programme itself a wide range of disciplines is represented. For those looking to extend their network in a chosen field, Colleges provide opportunities like dinners, societies and socials, to facilitate this.

Cambridge College.

Jan Ruzicka, Chief External Affairs Officer for Home Credit International and alumnus from the EMBA 2015 cohort, found his College experience was great for network building.

“When I became a member of my College, Downing, I joined its Whitby Medical Society and became active at the College MCR (the collective name for graduate students attached to a College),” says Jan. “This allowed me to meet students from my field, from right across the University spectrum. They were all super bright!”

Hear Jan Ruzicka describe how he built his Cambridge network:

Paul Bello, Co-Founder and Director of Catalyst Corporation and alumnus from the 2013 cohort, also embraced the social aspects: “For me, the College experience was primarily social. I enjoyed dinners, College Balls and pub nights with members of my College’s MCR. I later became one of the mentors of new entrants to the MCR.”

Jan attended several extra-curricular speaker events at this College: “I made many memorable connections through my College, with my tutors, fellow students and with guests at events. Particularly memorable for me was meeting Sir Paul Nurse, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in physiology and medicine, and the fashion designer Calvin Klein.”

College membership is lifelong, meaning you will be able to continue to benefit from events and networking opportunities long after graduation.

“I’m still connected with Downing today,” says Jan.

“I made memorable connections and great friends at my College who I am still in regular touch with today,” says Paul.

Getting involved

Becoming a member of a College at the University of Cambridge and returning to study can seem daunting at first. If playing an active role in College life is a realistic, feasible and appealing commitment for you (and it isn’t always for EMBA students, all of whom build a rich and diverse network through Cambridge Judge Business School), our alumni recommend seizing the opportunity.

“You have to be brave and take the plunge. You might be the only business student at a College event, so you will have lots to contribute and learn from others. Get involved early on and don’t be afraid to say ‘hi’,” recommends Paul.

Jan concurs: “Be active. Get in touch. Other students are always super happy when ‘older’ postgraduate students want to contribute and be part of the College story.”