Members of the 2009 Bentley University team gather for a photo. Most of the team members have entered every year Bentley has participated.
Bentley's Campus Connections program
bonds via Corporate Challenge
BOSTON, April 29, 2010 — While riding on a charter bus from its Waltham campus to last year's J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge® at Boston Common, members of Bentley University's team heard news they hadn't expected. Michael Jackson had died.
”We learned something about each other by sharing that event together on the bus,” said company captain Andrea Jones. ”We'll never forget where we were and who was with us at the time we heard that such an influential music icon had died and — we were on a Peter Pan bus, no less. Then the event organizers played a couple of Michael Jackson songs as the runners crossed the finish line. It was certainly a surreal bonding experience for everyone!”
The story, no doubt, is an extreme example, but it illustrates one reason why the Corporate Challenge remains as relevant today to corporations and educational institutions as it has been throughout its 34-year history. Bonding in an out-of-the-office setting is important.
Shortly after this photo was taken as members of the Bentley University team waited to start their ride on a charter bus to the 2009 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, they learned iconic singer/danger Michael Jackson had died. It was part of a unique bonding experience that included a race-site photo (below) by several team members.
In fact, as Bentley University prepares to enter its fourth J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston on June 24, building a ”community” that welcomes and includes all Bentley employees is a vital and ongoing focus at the university. It has established a Campus Connections committee, which plans meaningful social and cultural events for members of Bentley's faculty and staff. The Corporate Challenge is one of those events.
”These social events provide opportunities for informal networking, a chance to meet new colleagues, and trips to take advantage of Boston's many cultural offerings,” said Jones. ”As a member of Campus Connections, I organize Team Bentley, pay for the registration fee and provide transportation to and from the event (which fits in well with the Corporate Challenge's ”Teaming Up for a Greener Tomorrow” campaign that seeks to minimize the Series' carbon footprint by encouraging the use of public transportation and other sound environmental practices).”
”The Corporate Challenge event is one of many healthy lifestyle events offered at Bentley,” Jones added. Other examples include a Faculty Staff golf tournament, the Tour de Bentley fitness challenge, yoga, hikes and healthy eating workshops.
On a campus, spread over 163 acres, such events are effective and important.
”In order to build a community that works well together you must know each other,” said Jones. ”Given the size of the campus, it is important to provide opportunities for interaction that do not happen in a normal work week. The Corporate Challenge and other events sponsored by Campus Connections provide employees the chance to have meaningful conversations and interactions.
”Some of our Bentley colleagues may not normally come into contact with each other in the workplace. For example, several people commented over the years about how great it was to spend time with our former Provost Bob Galliers at the Corporate Challenge. For many it was their first time meeting him — in his running shorts! And the next thing they know they are running next to him.”
Experiences like that leave an impression. While its women's team finished in the top 25 in its first year of competition, Bentley will likely never win a team title at the Boston Corporate Challenge. About half of its team members walk the course, Jones estimated.
But, she adds: ”We pride ourselves on having a very loyal team, with upwards of 80 percent of our team members participating in all four years.”
The team of about 50 is recruited with a simple email to faculty and staff sent by Jones, who has been the company captain for all four years it has participated at Boston.
”I had been involved in the Challenge prior to coming to Bentley so it was important to me to bring the spirit of the event to campus,” she said. ”My background in running includes two marathons, a dozen half marathons and countless 5ks. I'm also an active member of the Somerville Road Runners.”
In addition to camaraderie, the other primary mission of the Corporate Challenge is to promote fitness in the workplace. That also fits in well at Bentley, a world-renowned business school that is distinctive among U.S. and international universities in having two faculties — one in business and the other in the arts and sciences. In its mission statement, Bentley says it may best be understood as a university within a business school — a university because of the character and scope of its education and research agendas, and a business school because of its orientation. That leads to graduates who ”excel in complex and dynamic environments through their capacity to initiate, lead, and affect value-creating change.”
It also leads to an emphasis on the whole person, to whom health and fitness is important.
”Bentley University understands how important wellness and fitness is for employee retention and productivity,” said Jones. ”In conjunction with Tufts Health Plan, Campus Connections hosts Tour de Bentley, now in its 8th year. Tour de Bentley is a 12-week team fitness challenge in which participants earn points for exercise and sponsored health-related workshops. In addition to earning points for participating in the Corporate Challenge, points are also given for the Corporate Challenge weekly ”training” walks/runs leading up to the challenge. It encourages exercising with colleagues and adds another level of community to our campus life.”
All of which has made the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge a tradition on the Bentley University campus — one that is looked on as fun and inspires loyalty.
”For many Team Bentley members,” said Jones, ”the Corporate Challenge has been their first opportunity to join a team and complete an organized walk or run. The pride and accomplishment seen in the smiles post-event is overwhelming. Follow-up emails include comments such as: ”It was so much fun. I hope to beat my time next year!” and ”I had a great time. Can't wait till next year!”
”Last year,” added Jones, ”one of our team members, Dave Vaudo, injured himself prior to the Challenge but showed up anyway to cheer the team on. When he got there he was so caught up in the fun that he ran the challenge in his jeans, tennis sneakers, and a number of other items including his cell phone and heavy set of keys. He was a sight to be seen at the finish!”