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Fridays from the Frontline: What is Fuqua Friday?

Sandeep Panda, Duke Fuqua Daytime MBA Class of 2021, sheds light on the longstanding tradition of Fuqua Fridays at the leading business school in this Fridays from the Frontline.

What is Fuqua Friday?

By Sandeep Panda, Daytime MBA Class of 2021

TGIF.

As the clock rushes towards the end of classes on Fridays, students across Fuqua get a little excited to head over to the Fox Center. This time it is not because there is a speaker series or a company presentation. It’s because it’s Fuqua Friday!

Fuqua Friday, 2019

Every Friday during the fall and spring terms, Fuqua comes together to celebrate the end of the week in the popular ritual that is Fuqua Friday. Every student and staff member can attend the event and can invite their partners, families or guests to the event to experience part of the Fuqua culture. Fuqua Friday works to bring the entire community together at the same time and place, helping everyone to reconnect and laugh together. It also presents a unique opportunity for students from different programs—including Daytime and Executive MBA, MMS, MQM, and PhD—to come together and get to know each other. Often, students are joined by professors during the evening for a lighter discussion than what is typical in the classroom. The deans of the school are also present, chatting with people and just reminding everyone how big the Fuqua Family truly is.

So, what exactly happens at Fuqua Friday?

It starts every Friday evening a few minutes after the last class ends. There is a delightful spread of food available for everyone to come and take a plateful. The food is complemented by a variety of drinks and desserts that are also available. The food and drinks are plentiful and so are the opportunities to meet people during the event. Students often hang around in the Winter Garden (the tables are usually full as well) or play ping pong (if they get the table).

Fuqua Friday is organized by the Daytime MBA student body leadership of Fuqua—the MBA Association (MBAA). The sponsorship for the event is provided by the MBAA unless there is a joint event where clubs partner for sponsorship as well as for activities or entertainment. In these cases, Fuqua Friday comes bundled with plenty of interesting and unique events. One example is Fuqua partnering with the Rise Against Hunger organization to pack tens of thousands of meals for those in need during the first hour.

Many other iconic Fuqua events such as the Brand Challenge, where different brands fight in a fun event and the Iron Chef competition, a culinary face off organized by the Duke MBA Culinary Club and judged by guests including our deans, are organized during Fuqua Friday. Finally, larger events at Fuqua, such as FuquaVision shows (some of the most fun events of the year) are often planned to occur right after Fuqua Friday so students can grab some food, enjoy a hearty show, and share a laugh.

It transcends your time as a student.

Fuqua Friday is also special in many other ways than just the event. While over the years, Fuqua Friday has evolved in many ways (even during the pandemic), the purpose has always stayed the same—to feel connected to the Fuqua community. Fuqua alumni who come back to school during Fuqua Fridays are generally surprised by the scale of which the event has reached and reminisce about their times and traditions during school. Many students take this as an opportunity to invite their friends over who are considering an application as well. I know stories of students who visited Fuqua Fridays with family members years prior to becoming a student themselves. Attending for the first time as a current student was really a sentimental moment for them. Nothing exemplifies this more than one of the MBAA VPs of student life during my time at Fuqua who used to visit the event in the early 2010s with his elder brother, giving him a special connection with this event.

But how did it all start?

Fuqua Friday, 1988

The story goes back many years before the millennium. The year was 1983 when a few friends, who had a Fuqua swag kiosk near the Fox Café exit (now the foosball table and vending machine area) had a good day of sales on a Friday and decided to celebrate. And so, they got a keg of beer and some snacks and invited all their friends and classmates to celebrate with them and have a fun Friday evening. The keg and the snacks became symbols of one of the most celebrated Fuqua traditions today.

The tradition has spread.

Fuqua Friday is not limited to Fuqua’s campus anymore. During my summer internship, students who interned in various cities across the United States celebrated Fuqua Fridays with their classmates in the region along with local Fuqua alumni, particularly at the Amazon and Microsoft offices. We shared stories of those meet-ups with deans and professors back at Fuqua, making the Fuqua Friday tradition an incredibly powerful connection point to the school for the students, who ultimately become the greatest brand ambassadors of what Fuqua represents. In a way, the Fuqua Around the World global networking event is also an extension of the Fuqua Friday tradition.

New roads, old destinations?

In the words of our deans, Fuqua Friday is a way to connect the whole Fuqua Family. Fuqua Friday in many ways represents Team Fuqua itself, bringing the whole community together including even the administration, whose presence reassures the students that the school’s leadership is around for them. Fuqua Friday evolves with time but remains centered on the idea of meeting your Fuqua Family—so if you are at a Fuqua Friday, grab some chicken tenders or southern barbeque and come say “Hi.”

Posted in: Fridays from the Frontline, Weekly Columns

Schools: Duke / Fuqua

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