When Kim Beers, a now-retired academic advisor for the Broad Full-Time MBA program, noticed a lack of support for families of students earning degrees, she decided to do something about it: advocate for funding to create an organization that supports not only students but also their families.

MBA students and their family members attend one of S3’s signature events: Potter Park Zoo’s Wonderland of Lights.

Earning a full-time MBA is challenging. It can be tempting for students to focus completely on getting their work done, leaving families to find ways to entertain themselves while still providing support for the students’ education.

“Many families have to move to a completely new location so their student can earn a Broad MBA,” explained Wayne Hutchison, managing director of the Broad Full-Time MBA program. “They have significant questions about how to collectively succeed in their new environment instead of family members acting as silent partners.”

Beers’ efforts several years ago led to the establishment of S3: Spartan Spouses & Significant Others. The organization engages families who are supporting MBA students, with a goal of providing smooth, enjoyable experiences for everyone involved.

“College programs prioritize their resources for current students. In some cases, there is limited support for families,” Hutchison said. “Here, we want to fully support students and their entire families as well. We lean in with our support culture. It’s really about saying, ‘Every single one of you is part of this program. How can we best support you?’”

Encouragement and camaraderie are provided through year-round activities like picnics and potlucks, baseball games, football tailgates, coffee meetups, service and volunteer work, holiday parties, book clubs and even wine tasting and running groups.

Potter Park Zoo’s Wonderland of Lights — running Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings through Dec. 29 — is one example of how S3 comes together. Attending is one of the group’s signature events. MBA classes, along with faculty and staff, select a date to go to Wonderland of Lights with their families to celebrate the end of the semester, sing festive songs, participate in holiday activities and enjoy each other’s company.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to see their local community and gather together outside the university in the spirit of end-of-semester success,” Hutchison said.

Students and families also get involved with planning and carrying out some S3 gatherings. After the Broad program office selects a date and venue for an upcoming outing, S3 members jump in with their own ideas. Depending on what the event entails, sometimes families or spouses step forward to lead. In other instances, the MBA students themselves volunteer to provide direction. This shared responsibility helps strengthen the bonds between the program and its students and families.

“Broad almost acts as the venture capitalist, facilitating the event’s goals and the S3 organization’s overall goals,” Hutchison said. “This year especially, we had such an energy around student events and programming. Participation was up nearly 50% over last year. S3 provides a foundation for ongoing support — without anyone ever needing to ask for it.”