If you’ve been a student at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business over the last 15 years, chances are, you’ve participated in the time-honored tradition of "Ringing the Bell." A way to celebrate academic journeys and career accomplishments, it’s a ritual that’s familiar to the Scheller community, though its origins may not be as known. Here’s a glimpse into its storied beginnings and evolution over the years.
The History of “Ringing the Bell”
In 2008, Jim Kranzusch, the former executive director of the Jones MBA Career Center (the Center), wanted to find a way to recognize students’ internship and job offers and to create excitement around meaningful milestones. The idea of “Ringing the Bell” came to him one day, and he ended up purchasing an actual ship bell at West Marine, a boating supply company located in Buford, Georgia.
"I felt there should be a celebratory event where our staff could congratulate a student, recognizing all the hard work they had put in for two years to attain their dream job. The ritual also reinforced the message of the MBA program. It's all about careers," said Kranzusch.
The students immediately loved it and began to invite their friends and family to attend the ceremony. The Center staff began taking photos of the students and posting them on Facebook. Over time, they noticed these posts received more "likes" than others, so they upgraded their camera and created a new Scheller background image for students to pose against.
The Undergraduate Bell
A year after the Jones MBA Career Center purchased its bell, the Undergraduate Program Office obtained a bell and encouraged students to stop by their office and ring it after their last final exam. The ritual grew in popularity and turned into a more formal event.
"We host a Closing Bell reception for degree candidates in December and May. Students ring the bell, often with friends and family, during the event," said Craig Womack, associate dean of Undergraduate Programs.
Womack sees the bell-ringing tradition as an important rite of passage for graduating undergrads.
"Our Closing Bell event for undergraduates serves as a symbolic culmination of their academic journey, celebrating their hard work and achievements. It provides a platform to honor their dedication, recognize their accomplishments, and foster community among peers, faculty, and staff. Ultimately, this event represents a significant milestone, offering a memorable transition from academic life to the professional world," said Womack.
The Covid-19 Years
When Covid-19 hit, the Center staff faced a dilemma. How could they continue the tradition? Should they continue? Enter virtual bell-ringing.
"During Covid, we conducted virtual bell-ringings that were hilarious events. We had a background photo with the bell in it, and students were coached on where their hand should go to look like they were ringing it and to high-five their coaches. We would take screenshots while I rang a desk bell for sound effects," said Kelley Broome, corporate relations manager with the Jones MBA Career Center.
When students, faculty, and staff began to return to Scheller donning masks, the Center team found that creating a portable bell stand would allow them to social distance while still allowing students to ring the bell. Broome and colleague Frankie Massaroni used their creativity to create a free-standing pole with the bell attached, allowing them to move it around. They found an abandoned hat stand from Barnes and Noble, and with spray paint and some graphic design work, they launched it in 2022. "Higher education ingenuity," as Broome called it.
"Now we have bell-ringing events in Scheller's atrium and courtyard. We have also transitioned our posts from Facebook to our LinkedIn page, and with the help of the marketing team, we've had some content on Instagram for our bell-ringing parties," said Broome.
While the ceremony is exciting and fun, ringing the bell carries a deeper meaning for MBAs and the Center staff.
"In the business world, ‘Ringing the Bell’ signifies an accomplishment of importance. It is a symbol of a goal reached,” said Dave Deiters, associate dean of MBA Programs and the Jones MBA Career Center. “For our community, it signifies the culmination of an educational journey, establishing the dream career that the student had in mind at the outset of the program, and the entire community celebrating that with them."
This just in! Learn how to properly “Ring the Bell” with our latest tutorial.