Club Spotlight – Foster Creative

In this Foster MBA Association feature, the ex presidents of Foster Creative Zharen Gonzales and Ayush Kulkarni, shared details about the club, their involvement and tips for current and future leadership.

Please tell us a bit about yourselves.

Zharen – I’m from Baltimore, MD. Before Foster I worked in accounting. As you can imagine, this career path did not leave much room for being creative. In my spare time I indulged in travel, music, arts and crafts, and trying new recipes, but it did not quell my desire for more in my career. This led me to pursue business school so that I could change my path. I think I’ve managed to make that happen. In the fall, I will join Microsoft as a Business Program Manager for Business Sales Operations. Along the way, I also found that Foster Creative helped satisfy that creative itch that I have always had.

 Ayush – I’ve worked in tech throughout my career: pre-MBA I was a software engineer and post-MBA I will be working as a Technical Product Manager. I’ve always enjoyed pursuing creative outlets outside of work but never stuck to one until I started playing the bass guitar in 2018. Being able to continue that at Foster through the Foster Creative was a key part of my experience at Foster.

The 2022 Foster Band

So what exactly is Foster Creative?

A – Foster Creative is all about the MBA experience beyond the classroom and recruiting. It’s intended as a place for MBA students looking to pursue their creative pursuits with other like-minded MBA students. For the last few years, most students who joined the club were primarily interested in playing music – hence its focus on music-related activities. We were lucky to have Aaron Valenta, whose practice space the MBA band has made use of for practice sessions since 2021. We were also lucky to have a pool of very talented musicians who freely volunteered their time – we decided as a group what songs to perform and folks practiced their parts individually. We’d usually manage to get 2-3 practices in as a group before performing at social events like TGs (monthly student parties on campus), Frosters (winter ball), and Foster Idol (just what it sounds like).

Z – Ayush put it beautifully. Foster Creative is a place where people can connect through their own interests. At the beginning of the school year, we survey the students’ interests. Once that data is gathered, we think through possible events and spaces where those interests can be explored. We’ve had book circles, show and tell type events, and Foster Connects, where students can discuss hot topics. No matter what your interests are, FC is there to make sure you keep in touch with them throughout the program.


What unique role does your club play in promoting students’ goals at Foster? 

Z- FC gives students the unique opportunity to have fun events with no stress or strings attached. On a personal level, I have always enjoyed band practices as a way to let go of the stress of the program and just have fun jamming together. Foster Idol also does this for the student body. It brings people together to witness and enjoy the talents of their classmates.

A- I think the biggest role Foster Creative played for me was to provide a space and connection with like-minded people who were interested in playing music. The friends I’ve made through the club are among my closest at Foster. On a lighter note, participation in Foster Creative is a high-ROI networking activity: if you’re playing for the band, everyone in the program knows who you are 😉


How has Foster Creative influenced the continued evolution of the Foster MBA?

Z- FC has become a mainstay for musical needs of the program. At Frosters, TGs, and other school events, the FC band has been there to support audio and musical needs.

A- I’m going to focus on music again rather than creative pursuits more generally. Foster Creative provides entertainment through performing at TGs for students in the Full-Time and Evening MBA programs. We also held events like Foster Idol to provide an opportunity for the creative folks at Foster to showcase their talent to their broader class. This is particularly for students who are unable to put in the time commitment required for the Foster band.


Which Foster Creative events have been most popular or successful and why?

A- Foster Idol has been quite successful – one particularly popular occurrence of this was when we invited faculty and students to perform together. Students could place “bets” on their classmates and faculty, and if the bet amount was raised the person would have to perform for their classmates.

 Z- Totally agree with Ayush! Foster Idol has been the hands-down favorite. We are always so blown away by the many talents of our classmates, and we also have a regular bar that has graciously hosted us for years (shout out to Kate’s Pub in Wallingford!).


Foster Idol

Foster Idol

What have you learned about leadership while in this role?

 Z- You have to think very critically about how attendees’ experiences can be elevated at events. We regularly end Foster Idol with open mic karaoke as it is so popular. To facilitate their needs, we created a system for sign-ups so that things go smoothly. I’ve also learned how important it is to reach out for help. Ayush was an amazing Co-President that I could lean on. We had to make sure to communicate effectively on a regular basis to stay on top of things.

 A- Coordinating and organizing events. Generating interest and incentivizing participation. Keeping the audience engaged during long events – although it helped having Zharen as Co-President, she’s a natural at this! Also, both of us learned how to set up audio equipment for social events.


Do you have a favorite memory of your time with Foster Creative?

Z- I loved every band practice! School obligations can be so stressful, but practice makes me put that aside and just have fun.

A- Practicing for TGs was so much fun for me. It’s great to get together with the band and see our songs coming together. It’s also a great feeling when a performance goes really well and the audience loves it.


How have you worked with other MBA Association clubs or UW Graduate Schools to provide networking opportunities?

We’ve collaborated with Global Business Association and Diversity in Business to provide the sound for their marquee events which both had attendance on the scale of a TG.

Z- We have also collaborated with Challenge for Charity (C4C) in a special Foster Idol fundraising event. Ayush mentioned the event earlier, as students could bid on performances from professors and classmates. A portion of the funds raised went to new band equipment, while the rest went to C4C.


Which students or why do/should students join Foster Creative? 

Z- Foster Creative is for anyone seeking fun in the program. It truly is a way to be connected in any way – we just need to get creative! Not to mention, the club is 100% free. 😊

 A- Students interested in any sort of creative pursuit are welcome. Of course, I’m biased towards music so if you play any sort of instrument or sing – you should totally join!


What tips do you have for incoming MBA students thinking of joining Foster Creative leadership positions?

 Z- The club is about fun, and as a leader you may have 100 ideas, but make sure to hold yourself accountable so that you meet the class’ expectations. More groundwork generally leads to more successful events!

A – Follow your interests! The most important part of the club is to have fun. The events are that much more enjoyable for everyone if the organizers and participants are having a great time.