My #whyBooth: The Emerging Market Summit

There was a colorful photo to which I gravitated when writing Booth’s unique application. It was a picture taken at a school event of a performance of a traditional Chinese dance.  Alongside the photo, I made a connection to my nerdy excitement for the Emerging Markets Summit (EMS), Booth’s largest student-run conference, and my ambitious plans to convince some big names like President of Brazil to come speak at the event.  Now that I am at Booth, I’m surprised by how much of what I wrote in my application has come true.    

It’s my second year at Booth and I’m leading marketing for the 2018 summit, just like I said I would, and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences during my time here.  A week after the 2017 EMS took place, we had no time to rest, and quickly sat down to start planning this year’s event. EMS is unique in that it brings in speakers from all over the world, covering 5 different emerging market regions and a variety of disciplines, including investing, entrepreneurship, social impact, and policy. 

Planning a conference of this magnitude has been a lesson in teamwork and relationship building.  At the beginning of the year we recruited members and decided to organize our planning teams in a very structured way, giving people clear leadership responsibilities.  Implementing this new structure wasn’t easy—first year students were just getting settled into Booth with many other activities to worry about, namely recruiting.  Second years had also settled in to their own leadership roles. 

To motivate my team, I thought back to the reasons why I decided to write about EMS in my application—what’s great about the summit is that there is truly something for everyone.  Emerging markets, as a purposefully broad term, encompasses many important opportunities: fintech startups in Africa, raising a private equity fund in India, banking policy in Eastern Europe, or social entrepreneurship in frontier markets—and all are linked by their roots in regions that have so much potential.

With many topics to cover at the summit, marketing the event has required a thoughtful strategy. There are a number of audiences who would find value from attending, including individuals at Booth, those at the University, and people in Chicago.  

A rewarding part of my role in the conference has been the opportunity to practice and further develop marketing skills I will take with me post-MBA.  I’ve been able to incorporate lessons from various marketing classes I’ve had at Booth.  From the little details, such as planning our social media timeline, to the strategic thinking around messaging and audience segmentation, every part of my role has been a learning experience. 

None of these learnings could have materialized without the help of my dedicated co-chairs (fellow students Linda Chelala, Betty Teshome, Vikram Sivakumar, and Vera Uzuh), the guidance of our staff advisors (Julie Morton and Jessica Mandel), but most importantly, the fervor of the 40+ team members who have sent endless emails, made numerous phone calls, and sat in hours of meetings to make this event successful.   

I can’t wait to see the peak of our collaboration on April 14, when we undoubtedly will bring together an amazing group of students, alumni, and professionals for a day of spirited conversation on emerging markets.

The Emerging Markets Summit will be held on April 14, 2018 at the Harper Center and will feature over 50 speakers from Latin America, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Asia Pacific.  Visit the conference website at to learn more about the summit and to register.

The photo I wrote about in my Booth application

Viktor Kats and Professor Rajan kicking off the 2017 Emerging Market Summit

Veena Bontu is a second year at Booth and co-chair of The Emerging Markets Summit. She is also involved with the Kilts Scholars and Board Fellows programs and enjoys movies and architecture. 

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