Allan Lingwood did what any single guy might do and scoped the room for women on his first day of MBA school. As one of only 44 daytime students enrolled at University of Victoria's Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, he noticed Katherine Cochrane right away.
"A scan was done. I created a short list," says Allan, a 33-year-old business strategy consultant, inside the couple's Victoria home as he recalled that day in August of 2007.
"I saw him do the scan," says Katherine Lingwood, 29, his wife of almost four years, a regional contracts manager at B.C. Transit. "He looked at me and this big smile broke across his face and I was, like, 'I gotta look away.' "
As MBA students at UVic's business school, known for its intimate class sizes, the couple was doing a 17-month program, studying at least 60 hours a week and basically breathing, eating and sleeping MBA. They became friends within a month thanks to networking events, projects and social outings. Later, they worked on their thesis together focusing on their shared passion for international business development overseas.
Recipe for romance
No B-school necessarily wants to be known as a matchmaker, but few can control the affairs of the heart.
That's why budding romances don't surprise Pat Elemans, assistant dean at UVic's business school and former MBA director. Every year at least one relationship develops, says Ms. Elemans, and she often tells students: "These are the people you are going to be sweating with and working with and socializing with. For some of you, your life partner is in this room."
At UVic, like many other B-schools, the proportion of men to women is typically 60 to 40 per cent. If you add ambitious individuals who have similar goals and who can be empathetic to the stresses of the workload, then it's likely a good recipe for romance, says Vancouver-based relationship expert Kim Sarrasin. "It's either going to be a thing that brings two people together or it's going to break you up because of the intensity, stress and crazy focus on the program," she says.
Romance was not initially on Ms. Lingwood's radar. She even wore a fake wedding ring for the first week of school to discourage suitors. But as the days and weeks passed, neither could deny the attraction, which was largely rooted in the eerie coincidence they had previously worked in Africa to help locals build business plans.
Laughter, then first kiss
Yvette Wu and Chris Hild welcomed a baby girl, Henny, in late February. They were in overlapping MBA years at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, but still found themselves drawn to each other through student council, networking and parties. Mr. Hild, 37, and now a manager in aboriginal consulting at MNP LLP, a professional services firm, was a class year ahead and gave an orientation talk to the 114 students in Ms. Wu's class in the summer of 2008.
Ms. Wu, 29, who is currently on maternity leave from her role as a consultant at Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, recalls thinking, "Oh, he's so charismatic. He'd make a really great husband, but too bad you're too old for me."
It turns out Mr. Hild's sense of humour was too good to pass up. That became clear when he showed up at a Halloween party dressed as the "Financial Crisis," complete with disheveled and torn suit, glasses held together with masking tape and hair spray-painted white to symbolize the stress of the market collapse. "It was really funny," Ms. Wu says. "That's where we shared our first kiss."
Sometimes people meet at B-school and become romantically linked years later. Lisa and Paul Reid sat near each other during their MBA program in 2003 at Western University's Richard Ivey School of Business. After the program they moved to different cities, but kept in touch.
In 2009, they reconnected at a fundraiser. Paul, now a consultant at retail consultancy Jackman, asked Lisa out for dinner. They went on their real first date in March of that year at Czehoski in Toronto's Queen Street West area. Five months later, they were engaged and Lisa is now on maternity leave as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble after giving birth to daughter Sadie.
Congratulations and celebrations
When the Lingwoods completed their MBAs, they got way more than they signed up for including love, marriage and a daughter named Sophia.
After all these years, Mr. Lingwood remembers the exact moment when he knew Katherine was the one. Near the end of their program, while driving to lunch, a friend called to congratulate the pair – each had won one of the four awards given for class leadership-citizenship. Katherine announced the news and Allan says he grinned and thought, "I'm in the car with the girl I'm going to marry. This just got real."