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Summer 2000
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The Dow and Nasdaq may tumble, but there's an air of sunny optimism permeating The Anderson School as its newest M.B.A.s prepare to launch themselves into the uncharted territory of the dot-com world
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By Mona Gable

Outside on the pretty tile plaza of The Anderson School, the wind is blowing furiously. Tablecloths are flying, umbrellas are tipping and a light but insistent rain is starting to fall. It's the second day of the 18th annual Graduate Business Conference, and some 200 of the nation's best business students are about to partake of a Mexican buffet after a stimulating morning of panels about the Internet.

This year's April conference is aptly titled "The Net Effect." And Anderson students have spent months corralling speakers and lining up sponsors such as Sun Microsystems and industry stars such as Chris Alden, the 30-year-old wunderkind of Red Herring. After today's panels, there's a dinner at the famed beachfront seafood dive Gladstone's and, for the truly ambitious, a gathering later at the hip Santa Monica night club Lush, with '80s freak icon Boy George serving as DJ. Tomorrow night there's an awards dinner on the lot at Sony. Indeed, Anderson's can-do M.B.A.s seem to have anticipated every detail except the weather. "I was wearing shorts yesterday!" shouts one Anderson student above the wind.

The squall out on the patio isn't the only storm that's brewing. Even as the dot-com wannabes and budding venture capitalists load up on tacos and enchiladas, the Nasdaq and Dow are falling like a truckload of PCs. When the numbers are tallied, it will be the single worst drop in recent history, with much of the blame placed squarely on the overvalued Internet sector.

Yet inside the Anderson building, the mood couldn't be sunnier. Armed with cell phones and laptops, the crowd of clean-cut mid-20-somethings exhibits a kind of irrepressible optimism. Superlatives abound, as in, "We have a FANTASTIC weekend lined up for you!"

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