When I accepted my offer join the Wisconsin School of Business as an MBA student, I knew full well that since we were in a pandemic, my grad experience would be different. I would not be able to attend sporting activities, recruiters would not be physically coming to campus, and other social events and networking would be virtual. What I did not expect was how well the University would handle the experience.
Even before orientation, there were clearly laid-out guidelines as to how the university would operate. Classes would be a blend of online and virtual offerings, in-person classes would cease after Thanksgiving, and any serious outbreaks would close campus for at least two weeks. After spending my first semester of graduate school in a pandemic, I am here to tell you that getting your MBA in a pandemic is safe (as it can be), flexible, & continuously improving.
The University has a strict mask mandate. If you are in a building, you are wearing a mask. Anyone not wearing a mask will be asked to leave. Classrooms have clearly marked tables where people can sit, free masks when you walk into the classroom, and disinfectant spray to clean tables before and after class. Each table is strategically placed to six feet away from the next allowing for adequate spacing within the classroom. Professors are required to wear masks and face-shields while teaching and students are discouraged from gathering at the front after class. Custodial staff is constantly cleaning door handles, elevator buttons, and public areas and there is hand sanitizer available at every entrance to every building.
Students are not required to be in class. If they are not feeling well or are simply more comfortable participating online, they are free to do so. Some students participate only online and do not live on campus, or even in the United States. For those on-campus, attendance is not required. All lectures are recorded and posted after the lecture. Some lectures are offered synchronously (through zoom or in-person) and some asynchronously (recorded PowerPoints) throughout the semester. Professors’ office hours are extended, and they are very vigilant in their emails. The on-campus experience can be what you make of it. If you are the type of person who prefers in-person classes, there is a solution. If you are the type of person who would rather join online, or watch the lectures at a different time, there is a solution. Overall, the University has done a great job of making the experience one of flexibility and convenience.
Networking during a pandemic is not easy. During a normal school year, recruiters would come to campus throughout the year to meet with students and give informational sessions on their companies. Although it looks different this year, I do not feel that we have lost any value. Companies still “come to campus”, they just come virtually. Info sessions are held through zoom and still offer great opportunities to network. Alumni are more than willing to set-up zoom calls with current students to discuss their journeys, help with mock-interviews, or even just to get to know one another. The MBA also has their own programming to help students network with each other. Through the Graduate Business Association, there are second year students elected as “Social Chairs”. As Social Chairs, the pair are in charge of planning events for the MBA program. While we have not been able to meet much in person, the social chairs have done a good job of improvising through zoom meetings. We have weekly happy hours, trivia nights, virtual gatherings to watch Badger football, murder mystery dinners, Halloween themed parties, and even an ugly sweater party. While it has been different, it has been fun!
The university has done a great job of making my experience one that is safe, flexible, and innovative. While getting an MBA during a pandemic is not the ideal circumstance, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience thus far!