“Teamwork” and “Kellogg MBA” are practically synonymous. So it’s hard to imagine what happens when student teammates can no longer convene on Northwestern University’s campus. But such is the tough reality of social distancing and quarantining efforts amidst the threat of COVID-19. Of course, business leaders are creative and adaptive, so unsurprisingly Kellogg MBA students have risen to the challenge and maintained their connections. Three second-year MBA students, Mary Beech, Kris Masoor, Ayyub Bokhari, share below how their Kellogg education is already paying dividends during this crisis, how classmates & faculty continues to support each other, as well as some hopeful plans for the future.
How are you maintaining relationships with your classmates, professors, and other b-school community members during this time period?
Mary: Last quarter, I took “Moral Complexity in Leadership,” which uses literature as an entry point to discuss morally and ethically complex matters. Taught by Professor Brooke Vuckovic, we read different works of literature each week, discussed concepts and reflections in small groups, and then related themes to frameworks and real world examples to help us build our own moral frameworks. While the class ended a few weeks ago, Professor Vuckovic is holding weekly Sunday night sessions to continue our exploration of how reading and discussing literature can help us to navigate complexity, in particular during this time.
I’m also looking forward to Professor Suzanne Muchin’s fun, no-credit Zoom course, which will explore the themes from the course she teaches—”Selling Yourself and Your Ideas”—through the lens of the current season of “Survivor.” I had never watched Survivor before, but I took her course last fall and am excited to revisit topics including point of view, storytelling, and difficult conversations.
Kris: One of the few bright spots to the highly restrictive quarantine is the ability and onus to reach out to people. I’ve spent hours on Zoom, FaceTime, and other outlets with family, old friends, and classmates. My friends and I have enjoyed playing our favorite games like Codenames and Cards Against Humanity virtually while video-chatting and my parents are loving the virtual backgrounds that Zoom offers.
Last quarter, I took “M&A, LBO, and Corporate Restructuring” with Professor Jose Liberti, which most people agree is the most challenging and rewarding finance class at Kellogg. Professor Liberti was concerned about morale being low for his students this quarter and emailed me and a few other students to co-author a “hype” email to his incoming students. The email highlighted how hard we all worked and how much fun we had learning together, and I was able to offer up some tips for success for his new students.
Ayyub: To echo Kris’s point, I have found it valuable to individually reach out to my classmates and peers during this time. Whether it be about a book recommendation, workout plan, or future plans, I think the need for connection is stronger than ever. I try to let people vent or untangle the thoughts that are going through their minds since we are going through such an uncertain time. Classmates are worried about job offers being rescinded, visa complications, and health of their loved ones, and if not given a place to express these thoughts it becomes overwhelming. In the same vein, it also gives me a platform to discuss the thoughts I am feeling and reiterates the feeling that I am not alone in this. In addition, I know every b-school community is dealing with these times in different ways, so I try to reach out to my friends at different b-schools and share things that I have found helpful via the Kellogg community.
If you are active in any clubs, how has their work continued?
Kris: As the VP of Careers for Kellogg’s Healthcare Club, I can share some of the activities we have been focused on while affected by COVID-19. Luckily, Spring Quarter is mainly focused on light social and educational programming from the club and succession of the 2nd-year executive board by the 1st-year directors. Executive position applications are open for the 1st-year directors and we are holding virtual coffee chats to make sure that no mindshare and institutional knowledge is lost in the transition. We continue to share internship and full-time opportunities with our club members as they come inbound. Our faculty liaison, Professor Craig Garthwaite, is a total rock star and is hosting a series of “virtual healthcare happy hours” during which we propose questions about healthcare and have a lively discussion around it, which is very top of mind given the global pandemic. Once spring break has officially ended, the executive committee plans on meeting to discuss what content and programming we can deliver virtually to the broader Kellogg community.
Ayyub: I host “Chai Nights” at Kellogg, which is an event I host at my apartment for 10-15 students every week to forge meaningful relationships through meaningful conversation over a cup of chai. To date, I have hosted ~30 Chai Nights with 300+ attendees and I will continue to do these virtually in the Spring Quarter. Sure, it will be different as I won’t be able to make them a cup of chai, but I think the space for community and vulnerability will be needed more than ever. It will be a learning process as there is risk the event will lose its magic if not in-person, but I am hopeful that we will find a way.
In addition, last year my classmate, Heba, and I hosted a Ramadan Iftar event where ~250 students of the Kellogg Community came together to learn about Islam and Ramadan and break fast with us. We have been planning the second one for May 7th of this year with the projection of doubling attendance, but we are now transitioning to see how we can pull this off in a virtual manner. It will be a drastically different experience, but we are still excited to bring this opportunity to the Kellogg community.