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The Wharton Experience During COVID-19

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The University of Pennsylvania’s campus is a beautiful one—there is even a strip that feels like it could be from Dead Poets Society. One of the perks of collegiate life while strolling through such settings is simply running into a classmate—not that you would necessarily wander off to read poetry together, but chance meetings could inspire new ideas, new experiences and even new friendships.  Now that campuses have been evacuated due to COVID-19, these “chance meetings” need to be initiated purposefully.  Below, we hear from Wharton MBA student, William Quadrino ’21, about how the Penn student community is maintaining their connections, what virtual learning is like and more.

William Quadrino, Wharton MBA ’21

How is the online classroom experience going at your school? What’s different about it?

Online instruction has been a welcome distraction to the turmoil in the world. What’s different is this new stronger sense of community through shared experience; of course the experience lacks the in-person connections with classmates and faculty, but I have been inspired by the adaptation from classroom to online for all coursework and have found new meaningful ways to learn, socialize, and look out for each other. The virtual classroom, while not ideal, has opened the window to each of our home lives during class. On the lighter side of things, my kids often make cameo appearances in class and I love it.

The new Management 799 course is a high-quality live streaming online seminar that brings the academic star power that Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania can bring to bear when discussing the effects of a pandemic on the global business environment. The presentation of this most relevant material has been thoughtfully curated and at times can be provocative. The live streaming questions from 2,000+ classmates opened a window to the thoughts and opinions of students from all of the schools at UPenn, which was an unexpected bonus providing additional context on our collective reaction to current events.

What is the technology platform your school is using to deliver classes online? Does it vary from class to class?
BlueJeans has been the primary medium for synchronous courses and panopto videos are used for asynchronous self-paced instruction. Additionally, I find myself seeking more of the faculty’s Twitter handles to gain further insight into what they are reading, their opinions, etc.

Working from home with a new ‘do

How are you maintaining relationships with your classmates, professors, and other b-school community members during this time period?
The personal connections gained in just the first semester were quite strong. Since the opportunity for us to randomly bump into each other on campus and at events has been denied, I now make a concerted effort to message, email, and video chat to catch-up with friends and faculty. Like most of us, I’m looking forward to the light at the end of this tunnel; a stronger community that has overcome challenges of this historic public health crisis together.

If you are active in any clubs, how has their work continued?
I’m a Non-profit Board Fellow and a Co-Captain for the Wharton Travel Hockey Team. The board fellowship have been pursuing a goal of 1,000 acts of kindness over 6-weeks, through a Collective Good Project. We each attempt to be a positive presence in someone else’s life daily, some examples from the group include fostering animals from a shelter, donations of time or money, or calling a friend/neighbor/family member that is alone and isolated. It’s a wonderful initiative, and I’ve personally enjoyed keeping up with my elderly neighbors and running errands for them.

The hockey team is one of my favorite experiences at school, we’re all optimistic about reducing the social distancing measures by the Fall so we can get back on the ice. This is the time of year when the leadership turns over and we hit the ground running for next season, in the near term we’re in the idea generation stage for next year’s activities, which include trips to HBS and Tuck for annual tournaments.

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Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.