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The Yale SOM Experience During COVID-19

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While the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 has disrupted admissions for this year’s MBA applicants, current students are also facing some shake-ups in their graduate management education.  To see how student life has changed, we have been catching up with MBA candidates across top programs.  To kick off this series, we hear from Grace Liu Happ, a first-year student at the Yale School of Management.  Nearly 350 students comprise Yale SOM’s Class of 2021, and the school has moved all Spring semester classes online.  Read on for Grace’s account of how the Yale MBA students and professors have united to adapt to the new challenges related to COVID-19.

Grace Liu Happ, Yale SOM MBA ’21

How is the online classroom experience going at your school? What’s different about it?
Clearly, none of us signed up for the online classroom experience, but we are doing the best that we can under the circumstances. We are certainly missing a lot of the dynamic conversations and sustained engagement that we might have had otherwise in a physical classroom. That being said, I’ve noticed that some students are actually more comfortable speaking up in the video format, and it’s more apparent to professors when someone has been jeopardizing the conversation, so there’s been an increase in the diversity of students who participate. The professors have been receptive to feedback and seem to care a lot about how to make an unideal situation the best as possible—including migrating to a pass-fail grading system, understanding when people need to turn off their cameras, and cold-calling less. One tactical change for me is that I used to be 100% against any group meetings on weekends (Fridays included!), but now that I’m able to take meetings from my home, I’ve been able to be a lot more flexible.

What is the technology platform your school is using to deliver classes online? Does it vary from class to class?
All my classes have been using Zoom. Even group work has migrated to Zoom.

How are you maintaining relationships with your classmates, professors, and other b-school community members during this time period?
On any given day, I either have a virtual lunch, dinner, happy hour, or game night scheduled with friends from SOM. I’ve felt that a lot of our social interactions have been a lot more inclusive of those with familial, financial, or other obligations, now that we’ve migrated to indoor (free) virtual activities. In addition, I’ve had one-on-one chats with classmates and other b-school community members with whom I wouldn’t have hung out otherwise. Technology bridges awkwardness gaps and makes it feel easier to reach out, and at least personally, I feel more inclined to check in with people who may be feeling socially (and not just physically) isolated. Mental health gets overlooked a lot these days, and social interaction and empathy goes a long way to help alleviate some of the stress we’re all feeling.

If you are active in any clubs, how has their work continued?
My passion project this past year was founding the first Asian American & Pacific Islander focused affinity group at SOM, and we’re in the throes of planning for next year. We may organize some virtual happy hours/support groups for the rest of the semester, especially since race-based hate crimes have increased during this period of time. Otherwise, while unfortunately our conferences and social activities for the rest of my extracurricular involvements were cancelled, some clubs still have virtual panels and speakers.

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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.