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Fridays from the Frontline: 5 Feelings while being a Black MBA student in Georgia during the COVID-19 pandemic

For this edition of Fridays from the Frontline, we hear from a current MBA student at Emory Goizueta in Atlanta, Georgia. Erin Lightfoot, Goizueta MBA ’21, shares her experience during the pandemic.

5 Feelings while being a Black MBA student in Georgia during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Erin Lightfoot, Emory Goizueta MBA ’21

#5 Curious: eager to know or learn something

“Hey Siri, what is a pandemic?”

By late March, we’d transitioned to 100% virtual learning. Besides contemplating how I’d conquer eight electives, I became obsessed with understanding all things COVID-19. I researched scenarios based on Joshua Weitz’s social event risk model and checked the Georgia Department of Public Health’s daily COVID-19 updates, especially for Richmond County, Georgia. I was concerned about my family back home as projections in Atlanta grew drearier.

By April, I’d weaned myself off daily news alerts in order to focus on finishing the spring semester strong. My younger sister (PoliSci senior at KSU) kept me company as we continued our virtual studies.

#4 Saudade: a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia

At-home painting activity. Pre-stenciled canvas by Donjhaé Jones, an African-American visual artist.

By May, I’d developed a quarantine routine which mostly consisted of binge watching TV shows like Game of Thrones, attempts to stay in shape with help from the FitOn app, and a weekly trip to Target for essential and not-so-essential items (i.e. candles). I also took a virtual course on International Business in Europe at WHU. The class also provided a view of what other MBA students were experiencing around the world (e.g. New Zealand, Canada, and India). At-home activities like painting a pre-stenciled Jhaédore canvas and amateur deejaying added sunshine on the gloomiest quarantine days.

But more and more, I felt lonely. My younger sister returned to our hometown for the summer. My start date at Accenture was approaching, but I was still bummed about not being able to travel like consultants tend to.

Then, on May 25, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like millions of other Black Americans, I felt miserable. My heart hurt. I wanted justice. By the start of June, more than 100,000 Americans had died due to COVID-19. I began my virtual internship at Accenture still grieving. Then, on June 12, Rayshard Brooks was murdered by police in Atlanta, Georgia.

#3 Survivor Guilt: a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress experienced by someone who has survived an incident in which others died

With the internship, the pandemic, and protests against police brutality and racial injustices happening simultaneously, I felt waves of guilt. I was healthy, employed, and safe in the confines of my apartment. Although I often felt sorrowful, I also felt optimistic from seeing people stand up for Black lives and celebrating Juneteenth. One day, my sorority sister invited me to volunteer to transport arrested protesters home. Although no one was released during our shift, I was reinspired to make an impact. I promoted local Black-owned businesses like Good Books and ATL Kula and began planning a virtual reunion weekend for my family.

#2 Proud: feeling deep satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements

By July, my Accenture internship was in full swing – core consulting skill development, frequent training sessions, and plenty of virtual networking via Microsoft Teams. The people on my project teams were brilliant, down-to-earth, and socially minded. It was refreshing to discuss anti-racism and COVID-19 relief with my Atlanta coworkers.

44th annual DeVoe Family Reunion via Zoom.

My family’s 44th annual reunion and 1st virtual reunion was a huge success thanks to Zoom. It was a beautiful follow-up to our 43rd reunion the year prior. My cousin sewed 100 custom masks that we shipped to relatives around the United States. We played trivia games, exercised together, discussed family health conditions, sang Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, and heard two empowering sermons from my cousin and uncle. In one day we raised more than $1,000 for the DeVoe Community Foundation.

#1 Expectant: having or showing an excited feeling that something is about to happen, especially something pleasant and interesting

Now school has reconvened in a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning. The horrors of the earlier pandemic months are casting their shadows into August. The police who murdered Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, still haven’t been arrested. On August 23, Jacob Blake was brutally shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And more than 180,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19. Although these tragedies make me feel sad, other things make me feel hopeful. I earned a full-time offer from Accenture. I’m taking a lighter course load (four electives). And mental and physical wellness is my top priority. I feel sad and hopeful at the same time. And that makes me human.

I’m very much focused on enjoying each day, whether it’s chatting with my classmates and professors, reading books about the Black experience, making social media videos of my cooking sessions, or discovering new songs on Spotify. I’m grateful for supportive, loving family and friends. I’m motivated to continue to make an impact, especially by educating Georgians on various ways to vote. I’m expecting better days and will do my part to ensure that better days come sooner than later.

Erin Lightfoot is a second year student in Goizueta’s Full-Time MBA program. Erin is a native of Augusta, Georgia. This past summer, she interned at Accenture as a Senior Strategy Consultant. Prior to business school, Erin worked as an Operations Manager at Amazon Fulfillment. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech.

Posted in: Fridays from the Frontline, Weekly Columns

Schools: Emory / Goizueta

About the Author

Lauren Wakal
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.

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