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A Unique Year for EMBA’s Residency Period

Every July, new and returning MBA for Executives students convene in New Haven for extended residencies filled with hyper-focused classroom instruction, team building, and bonding. This year, the residency was a hybrid, offering students the option to participate in person or virtually. Here, six students share their experiences.

Kate Fuentes ’22, Area of Focus: Asset Management  (in-person participant)

“The year 2020 makes for a unique experience for all of us starting our EMBA program. Upon arrival at The Study, a beautiful boutique hotel in New Haven, I saw people. Real people! Not the Zoom versions of work calls and our Yale orientation meetings. It was great to be back in the quasi-real world again. The next day, and with great anticipation, we began our classes, encapsulated within the plexiglass surrounding our desks, and donning our masks. The classes were intense yet exhilarating.

“The week was hard. As an investment management lawyer, my entire career has been intense: fast-paced, high stakes, long hours, no sleep. It was challenging to revert back to a learning experience similar to when I was a freshly minted baby lawyer at BigLaw—and this is many eons ago, as my own kids are now fully grown, my youngest a junior in college. But one of the great benefits of life experience is mindset. I kept telling myself to trust the program. I slowly let go of the baggage and fear surrounding grades and perceptions of success and decided to live in the moment of the Yale experience.

“I came to Yale to learn, for the joy of learning. And to live and breathe the mission and culture of this venerable institution. I told myself to never forget what an honor it is to walk the same campus as the many great minds that have come before, their collective experience infused into every crevice of this beautiful campus and perhaps even some of their worry and doubts. As one of my favorite professors likes to say, ‘the struggle’ is an important part of learning. I decided to shed the armor built over many years and embrace this struggle at a level I never had before, along with the vulnerability it entails. And learn I did, in an environment that is uniquely Yale. From the excellence, passion, and commitment of the professors to Assistant Dean Wendy Tsung and her team and the many others who had to orchestrate an entirely new hybrid learning system, all the way down to the care with which our snacks were packed during break. From the big to the small, all these indicia of support made a difference. For it is easy to shine when life is easy, but very few can rise with renewed resilience, strength, and character during challenging times. Not surprisingly, this is Yale.”

Niki Marin ’22, Area of Focus: Sustainability (remote participant)

“We’ve all experienced these moments—an awkward frozen face, delayed sound that doesn’t match the movement on screen, microphone issues constantly asking, ‘Can you hear me?’. We then take these comical encounters and compile them with the ever-real Zoom fatigue—unending hours staring at our computer screens, sitting in the same uncomfortable position before realizing that our legs have gone numb. It begs the question: How productive can this experience be, and is it even worth it? The answer for me is clear—a resounding yes.

“I might have had to adapt to the technology and different modes of interaction, but the experience has made me reconsider things I took for granted. It has enriched my ability to communicate creatively and more effectively, cultivated meaningful relationships in unexpected ways, and has made me envision my future differently. While a virtual experience cannot replicate an in-person experience, what this moment is teaching us is that we have more control than we may have realized. As leaders, at the nexus of business and society, this is a precious learning opportunity that we should not undervalue. My hope is that we evolve and continue to invest in how technology can complement our face to face interactions to allow us to be more inclusive and help shape the future.”

Dan Neubelt ’22, Area of Focus: Asset Management (in-person participant)

Residency was a fairly indescribable experience. I could position it as a week- (really, nine-day-) long vacation, filled with excitement, exploration, meeting new friends, and hearing new ideas. Or, I could tell you it was an exhausting week, characterized by late nights, many assignments, and a daunting schedule. Of course, you already know it was both of these things. Over nine days, we had 50-plus hours of class, webinars, team assignments, and of course plenty of homework. But, we got through those challenges together. My learning team figured out how to work well together, applying what we learned in Managing Groups and Teams. We began to learn who the ‘quants’ in the class were, as residency is a fairly mathematically driven set of assignments, with Accounting, Microeconomics, and Probability all on top of one another. Nevertheless, we all got through it. Our residency week was marked by several birthdays, many (socially distanced) dinners around New Haven, a weekend celebration, and, of course, learning how to learn in the era of COVID. It’s amazing how close we became after only nine days together, and after our first class weekend back in New Haven, it felt like we had just been together. If I can give one piece of advice to future students, it would be to get the homework done efficiently so you can enjoy the time with your classmates. Whether you stay on campus after class ends, set up working sessions with your learning team, or dig into the books in your hotel room, you’ll find the way that works for you. And when you turn in that last assignment for the week, you will be relieved… and ready to get back on campus for a little bit more.”

Quinn Tivey ’22, Area of Focus: Sustainability (remote participant) 

“Although I was remote during residency, it did not feel like I was at a distance. Our cohort began bonding in virtual ways well before residency, and that sense of community carried on into residency, as students, faculty, and the program team embraced and supported each other, regardless of anyone’s location. This, along with my amazing learning team, has been critical to how positive the experience has been. I’ve also found that—for me—mentally resetting my baseline of expectations from in-person to virtual, something I did months before residency, when the longer-term impacts of the pandemic became apparent, has been critical to my interpretation of the situation. By adjusting my expectations, I’ve been able to easily appreciate things for what they are and find joy in so much of what we are doing, even if we are doing it in a way that I couldn’t have anticipated, or might not prefer if we weren’t living through a pandemic. Hopefully things will get back to normal soon; maybe they won’t—either way, I’m grateful to be a part of this amazing community and to be learning alongside so many impressive and passionate people, and for what we’ve got together.”

Jeff Cohen ’21, Area of Focus: Sustainability (in-person participant)

“With year two of residency now in the books, I look back at the week with mixed emotions.  First, the anxiety of year one was completely gone.  The first residency marathon of 15 days will forever be a major accomplishment in my life.  This time around, there was a level of comfort and familiarity with the people, the process, the surroundings, and my personal expectations.  It was like throwing on that perfectly worn, soft hoodie when the temperature turns in the fall.  It was a reminder of my home away from home, but it was not the same place I left in February. 

“All this emotion and excitement guided me to Residency Year 2: Resident Harder, the sequel.  First, there was no guarantee that we would be back live in the classroom.  We could participate in residency year two because Yale provided a comprehensive plan to return to campus.  I was tested twice, I spent time learning the new procedures through videos, I signed a pledge to follow them carefully; I brought masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaner; and I showed up to class.  The Yale staff provided shielded workspaces for me to work during class.  I felt beyond safe at every moment. Everyone followed the rules set out by Yale.  It was not the Yale SOM I left, but it was a welcome vacation from the one I was visiting on Zoom. 

“Not everyone could join our cohort live in New Haven for various COVID-related reasons.  I recommend that if anyone can travel to Yale, please do it.  I was able to eat lunch, go to small group dinners, hike East Rock, and celebrate the little moments, all at a safe distance of six feet, together with friends and colleagues.  This is the Yale I remember.  Classes were outstanding.  I was knee deep in the world of sustainability.” 

Sami Ghazi ’21, Area of Focus: Sustainability (in-person participant)

“My first year in the EMBA program was full of milestones: meeting and getting to know my incredible classmates, getting a foundation in core business concepts with which I was not previously familiar, and opening up new ways of thinking. But the year two residency week marked a milestone that I had been eager to get into since I was accepted into the program: the beginning of my sustainability cohort classes. Though I and a number of my classmates joined remotely, I still felt energized by getting into the material and working even more closely with cohort classmates. Sustainability Systems was taught with passion by Rodney Irwin, who brought us a combination of the needed technical context behind sustainability strategy and reporting with a deep dive into the very human elements that go into an organization’s choices on sustainability. Sustainability Finance, taught by Cary Krosinsky, was a class I had very much looked forward to given the tremendous need to finance the solutions to the massive environmental challenges the world faces. We had the opportunity in this class to hear at length from experts at Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, which was a great window into how major financial institutions are thinking about these challenges. As I move forward into my next set of sustainability classes, residency week prompted a whole new set of questions in my mind that I’m excited to further address in the months ahead.”