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teaching instructing students who are projected on a screen, participating remotely

MBA for Executives Students Enter the Virtual Classroom

MBA for Executives students were the first cohort at Yale SOM to switch to virtual classes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students had their first remote sessions the weekend of March 20; virtual meals and happy hours soon followed.

By Karen Guzman

It’s not the same as gathering with their classmates in an Evans Hall classroom, but MBA for Executives (EMBA) students say that they are making the Yale School of Management’s pivot to remote classes work.

The EMBA cohort was the school’s first group to switch to virtual classes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students had their first remote sessions the weekend of March 20. EMBA students typically travel to campus for a weekend of classes twice a month.

“It was a bit strange at first with the new format—a video call with 75 people,” said Parker Donner ’21. “But overall it went far better than expected. It was clear that our professors took extra time to ensure that the lessons were engaging and that it wouldn’t feel like you were just watching a video.”

EMBA students are already well versed in virtual meetings, since they connect remotely with their learning teams when they’re not on campus. Some have also occasionally attended classes remotely via the program’s Extended Classroom option.

“Our class has a great rapport that’s been built over the first eight months of the program,” Donner said. “We’ve been able to lean on this to stay connected through various means, and this makes the transition to online classes a lot easier.”

For Anuli Mkparu ’21, the biggest challenges have been the emotional ones.

“Seeing members of my Yale family shed tears and hearing their personal and professional struggles was hard,” she said. “But it also greatly underscored the kind of humanity and connection that’s going to see us through this time.”

In a difficult time, she added, reconnecting with the Yale SOM community, even electronically, was a comfort. “It was uplifting to see members of my Yale family—classmates, faculty, and staff—and everyone’s super cute babies. It made me feel like we were not so isolated from each other, and we’re really in this together.”

EMBA students are also drawing on the multiple online forums where they typically keep in touch on a daily basis. The students are now leveraging these platforms to include social get-togethers.

Virtual meals with peers and virtual happy hours have been well attended, and there has even been a virtual baby shower.

“My classmates are resilient, hardworking, and determined, and they’re also compassionate and cohesive,” Mkparu said. “I think these qualities are going to help us not just survive, but thrive in this virtual environment.”