Two years ago, Rutgers MBS students, staff, and faculty departed for spring break…and returned to a 100% remote-learning platform and the world of higher-ed during COVID-19.
MBS faculty, staff, students, and alumni—of course—rose to the challenge, and, this year, headed into spring break with a different mindset, much optimism, and with two in-person events on the horizon.
After a fantastic alumni panel on March 11, MBS greeted the first day of spring break with an outdoor, in-person “Meet & Greet” on Monday, March 14—an evening that was a huge treat for all, particularly for students and staff who were meeting in person for the first time. MBS executive coach Abbe Rosenthal and Alycia John were on hand, as was Vicki Pasigos, assistant director of academic planning and operations.
With the event held under beautiful skies and in a canopied, catered tent, the contrast of Spring Break 2020 and Spring Break 2022 was not lost on anyone – particularly emcee and executive coach executive coach Kathleen Cashman-Walter, who commented on the great energy in the room, and professor Mark Robson, who delightedly remarked, “Who would have thunk that two years later, we're having a wonderful meal without masks on and enjoying each other?” Robson also acknowledged that connections remained strong over the pandemic, “because of the technology that was brought out by several of our colleagues,” and noted that in many ways, the overnight switch to remote instruction caused educators to step up their game.
“There's lots of things that certainly challenged us, but I think as faculty, it made us organize our classes a lot better. People really had to restructure, reorganize, and start to work with people that were instruction designers. It helped us improve our classes and get rid of some of these enormous flaws and poor presentation skills we have. Because—let’s face it—a crappy class taught in person becomes a really crappy class taught online.”
After the initial mixing and mingling, there was a formal Q&A among faculty and students, with faculty “panelists” including professors Beth Ann Murphy, Mark Burgess, Mark Robson, Matt Sills, and Braun Kiess—all of whom discussed how the pandemic, while challenging, also created unprecedented opportunities and drove unlikely relationships, whether it was pharmaceutical competitors uniting to create a vaccine, to top corporations finding that empathy really mattered (as Burgess noted), and began focusing on customer experience like never before.
Students and alumni also shared experience and gave advice. Top tip: Make sure to apply classroom knowledge at every opportunity.
The evening was a celebration of in-person reunions, but was also an exciting reflection on how technology drove explosive program growth throughout the pandemic—allowing MBS to expand both in size and excellence as virtual courses enabled access to students and faculty experts outside the immediate New York, New Jersey metropolitan area.