Graduate school looks different in 2020

Starting graduate school under normal circumstances can be intimidating; starting graduate school during a global pandemic is another story. Many questions were running through my head during the months leading up to the start of the MSBA program. Would I be able to meet my classmates and professors in person? How will Emory University be able to adapt to the constantly changing state of the pandemic? Will I get the same quality of education that I would get during more stable times? After spending a few weeks in the MSBA program, I feel confident that there is no better time than 2020 to take time to develop personally and professionally. We are learning to be adaptable, to roll with the punches, and to make the best of a sticky situation. My classmates are resilient and passionate, and I cannot wait to continue to grow with them throughout our 10 months together. 

My home setup for a Zoom informational session about leadership opportunities in the MSBA Program

My home setup for a Zoom informational session about leadership opportunities in the MSBA Program.

Before COVID-19 changed all our lives, the 2021 MSBA cohort was set to begin boot camps in early July. After Emory announced their decision to suspend in-person instruction for the summer due to COVID-19 concerns, many students voiced a strong preference for in-person instruction. Emory’s small class sizes and personalized instruction were major factors in my decision to join the MSBA program. The program office took our concerns to heart and found a way to make the boot camps work for us, which meant postponing instruction until the pre-fall term in August. Consequently, we needed to fit seven weeks of instruction into a three-week period with the same number of contact hours. I knew that these few weeks would be intense and fast-paced, so I took the extra month of summer to prepare by learning new skills through Data Camp, working on personal data science projects, and getting some extra rest.

Before beginning any of our coursework, the program office thought outside the box to find ways to socialize the incoming MSBA students. Through happy hours and tech boot camp study sessions on Zoom, I got to know each one of my classmates before meeting them in person. During this time, I also had the opportunity to virtually chat with MSBA alumni about their careers and experiences at Goizueta Business School. These experiences would not have come to fruition if the pandemic hadn’t pushed us to find new ways to socially connect while isolated.

After spending months in various phases of quarantine, I was unsure what it would look like to interact with professors and other students in a safe way. Luckily, during our first day of onboarding, my concerns were quickly alleviated. The MSBA program and the entire Goizueta Business School was well-prepared for our arrival and made for a smooth transition to in-person instruction for the semester. Although it feels a bit strange to sit six feet away from your classmates or refrain from shaking hands with a new acquaintance, our cohort has been quick to adapt to our new normal. By going through intense graduate coursework together in these unprecedented times, our cohort instantly bonded and built camaraderie.

Our boot camp sessions have been a hybrid model of in-person and online sessions, which has led to a sense of comfort and familiarity among the students and professors. Some students are taking courses fully online, and although we haven’t met in person, I already feel that I know them on a personal level. Everyone in the MSBA program knows that living through a pandemic inflicts different stressors on each of us, and I know that I have a strong support system in my classmates, professors, and program office.

While there is still much uncertainty as to what the future holds, I know that I made the right decision to join the MSBA program. Through the few short weeks that I have been a part of the program, I have already developed drastically as a business data scientist and as a person. As I wrap up my boot camp coursework, I am eager to dive into the core courses in the fall semester and continue to learn and grow.

Mary Boken

Mary Boken

Mary Boken is an aspiring data scientist and Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) candidate at Goizueta Business School. Prior to joining the MSBA program, Mary worked for ExxonMobil as an environmental advisor, where she analyzed operations data to generate reports on environmental emissions and shared insights with management and key stakeholders. Additionally, Mary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering from the Clemson University Honors College.