2020 is anything but boring. That’s what I always say to my friends and family. When we think we might finally have things figured out, there’s always something that takes us by surprise. And as an international student at Fuqua, I can say that has a special connotation.

In the last few months, we have been overcoming unexpected hurdles on the road to finishing our MBA, specifically relating to recent changes in immigration policies and visa status, threatening our ability to stay in the U.S., to graduate, and to move forward on our professional paths. But I also have to say that, now more than ever, I’m thankful to be part of Fuqua.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had the chance to join some other classmates and become part of the MBA Association as VP of International Affairs, having the opportunity to participate in conversations around these issues with my classmates and with Fuqua’s administration. And I think the moment that best summarizes this experience was a recent live virtual town hall I hosted with Dean Bill Boulding.

a split screen capture of Gio and Bill; advocating for the international community
The town hall session with Dean Bill Boulding

Fuqua is Constantly and Proactively Advocating for the International Community

In my conversation with Bill, he shared some initiatives Fuqua is taking to advocate for the international community. And I say the international community as a whole because he is working together with other business schools to lead cross-organizational initiatives that would benefit all of us, whether part of Fuqua or not.

He also mentioned he has been reaching out to CEOs from top companies across the country, providing indisputable proof that our participation in the U.S. market during and after the MBA is not taking jobs from U.S. citizens, but inserting highly qualified professionals who will drive the economy positively, creating more job opportunities for all in the long term. Since this message has been shared with the highest-ranked companies and organizations, it has been able to reach the White House many times.

We also talked about other initiatives, highlighting the Fuqua Volunteer Corps, led by our very own Dr. Jeremy Petranka. This initiative helps provide international and other students an opportunity to gain valuable business experience at a time when some internship and work plans were disrupted by the pandemic. And in the true spirit of Leaders of Consequence, it also allows us to give back to a country that has and will be our home for at least two years.

Beyond that, Bill shared how Fuqua is working behind the curtains day and night for us, even in the adverse context of a global pandemic and social crisis, because we are a key element of the Fuqua experience and we play a key role in the development of our classmates, both international and domestic.

Feeling Optimistic and Thankful

On a personal note, I left our conversation with a renewed sense of optimism. Bill not only showed his support to our community, but also genuine care for our wellbeing. It was clear that for him and for Fuqua, we are not only numbers or emails, but real people, with opinions and concerns, and that those are as important as any other issue we might need help with.

Also, as we become leaders ourselves, we are understanding the need to work together in this. We are going through an unprecedented context of uncertainty, so we are learning that we can ask Fuqua for answers but at the same time, we all can work together to find the best solution for problems that are new to all of us. In my role working closely with the administration, I have seen how hard the people from Fuqua have been working in the last months—special thanks to Samira and Annie in the International Programs Office and Dave in the Career Management Center! Even though no one can know what will happen in the future, I can say that Fuqua will keep working hard for the members of its community.

Proud of Team Fuqua

In these last words, I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning of this article: now more than ever I’m thankful for being part of this community. Fuqua is not only its staff, alumni, or students, it is all of us. The amount of support and love we have seen from our American classmates in recent weeks has been invaluable for international students. I have been able to witness the brightest side of my classmates in the darkest times, so I can only feel proud and thankful for having them in these moments. Even in this challenging context we have to live in, I can say I don’t regret one day my decision to join Team Fuqua.