In hindsight, I can’t believe I felt shocked upon receiving the news I would be completing my degree online. Now that we’ve been quarantined for so long, logging into Zoom feels routine. But when I got the news during spring break, I had no idea what the next months during Spring Term 2 would look like. Luckily, the Fuqua component of my Covid-19 experience went as smoothly as possible.

Our New Classroom

I was surprised by how well our professors met the challenge of delivering their courses online for the first time. They managed to preserve a similar format to our in-person lectures with a lot of interactive discussion instead of just a live PowerPoint reading.

Admittedly, we did have the “Do you have something to say?” or “Did you forget to put your virtual raised hand down?” interaction a few too many times. But that essentially replaced the “Is your hand raised? Oh, you’re just stretching” conversation every in-person class has. I’m willing to put up with either to retain the same dynamic classroom environment I’ve gotten used to at Fuqua.

I give particular credit to our Spreadsheet Modeling and Decision Analysis professor, Ali Makhdoumi, for taking advantage of the new virtual format to teach us the technical skills we needed. He narrated what we had to do on Excel while we could clearly see him navigate the software on his screen. The moving pieces made the lecture more dynamic than just slides. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who replayed chunks of his classes for later guidance on assignments. Instead of just repackaging his content for Zoom, he made the most of the new format.

Our New Team Meetings

Transitioning to virtual learning didn’t cancel the central role of teamwork in our curriculum. We still worked with our same student teams. Luckily, my teammates all stayed in the same time zone which made scheduling video calls easier. Instead of settling into a team room at Fuqua for an evening, we all got to admire each other’s kitchen decor or living room walls. I had a conversation with my teammate’s little brother about his high school calculus assignment, which was a uniquely Zoom experience.

My team took the change in stride. I’m glad we had a normal Spring Term 1 together to build our dynamic before moving online for Spring Term 2. Our hours spent working together in-person last term made Zoom calls less awkward. Also, I had kept in touch with my first team from the previous fall terms mostly through FaceTime before Covid-19, so we were able to keep that up without missing a beat.

Our Goodbyes

I won’t pretend I’m not upset about what was lost. I planned for this last term to be my grand finale. I wanted a proper send-off with the friends I’ve made since we all met here during the hot Carolina summer last July. I wanted to show my parents Duke’s gorgeous campus during graduation weekend and pretend that I understood the place. I wanted normalcy.

We graduated in our apartments instead of Cameron Indoor Stadium. We had our happy hours on FaceTime instead of downtown. But we still earned the exact same degree we came for. I’m proud of the Class of 2020. After five terms spent bonding here in Durham, our Fuqua Family spread across the world to finish our studies undeterred by a global pandemic. Not only did we get a master’s degree from our year at Duke, but we also made friends with whom we faced an unprecedented challenge.

From one of Fuqua’s newest alumni to all my faculty, friends, and Zoom—I want to say thank you. My great Duke experience relied on each of you.