In July 2020, 90 eager Fuqua MBA candidates started the Global Executive MBA program amidst a global pandemic. While life had changed drastically in the previous four months, we were all excited to start and optimistic that by the end of the year everything would most likely be back to normal.

We survived Fall Term 1 and were eager to start our international adventures in Spring Term 2. Club forms went out to the cohort to start creating groups of people with common interests, and I stepped up to co-lead the Association of Women in Business (AWIB) and the Cross Continental Cuisine and Spirits Club (CCC&S). With our trip to Santiago coming up in a few months and New Delhi shortly behind that, I was excited to dive in to what networking opportunities were available for AWIB and what local restaurants had in store for the CCC&S club in both of those locations.

Then, what we all knew was possible but had our fingers crossed wouldn’t happen, happened. It was announced that Term 2 and Term 3 would be domestic residencies in Durham. And then, as COVID-19 cases surged, the decision was made for both residencies to become fully virtual.

How was I supposed to plan engaging club activities over Zoom that gave members the same cultural immersion and networking experiences they were looking forward to? Furthermore, how do you plan events for a cohort where only half of the group has met in person?

Thanks to our amazing Global Team, we’ve been able to plan some incredible virtual club events these last two terms. For the Association of Women in Business, we have had a club happy hour to allow all the women in our cohort to get to know each other better and unwind after a long work week.

A picture of a computer screen featuring a woman wearing a blue shirt; creating cultural immersion

AWIB also had the amazing opportunity to work with Executive MBA alumna Pallavi Kathuria ’02, to host a private, small-scale workshop on the executive recruiting world and how to excel in it.

As the head of global management for consultancy Egon Zehnder in India, Pallavi knows the world of talent management inside and out. Being able to join a workshop with her and learn the secrets of the trade will prove invaluable in accelerating our careers. 

As for the Cross Continental Cuisine and Spirits Club, we had a thoroughly memorable event with some of our alumni in Latin America for Term 2, where we learned how to make Pisco Sours and debated whether the Peruvian or Chilean versions were better. (In the name of international peace, I won’t give my opinion on my preferred Pisco here…).

For Term 3, we had a local Raleigh restauranteur Cheetie Kumar and one of her top bartenders lead us through an India-inspired cocktails mixology class. We learned about the history of alcohol in India as well as her experiences growing up in Chandigarh, India. Cheetie is the co-owner and founder of Garland, KINGS, and Neptunes Parlour, establishments in Raleigh, NC. Cocktails included the original Calcutta Cooler and the Magdalena.

A picture of a computer screen with two people on it, and mixed drinks in the foreground; creating cultural immersion

While COVID-19 has created its own challenges to club events for my cohort, we’ve luckily still been able to come up with ways to incorporate cultural immersion and networking into our MBA experience from the comforts of our living rooms!

It’s been amazing to see how these times we live in have still managed to bring these two groups together, even if it’s in unconventional ways. Whether it’s fellow AWIB members boosting each other up in times of struggle and needed pep talks via WhatsApp or CCC&S planning future trips in person together and sharing recipes with the group via virtual coffee chats, the camaraderie in both clubs is not lacking even while at a distance.

Through planning these events and working with teammates, I’ve learned the importance of investing in the mental health and happiness of others, even when it may seem like just, “extra stuff.” In creating these activities online, we have been able to not only work together to solve problem-sets for class, but to also come together to solve each other’s problems in life. These last six months have taught me a great deal about fortitude and community, and I can’t wait to put those skills to work when we are on campus in our upcoming terms!