The year 2020 has been a challenging one on many fronts—natural disasters, coronavirus, racial injustice, and inequities seeping through the nation. Irrespective of what has been going on inside and outside the U.S., our Weekend Executive MBA (WEMBA) 2020 cohort has left no stone unturned in stepping up to the challenges presented in these very uncertain times. We have demonstrated servant leadership to adapt in ways that are in the best interest of the cohort, the Fuqua School of Business, and its constituencies.

While each individual in the program had his or her own unique set of challenges, here are some ways in which our WEMBA 2020 cohort adapted, flexed, and made the best of our time in the program.

1. Virtual Way of Learning

While everyone was trying to understand and adapt to the new normal, aka the ‘virtual way of life,’ Fuqua and WEMBA leadership teams and the faculty were spending countless hours implementing new ‘virtual way of learning’ measures, thus ensuring that there was little to no impact of COVID-19 on the cohort. At the same time, the cohort stepped up to the occasion and as equal partners, ensuring that each one of us brought the same excitement, engagement, and zeal to learn to our virtual classes that we had in person.

2. Class Schedule Adjustments

We are sure many of us have at some point in time thought about the idea of flexible work hours or simply being able to work from home. Guess what? For many of us, that wish came true albeit due to the wrong reason of COVID-19. The WEMBA leadership team and the faculty spun into action again. The program team was surveying the cohort to prepare the new roster and the faculty was refining the course material to fit in the new schedule. In the end, we must commend the joint efforts of the faculty and the leadership team for creating a new schedule for classes and content which was instrumental in delivering the same world-class experience we had grown accustomed to while keeping us all engaged and excited.

3. Grading Policy Changes

The stress of meeting professional, personal, and academic commitments was taking a toll on everyone alike. Duke University’s decision to provide students a choice to opt in for credit/no credit or stick with the traditional grading system greatly alleviated concerns in our cohort and helped everyone feel good and do their best while working through commitments and new challenges.

4. Virtual Networking

One of the most important rewards of The Duke MBA journey is the formation of lifelong bonds and networks. Even though we were almost a year into the program when the pandemic hit, numerous events continued virtually such as wine tastings, happy hours, industry networking events, and more. This allowed folks from within the program to not just see one another, but also connect formally and informally.

Without a doubt, these have been trying times, but we consider ourselves proud members of this cohort. This is the time when we saw firsthand how Duke trains its MBAs to become leaders who adjust and adapt when life throws something completely unexpected at us.