Academics

A Semester Like No Other: A Look Back at the Unexpected Outcomes of Spring 2020

From students to faculty and alumni, McIntire’s entire community innovated to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

History has proven that McIntire’s global community thrives on collaboration and connection. And so, facing the difficulties that defined much of the spring of 2020, Commerce School students, faculty, alumni, staff, and friends still managed to make the best of the highly unusual situation to create new opportunities. In seizing upon a challenging moment, McIntire’s people did what they always do: They innovated.

From the quick-pivot initiative by faculty and staff to get classes online after spring break to alumni spearheading efforts to fight coronavirus spread, there have been many heartening and unanticipated experiences to emerge from the pandemic.

As the world still anxiously awaits a time when getting together with family and friends won’t be dictated by six feet of distance, let’s revisit some of the surprising positive outcomes to transpire at McIntire over the course of the last few months:

Events large and small went virtual

  • The numbers don’t lie: McIntire kept its tight-knit community highly connected through to the conclusion of the spring semester.
  • As a result of brainstorming with Professor David Lehman, Commerce Council requested that faculty enable the “join before host” function of the videoconferencing platform Zoom so that McIntire students could socialize before and after online classes. Their goal was simple: to enable students to “get that precious time back” they would have otherwise shared inside Rouss & Robertson Halls while “raising energy levels for class, increasing student engagement, and providing more of the social interaction” that had been preempted by distance learning.
  • Students from Professor Peter Maillet’s fall 2019 “Global Finance” course decided to continue their weekly Eye on Global Markets discussions. Roughly half of the class—about 30 fourth-year students—caught up online to discuss relevant global macroeconomic current events, as they had done the previous semester. Maillet was surprised by the students’ outpouring of enthusiasm to initiate the exercise, remarking that the experience made him “thrilled to be an educator.”

Students got down to business

  • Thanks to a brand awareness project offered by CoderPad CEO and alumna Amanda Richardson (McIntire ’01), students Clarissa Ribeiro Bittes (McIntire ’20), Erica Kim (McIntire ’21), and Brandon Warren (McIntire ’20) were able to stay on track for their respective graduation dates after the annual “Digital Safari” trek to San Francisco area was canceled.
  • As part of a Charlottesville community campaign to help businesses stay afloat during the pandemic, rising third-year Jonathan Eman (McIntire ‘22) worked with Professor Jeff Boichuk to build an online subscription platform established for Corner smoothie shop Juice Laundry. Using the R programming language to gather data, he built an online order form database for incoming orders for its subscription-based delivery service. Fellow rising third-year Amelia McCrory (McIntire ‘22) has been contributing to the project as well.
  • A UVA-Cornell student team that includes Devansh Agarwal (A&S ’20), Muhammad Ahmad (McIntire ’20), and Sudharshana Krishnan (A&S ’21) has been helping students stay on track with coursework through its note-sharing and study guide marketplace platform, QWERTY. Winning a $1,000 prize during the first round of the Entrepreneurship Cup, their tool has grown in popularity since courses transitioned online.
  • Entrepreneurship Minor students Kavya Ravikanti (A&S ’20) and Christina Wei (A&S ’20) developed Young, Not Broke with guidance from Professor Eric Martin and a $6,800 grant from the UVA Parents Fund. Their email newsletter, blog, and website offer student-to-student financial advice on topics such as first jobs, savings, and investment basics, as well as a livestreaming event series that hosts finance experts.

Star speakers highlighted online courses

  • As travel restrictions curtailed the M.S. in Commerce’s Global Immersion Experience (GIE), shifting it to a new set of online course options, faculty held recorded conversations with renowned speakers, including Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos (UVA Parent ’17) as well as a host of global C-suite executive experts representing a range of industries.

Alumni rolled up their sleeves

  • Matt Bulloch (McIntire ’05) transformed his company, TentCraft, to support medical professionals working on the front lines with drive-thru medical tents, directional signage, and more.

Students gave back

  • Jenny Cao (McIntire ‘21), together with Sean Azami (McIntire ’21), Stephanie Tran (A&S ’20), and Eric Zhang (McIntire ‘21), launched J&E Tutoring, a free tutoring program designed to assist elementary, middle, and high school students during the pandemic. Cao says they hope to expand the services of J&E Tutoring (an abbreviation of Jobs & Education Tutoring) beyond its current one-on-one grade school program to also offer counseling, resume workshops, and interview preparation for young people navigating the early part of their career.
  • Commerce Council, led by Jason Kramer (McIntire ’20) and Taylor Cobb (McIntire ’20), paid it forward to future students by creating an A.D.A.P.T. Initiative in response to the COVID-19 crisis, renewing the contract of the Pride at McIntire student organization, raising and distributing nearly $1,000 to support 100% of McIntire students who applied for assistance, as well as many other initiatives.

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