By Marc Ethier
This story was updated July 31. Because plans are so fluid at business schools in the U.S., we have included links on the following pages to each school’s coronavirus update webpage.
They’ll be following all the rules this fall at the University of Michigan: masks, social distancing, smaller class sizes, frequent hand and surface washing, and more — much more. They’ll also be pioneering new rules for a new reality, particularly in the realm of remote instruction, as befits one of the country’s leading centers of social and cultural innovation. Put it all together and Scott DeRue, dean of the Ross School of Business, expects a memorable term.
“As with every year, I’m looking forward to welcoming students back to campus safely for a very successful fall term,” DeRue says. “Of course, I also recognize the profound difficulties that many of our students face in this moment, and that much uncertainty remains for all of us. We will get through this, and we will do it together.”
Five months after it shut down business school campuses and curtailed spring instruction and graduation ceremonies, coronavirus is still raging across the United States. In fact, it’s worse than ever, with new case counts rising nationally by the day and regions that had been spared suddenly finding themselves grappling with the grim toll of the deadly pandemic. Schools that had planned to open for business in the fall are reassessing. Some are moving up their start dates to the second week in August, with the goal to be finished with classes by Thanksgiving. Virtual learning will be common this winter; many schools that plan in-person classes have slated their finals exams to be held remotely. MBA applications are up amid a perceived improvement in applicants’ odds to earn a seat in otherwise highly selective programs — but deferrals and deferral requests are up, too, fueled in part by dismay at most schools’ unwillingness to reduce costs.
In a Poets&Quants analysis of 100 of the leading U.S. B-schools, the most common plan for the fall of 2020 is a hybrid of in-person and virtual instruction. And while a few schools have committed to teaching MBA and other students fully online, many more are forging ahead with plans to bring everyone back to the classroom, albeit with a plethora of precautions. All of the top 25 schools, including the University of Michigan Ross School, were planning to use a hybrid approach as of late July until two — the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University McDonough School of Business— announced recently that a national resurgence of the virus has forced them to start the fall fully online.
At Michigan, the Ross School “is committed to offering an innovative, enriching, and public health-informed experience this fall,” Scott DeRue told Poets&Quants by email in early July. “We are offering students the ability to participate in classes either in-person or remotely to meet the needs of our diverse community. In terms of public health and safety on campus, we are taking a number of precautions following the guidance of our public health experts at the University of Michigan. For example, face coverings will be required for all students, faculty, and staff. Every student will be provided with a starter kit including face coverings and hand sanitizer. We will introduce physical distancing measures throughout the campus, meaning there will be fewer people in classrooms, common areas, and offices. We will have expanded testing and contact tracing capabilities. And we will follow enhanced cleaning protocols that include regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas, including classrooms.”
ONE-THIRD OF SCHOOLS PLANNING ACCELERATED FALL SCHEDULE
In deciding what the fall 2020 semester will look like for MBAs and other students — in-person, online, or a hybrid approach — business schools are mostly following the lead of their universities and colleges. The situation is highly fluid, however, and could change if the pandemic worsens nationally or regionally. Theoretically, things could get better, too, though most B-schools are preparing for scenarios on the pessimistic side of the ledger. Of the 100 B-schools on our list, 31 belong to universities and colleges with accelerated schedules that start in the second week of August and finish in-person instruction before Thanksgiving in late November — Dartmouth, Cornell, and Emory Goizueta are in this camp. Some, like Arizona Eller, American Kogod, SMU Cox, and a handful of others, plan to end classes in late November, then conduct final exams online. A few have announced they will go in-person until Thanksgiving, then remote for the next three weeks or so, then proceed with online exams. (See pages 3 to 6 for the plans of all 100 schools, including links to each school’s Covid-19 web page.)
One thing schools are happy not to have to contemplate: visa revocation for international students — who comprise a substantial chunk of most U.S. MBA programs — who do not attend in-person classes. That threat evaporated last week.
At The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the plan for a hybrid approach dates back to April. With “Remote Plus,” classes with more than 48 students were to be conducted online, and classes with 48 or fewer students offered “in a hybrid format, with students alternating between in-person and virtual attendance and no more than 24 students in-person at any given time.” For classes under 48 students, Wharton faculty was to evaluate each class “on its viability for in-person instruction.” Now all that is out the window after Wharton announced July 31 that it will be nearly fully online for the fall, with only token in-person requirements to help international students avoid visa trouble. At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, “we are planning to deliver programs in a hybrid format with some virtual-only courses,” Michael Mazzeo, senior associate dean of curriculum and teaching, tells P&Q.“Our 1-Year and MMM programs started classes this week and 100% of their courses in Summer Quarter are being offered in a hybrid format. The classroom is set up not only to meet social distance guidelines but also to fully integrate students who are joining remotely. We have taken a very intentional approach to designing classroom and co-curricular experiences to dissolve barriers between students present in the Hub and those online, and to enable collaboration and community engagement.”
At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, as the school prepares to receive faculty researchers and students in the coming weeks, “We all must accept that campus space will be akin to a precious resource for learning and research throughout the remainder of 2020. … Wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, contributing to good hygiene practices, and getting used to operating within defined campus spaces will be our ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future.” At Columbia Business School, “courses will be offered in multiple formats, almost always with an online option, as we restore face-to-face instruction as soon as possible. We are now equipping our classrooms with new technology that will ensure a rich learning experience for students, whether they participate in person or virtually.” The most prominent school to chart its own course separate from its university: Harvard Business School, which so far has declined to commit to a fully online fall.
Compiling charts and tables based on data from The Chronicle of Higher Education back in April and May, search marketing agency Manaferra found that 50% of MBA programs at the top 100 U.S. B-schools were preparing a hybrid approach for the fall, while 40% planned for their students to return and take in-campus classes, 5% planned to offer only online classes, and 5% were considering a range of options. As coronavirus worsened nationally in recent weeks, schools — canaries in the country’s coal mine — began shifting toward remote learning. As of late July, 58% planned to go hybrid, including 27% private schools and 31% public, while 35% continued to plan for in-person instruction (10% private, 25% public), only three were slated to be online-only, and five were still considering a range of options. Schools in the South and Mountain West, which comprise 46% of those on P&Q‘s list, were split nearly evenly between in-person (23%) and hybrid (21%). This latter finding complemented a new study from BeenVerified, a New York-based data analysis firm that recently analyzed about 1,200 universities and colleges and found that states most likely to be on-campus were in the South and Midwest; states with the highest percentage of universities scheduled to meet in person included Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas; and states more likely to have online-only education in the fall were California, Delaware, Alaska, New Mexico, and Hawaii.
According to BeenVerified, public universities were more likely to keep their distance: As of July 15, only 15% of public universities were planning online-only classes this fall, compared to 3% of private colleges, but as many as 35% of public institutions were planning for a hybrid system of on-campus and distance learning (compared to 24% of private colleges).
‘EXTRAORDINARILY CONFIDENT’ IN A SUCCESSFUL FALL AT MICHIGAN ROSS
One of the country’s most prominent public schools planning a hybrid approach in the fall is Michigan’s Ross School, which Dean DeRue says has had — and continues to have — significant input in the university’s return-to-campus planning. He personally has served on multiple committees and task forces related to reopening, along with other members of the Ross School community, including faculty, staff, and students. DeRue cites a pair of town halls with current and incoming students this summer that was “instrumental in helping us build out our plans for the fall.” It’s a “true team effort,” he says.
Central to the school’s approach: All classes will offer an option for students to join remotely, and most courses will be offered in a hybrid format, where some students are in person and other students are joining remotely. “We are a diverse community of students, and we are designing learning experiences to meet those diverse needs,” DeRue tells P&Q.
“Because of our collaborative approach to planning, I am extraordinarily confident that we will deliver high-impact curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular experiences for our students this fall,” DeRue says. “We will have students in Ann Arbor, and we will have students joining remotely across the globe. The one common theme is that we will offer our students — no matter where they are in the world — experiences that enable them to learn and grow professionally, build relationships and make connections, and engage with leading companies in ways that advance their careers.
“No question that the business school experience will be different for all of us. No matter where you live or work, we are all affected by Covid. But the core elements of the Ross experience — the collaborative student culture, the action-based learning, the career opportunities, the commitment to purpose and impact, and the exceptional faculty — these core elements all remain central to who we are and the student experience at Ross.
“I do not worry very much because I know how strong and resilient we are as a community. That said, there are a number of unknowns that make forecasting the future very challenging. For example, we do not know how the trajectory of Covid-19 will unfold over the coming weeks and months, and what that might mean for how we live, how we work, how we educate, and how we connect with each other. We do not know how the global economy will respond. We do not know what will happen in our social-political environment this fall, and what impact that will have on our community. But despite all of these unknowns, the one recurring truth is that we will go through the ups and downs together, and be stronger on the other side for it.”
DeRue’s “dream scenario”? That his school continues its collaborative approach to coping with Covid-19, and that when classes begin August 31 “we deliver on our academic mission and support our students as they aspire to become their best self; and we all look back on the coming year proud of how we stepped up, helped each other, and demonstrated our leadership in action. Since this crisis began, I have been truly inspired by the creativity and resilience of our Ross community and the unwavering commitment to our mission during this challenging time. And I’m excited for our students to join us this fall — in person or remotely — as we navigate these uncharted waters, learn and grow, and make a positive difference together.”
What does fall 2020 preparation look like at the very top of B-school rankings? For the answer we go to Palo Alto, California, where Stanford Graduate School of Business — like the rest of the top 25 U.S. B-schools — will have a hybrid approach this fall.
Classes at Stanford are slated to begin September 11. In a message to MBA students last week, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Brian Lowery, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Paul Oyer, and Associate Dean for MBA and MSx Programs Margaret Hayes wrote that in circumstances “different than any of us imagined,” the school is “committed to educating global leaders who will make a positive difference in the world.”
“The way in which the program is delivered may be altered,” they added, “but the need for leaders to develop deep, foundational knowledge and enduring skills is greater than ever.”
Lowery, Oyer, and Hayes split their message into two parts, one for returning MBA students in the Class of 2021 and one for students who will be new to Stanford. In the first message, they acknowledged the challenges caused by uncertainty over what the autumn quarter will look like, giving international students on F-1 visas a special nod. The Autumn Quarter Task Force (AQTF), they say, continue to work on plans for the quarter, including focus groups and testing the school’s hybrid classroom model.
“The faculty and staff have been working tirelessly to ensure that Autumn Quarter is the best possible experience in terms of both academics and community building,” Lowery, Oyer, and Hayes write. “We are developing a variety of formats for course delivery, based on what works best for the material. Many courses are creating hybrid formats that will mix in-person and online learning components, and some courses will be entirely online. However, as you have undoubtedly seen, the recent trajectory of the pandemic in the U.S. indicates that we will be navigating the implications of Covid-19 for the foreseeable future. Our ability to execute on our plans to hold a substantial number of in-person components for Autumn Quarter courses depends on restrictions by the State of California and Santa Clara County. We are hopeful that these restrictions will ease before the quarter begins, but we also acknowledge, especially given recent trends in virus cases, that we may be forced to hold courses largely online for autumn.”
‘TOUCHY FEELY’ GOES VIRTUAL, PARTLY
The deans offer examples of the hybrid model at some second-year courses. OB 374, Interpersonal Dynamics — best known as “Touchy Feely” — will have class lectures and activities online, while smaller eight-person “t-groups” may meet in person. Faculty teaching many other electives, such as Finance 319 (Private Equity Investing), meanwhile, “are planning an ‘A/B’ format where students will alternate between attending the class in person and attending via Zoom. In virtually every autumn course, students who are not able to come to campus or attend in person will be able to participate remotely. All guest speakers will participate remotely during Autumn Quarter.”
Global experiences — an integral part of an MBA education at any school, even more so at Stanford GSB, where all MBAs must complete a Global Experience Requirement (GER) — will obviously be severely affected. “The current Stanford Travel Policy suspends university-sponsored travel and outlines the conditions under which university travel may resume,” the deans wrote. “While we cannot predict if or when those conditions will be met, we believe it is unlikely they will be met in time to plan GER travel. In the meantime, we will work with student leaders on reimagining Global Study Trips, and consider updates needed for STEP. Students who still need to fulfill the GER will hear directly from the Global Experiences team.”
Lowery, Oyer, and Hayes’ closing message to second-year MBA students: Despite distance, “we are keeping you, your education, and everyone’s safety at the forefront of our minds. We are dedicated to creating the best Autumn Quarter experience possible given the difficult circumstances. As September approaches, we intend to send updates more regularly and post information on MyGSB.” They also promised regular updates every Monday.
URGING STUDENTS TO USE PRECAUTIONS BEFORE THEY ARRIVE
Lowery, Oyer, and Hayes’ message to the MBA Class of 2022 strikes similar notes: Under difficult circumstances, the world needs leaders with fortitude and the right skill set. But starting one of the world’s most exclusive MBA programs and returning to it are two very different things, the deans acknowledge. And they urged the admits, before arriving in Palo Alto, to behave cautiously in an unprecedented health crisis.
As the start of the program draws near, you are transitioning from ‘admits’ to students,” they wrote. “It is important to acknowledge that your individual and collective behaviors and activities before arrival will impact your experience during the quarter. We are aware of the unofficial leisure travel that occurs in a typical year before students matriculate. We do not endorse or sponsor such travel. Our observation over many years is that these events do not reflect well on the GSB and the student community, nor are they an effective way to build an inclusive class dynamic, as many students are unable to participate.
“These issues are especially salient given the current trajectory of Covid-19 in the U.S. and throughout the world. Not only will gathering in large groups prior to arrival compromise the health and safety of others, such gatherings may create unintended consequences for the experience you will be able to have on campus. If there is a cluster of Covid-19 cases within the GSB, our ability to hold class meetings in person and have social gatherings will be jeopardized.”
GSB faculty and staff have created a variety of formats for course delivery, the deans wrote, “with each class tailoring the mode of instruction to the relevant material.” Most courses in the core curriculum will mix in-person and online learning components; some courses will be entirely online. However, all that can change if the pandemic worsens.
“We are doing a lot of preparing for in-person classes that may pay off someday but it might not be in the fall quarter,” Oyer tells P&Q. “On the non-academic side, we are asking what are other things we can do to facilitate small group meetings. How do we bring people together in a world where they all wear masks and be 6 feet apart? One of the hardest parts of this is how do we establish a culture where it’s okay to say, ‘Put your mask on,’ and it’s the norm to call out a classmate if they don’t. Our students are very naturally community-minded and it’s just a matter of getting them to understand the need to wear a mask and not to have a big party or anything that leads to a super spreader event.”
AN ‘EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT IN HISTORY’
In a separate message to Stanford GSB’s international students, Kirsten Moss, assistant dean of MBA admissions and financial aid, wrote that Stanford is aware of foreign students’ ongoing visa struggles and the resulting stress and uncertainty they are experiencing. It’s one reason the school is offering international admits the chance to defer for one or two years.
“Despite our expectations that embassies would begin opening in July, many continue to offer limited visa services. We recognize the stress this has caused for international students who need a visa to travel to Stanford, and we want to support you during this challenging time,” Moss wrote. “We know that obtaining a visa is out of both your and Stanford’s control, and we also cannot predict when embassies will resume regular operations. Given this uncertainty, we are offering those admitted students who need a visa to travel to Stanford the opportunity to defer enrollment. If you request a deferral, you may choose to enroll either in the fall of 2021 or the fall of 2022.” Admits seeking a deferral must apply for one by July 22.
Moss cited the efforts by some students to survey international students, the insights from which helped to inform the school’s handling of foreign student concerns academically, socially, and otherwise. To those students, she wrote, “We are committed to you becoming part of the Stanford community — whether you choose to enroll this fall or in the future — and will continue to serve as a resource for you as you consider the options. While we respect that some people may decide to defer, our sincere hope is that many of you will begin your MBA journey this fall. The world needs leaders now, those who are impassioned to change lives, change organizations, and change the world.
“We are excited to collaborate with you as you develop lasting skills during this extraordinary moment in history.”
MANDATORY TRAINING, VIRAL TESTING, MASKS & MORE AT YALE SOM
On July 1, Yale University announced detailed plans for the fall semester that are in accord with Governor Ned Lamont’s roadmap for reopening Connecticut. Yale School of Management is following the extensive health and safety measures governing the repopulation of campus, as well as a community compact, “adherence to which is expected of all students, faculty, and staff,” says Anjani Jain, Yale SOM’s deputy dean for academic programs. Among the measures: mandatory training, viral testing, health monitoring, isolation and contact tracing when infection is detected, masks, social distancing, and other preventive requirements.
“The development of Yale’s plan was the result of months-long deliberations involving several university-wide committees, on which Dean (Kerwin) Charles and several other faculty were represented,” Jain tells Poets&Quants by email. “The university’s planning has been guided by both federal and state guidelines. Professor Ed Kaplan of SOM has been a principal member of the team that is doing epidemiological modelling and extensive real-time analysis of data. Within SOM, two active committees consisting of students (both current students and recent graduates), faculty, and staff have been discussing various plans for the upcoming academic year, with particular attention to pedagogy, academic calendar and scheduling, grading, cohort formation, student life, and various co-curricular activities.”
SOM is fortunate to have a state-of-the-art building with plenty of classroom space amid a capacious design that lends itself to social distancing, says Jain, who also is a professor in the practice of management. “We are able to dedicate a classroom for every course, with adequate capacity to have half the enrolled students attend in person while maintaining strict social distancing. Students will have an A/B schedule in which their participation in each course will alternate between the classroom and Zoom sessions. This will be true regardless of where the professor is located while teaching.”
Yale SOM got a chance to test-run its new coronavirus protocol this month when its incoming cohort of EMBAs did a nine-day residency on the otherwise empty Yale campus beginning July 10, the first B-school students to return to New Haven since the shift to remote instruction in March; for the remainder of their first year, they will attend in-person and virtual classes every other weekend while continuing their professional lives. In a harbinger of the new normal that MBA students are likely to experience when their classes resume in late August, of the 77 EMBA students, 16 decided to take advantage of the hybrid format SOM has adopted to do their classes remotely.
Asked for his outlook on the long term, Jain offers a hope and a fear.
“My hope is that in the immediate future our public health measures will limit the spread of the virus and that in the not-too-distant-future we will see the development of effective therapeutic cures and preventive vaccines to fight the pandemic,” he says. “My fear is that we will fail to achieve the collective resolve that the pandemic requires of us. Ideological opposition to science-based and data-driven public health directives will cause much more death and economic disruption.”
|SCHOOL||CONTROL||STATE||STATUS||FALL 2020 CLASS START/END DATES|
|American (Kogod)||Private||DC||Planning for online; will use hybrid approach when possible||August 15 to November 24; final exams online|
|Appalachian State (Walker)||Public||NC||Planning for in-person||August 17 to November 24; final exams online|
|Arizona State (W.P. Carey)||Public||AZ||Proposing a hybrid model||August 20 to December 4|
|Auburn (Harbert)||Public||AL||Planning for in-person||August 17 to November 24|
|Babson (Olin)||Private||MA||Considering a range of scenarios||August 24 to December 10|
|Baylor (Hankamer)||Private||TX||Proposing a hybrid model||August 24 to November 25|
|Bentley||Private||MA||Planning for in-person||August 31 to December 16|
|Binghamton||Public||NY||Planning for in-person||August 26 to December 7|
|Boise State||Public||ID||Proposing a hybrid model||August 24 to December 11|
|Boston (Carroll)||Private||MA||Planning for in-person||August 31 to December 10|
|Boston (Questrom)||Private||MA||Proposing a hybrid model||September 2 to December 10|
|Brigham Young (Marriott)||Private||UT||Proposing a hybrid model||August 31 to November 24|
|Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)||Private||PA||Proposing a hybrid model||August 17 to December 17|
|Case Western Reserve University (Weatherhead)||Private||OH||Proposing a hybrid model||August 24 to December 4|
|Chapman (Argyros)||Private||CA||Planning for in-person||August 31 to December 12|
|Clemson||Public||SC||Proposing a hybrid model||August 19 to December 4|
|College of Charleston||Public||SC||Considering a range of scenarios||August 25 to November 24|
|Columbia Business School||Private||NY||Proposing a hybrid model||September 7 to December 14|
|Cornell (Johnson)||Private||NY||Proposing a hybrid model||September 2 to November 24|
|Dartmouth (Tuck)||Private||NH||Proposing a hybrid model||August 24 to November 20|
|Duke (Fuqua)||Private||NC||Proposing a hybrid model||September 3 to November 17|
|Emory (Goizueta)||Private||GA||Proposing a hybrid model||August 19 to November 24|
|Florida State||Public||FL||Proposing a hybrid model||August 24 to December 4|
|Fordham (Gabelli)||Private||NY||Proposing a hybrid model||August 26 to December 4|
|George Washington||Private||DC||Planning for online; will use hybrid approach when possible||August 31 to December 12|
|Georgetown (McDonough)||Private||DC||Planning for online; will use hybrid approach when possible||September 8 to December 14|
|SCHOOL||CONTROL||STATE||STATUS||FALL 2020 CLASS START/END DATES|
|Georgia Tech (Scheller)||Public||GA||Planning for in-person||August 17 to November 23|
|Harvard Business School||Private||MA||Proposing a hybrid model||September 2 to December 3|
|Howard University||Private||DC||Proposing a hybrid model||August 24 to November 25|
|Indiana (Kelley)||Public||IN||Proposing a hybrid model||August 24 to November 12|
|Iowa State (Ivy)||Public||IA||Planning for in-person||August 17 to November 25|
|Louisiana State-Baton Rouge (Ourso)||Public||LA||Planning for in-person||August 24 to December 5|
|MIT (Sloan)||Private||MA||Proposing a hybrid model||September 1 to December 9|
|Michigan State (Broad)||Public||MI||Proposing a hybrid model||September 2 to December 11|
|New York (Stern)||Private||NY||Proposing a hybrid model||August 26 to December 9|
|North Carolina State (Poole)||Public||NC||Planning for in-person||August 10 to November 13|
|Northeastern (D’Amore-McKim)||Private||MA||Proposing a hybrid model||September 9 to December 12|