Pivoting in a Pandemic

The MBA Roundtable honors schools that have found creative ways to deliver educational experiences during the crisis.

THE MBA ROUNDTABLE has announced the winners for the 2020 Fast Track Curriculum Innovation Award, which recognizes MBA programs for innovations in online education during the pandemic. The award is sponsored by BusinessCAS, a centralized application service for graduate management education.

Winners were honored for their curriculum innovations in three award categories: Curriculum Content, Curriculum Delivery, and Other Innovation.

Johns Hopkins Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University  in Baltimore, Maryland, was named Curriculum Content Winner for its Strategic Consulting Practicum: COVID-19 Response Team. In the experiential learning course held last summer, students helped small businesses determine how to pivot during the pandemic.

To identify area businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, the Carey School partnered with the Baltimore Development Corporation, which surveyed members. Based on more than 600 responses, the BDC connected the school to seven local business owners who needed to significantly alter their business operations. These business owners ran a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, distribution, service, and food and beverage.

For the eight-week course, faculty redesigned the typical consulting curriculum to be COVID-specific. Professors also posted daily “hot off the press” news articles and reports that became central to class discussions. The school plans to follow up by adding a spring course called Strategy Consulting Practicum: COVID-19 Business Re-Entry Team.

The Sydney Business School at the University of Wollongong  in Australia was chosen as the Curriculum Delivery Winner for embedding an aboriginal perspective in the MBA curriculum even during the lockdown period. The MBA program traditionally enables students to spend a day with an aboriginal leader to explore approaches to leadership, sustainability, and decision making.

During the pandemic, this experience was recreated digitally over Zoom. A local leader, Jade Kennedy, recorded videos explaining key concepts related to aboriginal ways of being. He also asked students to choose artifacts representing one of these concepts and bring them to the Zoom sessions. These sessions were designed to replicate the aboriginal tradition of a “yarning circle,” where people listen and speak from the heart. Students shared their artifacts and explored how the concepts applied in their own cultures and lives.

The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland  in College Park took home the prize for Other Innovation for its impact consulting fellowship. Twenty-three teams, each consisting of two master’s students and three undergraduates, were placed with University of Maryland alumni to provide pro bono consulting for two months during the pandemic. The consulting opportunity was made available to nonprofit organizations, B Corporations, and for-profit impact-driven organizations.

Award winners were evaluated on their levels of creativity, the uniqueness of their solutions, the speed at which they implemented their innovations, their resourcefulness in using existing tools or working within budgetary constraints, the innovation’s impact on students, the level of engagement across the university, and the repeatability and scalability of the initiatives.