Coronavirus Forces Georgetown MBA Program To Start The Fall Fully Online

Georgetown will not be welcoming students to campus this fall. File photo

Days after the mayor of Washington, D.C. declared a mandatory, two-week quarantine for those coming from places deemed coronavirus “hot spots,” Georgetown University and its McDonough School of Business announced that all fall 2020 classes will be held virtually. The business school’s MBA program had been among those planning to use a hybrid teaching approach this fall as the U.S. continues to grapple with a coronavirus pandemic that has infected millions and killed more than 150,000 nationwide.

The announcement, made in a letter published Wednesday (July 29) by Georgetown President John DeGioia, came as cases of the virus have been accelerating, restricting travel and, he said, rendering the school’s previous plans inoperable. The McDonough School will follow all university directives, a spokesperson tells Poets&Quants.

“Over these past few weeks, we have been carefully monitoring the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our Fall plans,” DeGioia writes. “I write to share with you the difficult decision that, based on current pandemic and public health conditions, we will be amending our plans for the Fall. “Courses for all undergraduate and graduate students will begin in virtual mode.”

In a separate statement, McDonough Dean Paul Almeida added: “The health and safety of our community continues to be our top priority, and we remain committed to caring for our students holistically, in the spirit of cura personalis, with a focus on their academics, advising, career preparation, and personal well-being. Our faculty and staff have prepared for multiple re-opening scenarios and will be ready to teach and advise our students this fall.”


Georgetown President John DeGioia. Georgetown photo

Coronavirus affects international students more than domestic U.S. ones, despite the prevalence of the virus in the United States. Foreign students have to travel, exponentially increasing the risk to their health — and that’s if they don’t encounter visa problems, which have become far more common for F-1 and other academic visa holders since 2016. Georgetown McDonough has a robust international student population that remains steady year-to-year; to cite a recent window of data, internationals made up about a third of the McDonough MBA class between 2017 and 2019. The school’s total percentage of international students last year was 32.2%, greater than Wharton’s, Chicago Booth’s, or Northwestern Kellogg’s.

Ranked No. 24 in the U.S. by both Poets&Quants and U.S. News, Georgetown McDonough’s full-time MBA program has 275 members in the Class of 2021, among them 30% internationals from 32 separate countries. Eighty-four percent of the class has lived, worked, or studied abroad.

The McDonough School anticipated that the pandemic could worsen before it improved. In June, DeGioia wrote that the school would attempt to follow “Hybrid-Flexible Academic Models,” with a range of options from on-campus to fully virtual. The plan would be “determined by relevant factors, including our ability to meet our public health responsibilities and the needs of our community,” the school announced. “We are preparing for multiple options depending upon the changing state of pandemic conditions in the District of Columbia and on our ability to fulfill our obligations for public health on the Georgetown campuses.”

Almeida said that the new plan is to return to a hybrid format “once permitted by health experts and local regulations,” adding that “I am proud of how our community has come together to care for one another, and I’m confident that our faculty, staff, and students will continue to keep the spirit of our community alive throughout the fall and beyond.”


Canceling all in-person classes and moving instruction entirely online — a decision that affects thousands of Georgetown undergraduate students, as well — “was a very difficult decision,” DeGioia writes, “and one that I know will disappoint members of our community who have been eagerly anticipating a return to campus. In early July, we had announced our intention to bring approximately 2,000 undergraduate students, including the members of the first-year class, to our Main Campus. Today, we are revising this approach based on current pandemic conditions. We will not be able to bring to campus the members of the entering undergraduate class, the class of 2024, at this time.

“We plan to introduce in-person course elements as soon as health conditions permit. We will continue to monitor pandemic and public health conditions to determine when it may be possible to resume in-person courses and other in-person, on-campus activities. Specific guidance regarding a transition from all-virtual mode will be shared by academic leaders.”

Some activities, particularly biomedical and physical sciences research, will continue to take place on-campus “according to our established plans,” DeGioia writes.

“Since the emergence of the pandemic in mid-January, we have been preparing, tracking, and responding to possible impacts on our community. In the months since, we have been forced to adjust, as the pandemic has spread. As we have encountered difficult moments and faced many challenging decisions, we have remained steadfast in our deep commitment to our academic mission and to the health and safety of our community. Members of our community have demonstrated extraordinary compassion and resilience over this time — supporting the health of one another, our communities, and our families. We are now confronting another challenging moment, as the pandemic accelerates across our country.”

MBA classes at the McDonough School are scheduled to begin September 8 and conclude December 14. Read Georgetown President DeGioia’s letter here.


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