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Off-Campus MBA Gatherings Force Kellogg To Go Remote

The South Terrace of the new Kellogg Global Hub at night.

Just days after the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business shifted its MBA classes online after an off-campus gathering led to the quarantining of more than 100 students, the Kellogg School of Management yesterday (Oct. 16) came to a similar conclusion after a rise in COVID cases.

Northwestern University’s business school will make all full-time MBA courses remote for two weeks, from Oct. 19 to 30, after tracing an increase in coronavirus cases to several off-campus student gatherings.  At least four Kellogg students tested positive for COVID-19 since Thursday, according to a university spokesperson. After contact tracing those individuals, the university discovered that more than 50 Kellogg students were linked to off-campus social gatherings last week, according to an email from Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli.

“Your health and safety are our highest priorities, which is why we are emailing you now, on a Friday evening, after the extent of the situation became clear through the contact tracing efforts this afternoon,” wrote Cornelli. “Since yesterday, four additional Kellogg students have tested positive for COVID-19. Some of those individuals have been traced to the social gatherings referenced above. We are actively working to ensure all community members who were exposed to the virus are notified and tested, but as of this writing, some students have yet to receive tests, and others are awaiting results.”


Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli

Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli

In addition to the temporary shutdown of in-person classes, Kellogg also issued a “stay-at-home directive” for all of the school’s full-time MBA students. “All Kellogg Full-Time MBA students in the Chicagoland area must adhere to a two-week stay-at-home directive from Friday, October 16 at 10:00 p.m. through Friday, October 30,” according to the school.

“We expect you to avoid all but essential activities, such as going to the grocery store or doctor, or individual outdoor exercise,” wrote the dean. “This also means no formal or informal social gatherings of any kind are permitted. Any violation of this directive can be grounds for disciplinary action, which could include suspension. Similarly, any students who have been identified through contact tracing will be self-quarantining during this time.”

Cornelli expressed disappointment in having to make the decision to move classes online, a departure from the hybrid format Kellogg has been practicing this fall. “We are disappointed that we had to make this decision,” adds Dean Cornelli. “As you know, our objective was always to stay hybrid in our Full-Time MBA program until the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a reminder of how important individual actions are in allowing us to achieve our goals and how quickly this virus can spread. Our ability to return to the hybrid format will depend on many factors, including case and quarantine levels and University and City of Evanston guidelines, as well as individual behavioral actions to help limit spread in our community.”


The university’s COVID dashboard, which does not break out numbers by school, found there were eight new positive cases among Northwestern students on campus in the seven days until Oct. 15. That is much lower than the peak week of Sept. 11 through 17 when 20 students tested positive. Those numbers, however, only include confirmed case counts based on Northwestern Medicine testing data and fail to include self-reported cases.

Kellogg’s decision to put its in-person classes on hold follows Booth’s move to online classes only two days earlier. After an off-campus party of Booth MBA students on Chicago’s North Side, Booth shifted its MBA classes fully online for at least two weeks. The gathering of Booth students resulted in several full-time MBA candidates testing positive for the coronavirus with more than 100 MBA students required to quarantine for 14 days (see Party Pushes Chicago Booth To Remote Learning).

The University’s COVID-19 Response Team is working with the impacted students, implementing testing, contact tracing and quarantine procedures. The university meantime is actively working to ensure any community members exposed to COVID-19 are notified and tested.

Kellogg students in Evening and Weekend MBA, Executive MBA and M.S. in Management Studies courses are not required to observe the order, nor are Ph.D. candidates, faculty or staff.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.