When you share a campus with the world’s foremost coronavirus experts, it says a lot that you’re confident about returning to the classroom.
Even as many parts of the United States continue to struggle in the fight against coronavirus, the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland last month resumed some in-person MBA classes. Between 30% and 40% of the Carey MBA class opted to come back to campus in person.
And it’s going well — thanks to the preparations of a team of top minds, says Brian Gunia, associate dean for academic programs.
“We’ve been working on all of the associated considerations with setting up the hybrid classroom for several months, probably three months now,” Gunia tells Poets&Quants. “We’ve had a team of people that has been working on that because, as you can imagine, there are a lot of different considerations spanning which faculty, which classes, how is the room configured. What Covid testing needs to happen? What co-curricular activities need to happen? How does the IT need to be adjusted? And we have really designed a new hybrid classroom to accommodate this new mode of learning.”
A B-SCHOOL DEEPLY INVOLVED IN COVID RESEARCH
Johns Hopkins University maintains the official tally of coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States — more than 26 million of the former and 444,000 of the latter as of February 2. Since the pandemic locked down the country (along with most of the world) last March, JHU’s Carey School has worked with the larger university and its Coronavirus Resource Center on research ranging from preparation for and response to the crisis, the economic impacts of recession and joblessness on society and individuals, consumer behavior, and, notably, supply chain of both vaccines and personal protection equipment. See here, here, and here for just a few examples of Carey School pandemic-related research.
Carey alumni, moreover, have been deeply involved in the production and distribution of PPE and in the discovery and production of a vaccine. And current students haven’t been idle: The B-school created an internship this summer for nine students whose plans had been disrupted by Covid, connecting them with area businesses coping with the initial phases of the pandemic.
Brian Gunia points to a Carey School associate professor, Tinglong Dai, who is among those returning to the classroom this term. Dai has closely followed the vaccine rollout in the U.S. and in a recent interview shared his insights on what’s working and what needs to be improved. “He’s an operations management person and works a lot on supply chain issues, which are obviously top of mind given the vaccine and given other supply chain issues associated with Covid,” Gunia says. “So we have many of those types of collaborations.
“Some of the research that we’ve done specifically around Covid has been around supply chain of both vaccine supply chain and also personal protection equipment. And then we’ve also had a faculty member looking at the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the coronavirus. And there has been other collaborative stuff: The other day we had a vaccine discussion panel that brought some alumni from the vaccine industry and some other folks together.”
A NEW-LOOK MBA IN BALTIMORE
With a reimagined full-time MBA curriculum this year, the Carey School overcame one of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and saw MBA recruitment skyrocket, with enrollment increasing 43% over the previous year, to bring the total between two classes to about 160. About half of the new class is split between one of two pathways: Health, Technology & Innovation, and Analytics, Leadership & Innovation. In the former, students “explore technology-driven, human-centered solutions to complex health challenges,” completing “experiential courses and co-curricular activities focused on a broad range of health-related fields”; while the Analytics, Leadership & Innovation pathway “systematically blends leadership and behavioral science skills to prepare them to understand the unique opportunities and threats facing any organization.”
Both pathways — mirroring the entire MBA curriculum at the Carey School — have a heavy focus on data-driven and interpersonal skills, says Gunia, one of the chief architects of the curricular overhaul that was announced in 2019.
“Nobody anticipated the exact circumstances in which this would be implemented at the time, obviously, but everything is going really well,” Gunia says. “We spent a long time planning for this curriculum, and we worked through all the contingencies and issues that could’ve gone wrong, for the most part. I think what’s been interesting about doing it in this environment is, not only have we been able to offer this curriculum, but we’ve been able to offer it in the context of the way that businesses are actually operating these days. If you’re working for a business, you’re working virtually. You’re on Zoom, you’re across time zones. There’s multiple cultures involved sometimes. There’s just lots of different challenges like that. So we’re trying to actually replicate the real business environment and the business school environment. And so I think that’s actually added a layer of interest and complexity to the process as well.”
Johns Hopkins Carey has around 2,400 total students, including about 1,000 across its graduate programs; its full-time MBA, which is only about 11 years old, has about 160. Annual tuition for the two-year, 54-credit MBA program is currently about $62,500 per year. The Carey School lists its MBA graduates’ average starting salary and bonus as $114,812, with average additional guaranteed compensation of $25,984; 92.9% of Carey MBAs accept jobs within four months of graduation. The school also offers a part-time MBA and several dual-degree programs, including an MBA/MD, MBA/MSN in Health Systems Management, MBA/Master of Public Health, and an MBA/MS in Biotechnology. Its full-time MS degrees in marketing, finance, business analytics and risk management, and information systems are all STEM; the MBA is not STEM, but discussions to make it so are ongoing. Students can study and attend classes in both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., about an hour south by train during rush hour.
Notably, Gunia says, 56.5% of Carey’s its latest incoming full-time MBA cohort is female.
“We are definitely an outlier in that respect of having more women in our full-time MBA program,” Gunia says. “It’s definitely been a conscious effort (to recruit more women). We’re a new MBA program, so we want to have a new start and in many respects, and that’s been part of it, to try to enhance the diversity in our class. And we were fortunate to get a lot of really qualified and really interested female candidates as well. I think they find the dual pathways of the Health, Technology & Innovation, as well as Analytics, Leadership & Innovation appealing, just the ability to kind of choose between those. And also the flexibility in our program. We don’t have a required set of electives. People can kind of choose a la carte what electives they want to suit their career. And so I think that kind of maximized the pool of people that might be interested in our MBA program.”
RETURNING TO THE MBA CLASSROOM
What’s it like returning to the classroom as an MBA student at Johns Hopkins, even as a pandemic continues to rage around the country? Lots of testing, for starters. About 1,000 students, faculty and staff have to be tested regularly, meaning already in the first days of the term nearly 10,000 on-campus tests have been administered.
“Our requirement here at Johns Hopkins is, first of all, that all students had to have a Covid test before coming to campus for the first time,” Gunia says. “So they have to demonstrate a negative Covid test. They also need to complete something called Prodensity, an app on their phone that asks them to answer some questions about whether they’re experiencing a temperature or have been diagnosed with Covid — questions like that. So they have to affirm that they’re healthy and they haven’t had any symptoms or anything like that, or been quarantined.
“And then they also have to have this Covid test going forward. Anybody, including faculty, who is on campus for more than 15 minutes per week has to be tested asymptomatically. Obviously if you’re symptomatic, it’s a different protocol, but we have a whole system administered by the Johns Hopkins healthcare system that gives you an asymptomatic test and then gives you the results typically within 24 hours. So it’s pretty efficient and working well.
“We’ve been in really close communication with the school, with the university throughout this. Hopkins has many divisions, and each one has its own needs, but the leadership of the university has been really strong and really clear and really behind this push to start preparing a long time ago for this, even when there was uncertainty whether we would be able to do it, given all the things that were happening with Covid before the holiday break. The university said a long time ago to the whole university, ‘We’re planning for it, so get working on plans. And have a plan in place.’ The official decision they did not make until early January, because they wanted to make sure and understand the situation on the ground before giving the official go-ahead. But the the direction to start working on it was many months ago.
“So — so far so good. Students were positively impressed, I think, with all the work that had gone into it, and especially our ability to simulate the classroom environment, even though half of them are online and approximately half of them are in person.”