Living through what will almost certainly become a case study


If I had been told at the beginning of 2020 that the word “unprecedented” would become the most overused word in the English language, I would have rolled my eyes and kept moving. Now, halfway through the year, the hard pause caused by COVID-19 has made “unprecedented” feel like an understatement. We are living through a global event that will change the way people conduct business forever. The pandemic will create case studies taught by the MBA programs for years to come.


Living through a case study, however, means that prospective students and tenured professors alike have the same amount of experience with what a pandemic looks like. It means we are learning what comes next together. It means days, weeks and months of uncertainty. It means understanding the different headspaces our peers may be in, as they accept so much change.


My months of lockdown have been filled with reflection about how to find contentment amidst so much ambiguity. (At some point one does eventually run out of Netflix shows…) In doing so, I stumbled into an unanticipated application of the data analysis we do in our first year at Smith. While I certainly don’t understand the complex modeling required to attempt to forecast a pandemic, I do have an deeper appreciation for the flexibility required to work with an incomplete and evolving dataset – like COVID-19.


It is easy to fall into a mindset fixated on all the ways the past months – and the months to come – were not and are not what we “bargained for.” Ultimately, that's true. They’re not. Recognizing how different the rest of my MBA experience may be from what I planned has been important. (Remember, plans never go the way you planned them.) No one chooses to live through a future case study. That said, we are living in a shared experience. We do choose whether or not to lean into that truth. Living through the next phases of this pandemic will be best done when shared. 


–By Virginia Pierrie. Pierrie is a 2021 MBA Candidate, a Dean’s Fellow and 2020-21 president of the MBA Association. Pierrie is originally from Raleigh, N.C. and worked for four years in corporate communications for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York before coming to Maryland Smith.


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