INSEAD's Leadership During COVID-19

Rishab Bhardwaj

A month into my MBA programme as a new '21J student, I sit here during a rare moment to reflect.

What a weird year it has been.

The world has been reshaped by the events that have transpired in 2020. Despite all the uncertainty that has been thrown our way with the COVID-19 pandemic, INSEAD has emerged as a role model in dealing with current circumstances and I want to commend the school for its efforts thus far.

In April, many MBA programmes rushed to inform their fall starting classes that they will be teaching in an online model. Some top MBA programmes even attempted to have students join in-person in the fall and have since shifted to an online model as well.

Given that an MBA is a highly interpersonal programme filled with robust in-class discussions, the difference between an online learning model and an in-person model is stark in comparison to other programmes. Additionally, students are spending a lot of money during these financially difficult times to leave their jobs and pursue higher education.

I feel that INSEAD has done exceptionally well in prioritising these factors when developing their plan. Back in May, the university reached out to my incoming class and asked us what we would prefer. Of the options presented, the class overwhelmingly expressed its opinion that delaying the start of class by a month would be acceptable in order to reach the goal of in-person instruction.

INSEAD accepted that challenge and began to work on it.

The university shifted our academic calendar by a month, which is not an easy feat to achieve given how much pre-planned effort goes into scheduling a whole cohort of students. Additionally, INSEAD came up with a plan to resume classes in the safest way possible for students, faculty, and staff. They partnered with governmental and local authorities to try and get as many students in the '21J class (as well as the new MIM cohort) into the respective countries as possible.

In Fontainebleau, they worked with a laboratory to establish a testing site (free of charge to INSEAD-affiliated persons) on campus. Lastly, they transformed both campuses, creating one-way lanes and having wipes and sanitiser available every few feet and even re-opening the cafeteria to an in-person dining experience.

In Fontainebleau, every member of the INSEAD community (students, staff, faculty, MBA partners) is tested at least once a week. Testing is also very efficient as we get our results on the same day. Everyone wears a mask at all times on campus. In class, students sit next to each other with a gap of one seat between them. If a case is identified, the person’s contacts are immediately identified and contacted, and everyone involved has to go through the isolation period. Classes are also streamed on Zoom for those not in the respective countries yet or isolating and professors do a great job of interacting with online students as well.

So far, I have been highly impressed with how INSEAD has paved the way of what could be the new normal in learning for a while.

I feel like the school has truly prioritised the well-being and the interests of its students and worked to make this experience worthwhile. I can safely say that I’m proud to be an INSEAD student and I hope to take this lesson along with many others with me after I graduate.