Carnegie Mellon University

Student at laptop

August 11, 2020

Welcoming Students to the Future of Business Education

The Tepper School welcomes students for the 2020-21 academic year with a new twist on the usual b-school orientation.

By Aubrey Buberniak

Beginning in early August, students enrolled in classes for the 2020-21 academic year at the Tepper School will be introduced to the community in a new and innovative way. Travel and social distancing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant that student support services and program staff had to get creative in orientation offerings for this academic year. 

 Full-Time MBA Basecamp Goes Virtual

Full-time MBA students usually participate in the Tepper MBA onboarding program, Basecamp, which takes place on the Pittsburgh campus over the course of three weeks before the start of the classes. This year, Full-Time MBA students will participate in Basecamp essentials — community building, leadership and career preparation, skill-building workshops, and more — virtually.

All orientation activities will be taking place online, kicking off with an introduction to term cohorts, staff, and faculty. Sessions will be offered via Zoom and recorded so that students in different time zones around the world can participate at their convenience. 

“Although Basecamp is a little different this year, the full-time students have been engaging and building community in a virtual fashion,” said Wendy Hermann, Executive Director of MBA Student Services. “Attendance has been consistently high and the students have been engaged.”

One of the first presentations during Basecamp was a session on remote learning environments, to ensure that students have the resources they need to adapt their educational goals and succeed during the online orientation. Students met with their academic advisors and attended courses on academic integrity. Sridhar Tayur, Ford Distinguished Research Chair and University Professor of Operations Management, welcomed students with a lecture, “What Is Business?” and led team breakout sessions. 

The first week concluded with a team day, which included team-building exercises, a virtual variety game show, a code-breaking adventure, and yoga classes. The Graduation Business Association and Tepper School clubs provided closing ceremonies to week one with a happy hour celebration.

Throughout Basecamp, students also will participate in new programming developed by the Accelerate Leadership Center that focuses on teaching inclusiveness and allyship in a business environment. 

“Our students asked for programming that teaches them how to be inclusive leaders and how to build inclusive teams,” said Leanne Meyer, Executive Director of the Accelerate Leadership Center. 

“We answered the call to action with new sessions that teach empathy-based leadership fundamentals, including how to be an ally. Including these sessions at Basecamp means that students are learning these behaviors right at the beginning of the school year and can carry these lessons with them as they complete their degrees. It’s a vital part of learning how to be a great leader.”

Week two of Basecamp shifted focus to add classroom foundations, such as math skills workshops and analytics case studies. Students had a chance to meet with the Masters Career Center to develop their career goals and participated in alumni panels throughout the week. Team projects were assigned and students will continue these foundational essentials through week four. 

PT MBA zoom call

Part-Time MBA Basecamp Provides New Type of Access

Part-time flex and part-time online hybrid students usually have the opportunity to meet their cohort and engage in orientation activities in-person through Access Weekends, the first of which kicks off during Basecamp. With the decision to move orientation online, Tepper School staff have been hard at work to ensure that part-time MBA students have the same beneficial orientation that Access Weekends would normally provide. 

Part-Time MBA Basecamp launched Aug. 6 with a welcome by Sridhar Tayur, Ford Distinguished Research Chair and University Professor of Operations Management, and continued with asynchronous course content and activities that students can complete on their own time.

Students also will participate in Zoom sessions, including:

  • A case analysis workshop, taught by Peter Boatwright, Allan D. Shocker Professor of Marketing and New Product Development and the Director of the Integrated Innovation Institute.
  • “Education in a Virtual Environment,” taught by Ron Placone, Associate Teaching Professor of Business Management Communication and Faculty Lead of the Accelerate Leadership Center.
  • Introductions to the Masters Career Center and Accelerate Leadership Center, as well as program staff.
  • Alumni guest speaker Ajay Agrawal (MBA 1998), Vice President, Strategy and Services for Carrier.
  • Networking and happy hour events with their classmates.


Undergraduate Students Welcomed by University

First-Year orientation for incoming undergraduate students is sponsored and organized by Carnegie Mellon and will take place in late August. However, Tepper School undergraduate staff also have organized an online orientation program that kicks off by welcoming families and students to the Tepper School community on Aug. 23. In the following days, Undergraduate Business Administration students will have the opportunity to participate in college social events, learn about academic expectations, connect with the inclusive community of the Tepper School, and get a head start on their academic program goals. 

“Undergraduate orientation is a critical step for students to begin their Tepper and CMU careers so that they have the information they need to have a successful start to fall 2020,” said Jennifer Wegner, Executive Director of the Undergraduate Business Administration program.  

“Orientation offers students and families the chance to meet and connect with their new classmates, hear from faculty, and get excited about starting college, even though we know it will look different than they once imagined. We can’t wait to meet and celebrate the class of 2024 during orientation.”

Undergraduate Economics students enter Carnegie Mellon as members of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, where they will participate in similar orientation programming, including meeting with their classmates and being introduced to their academic advisors. Students also will have the chance to meet with Carnegie Mellon’s orientation counselors, who are current students, as they are welcomed into the larger community. Incoming first-years will explore the economics program through videos, alumni profiles, and discussion boards through an online Canvas orientation course. 

Doctoral Program 

Tepper School Senior Associate Dean Linda Argote and Nicola Secomandi, Professor of Operations Management and head of the Ph.D. program, will welcome doctoral students on Friday, Aug. 14 via Zoom. Ph.D. program staff will introduce doctoral candidates to all of the resources that the Tepper School and Carnegie Mellon have to offer, from research and teaching support to activities for helping to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

“We’re looking forward to extending a warm virtual welcome to 14 new Ph.D. students on Aug. 14,” said Lawrence Rapp, Director, Ph.D. Student Services. "They’ll get a great idea of what to expect during their time here, with a solid overview of the major milestones of the program and the resources available to them here for achieving their goals. Following the orientation, they’ll dive right into a two-week Math Camp designed to sharpen their mathematical tools before the start of their first semester.”

This year’s cohort represents six of Tepper's eight fields of study. Two students each were admitted into the academic areas of Accounting, Business Technologies, Economics, Finance, Marketing, and Algorithms, Combinatorics & Optimization. Additionally, Tepper admitted its first students into the Behavioral Economics and Behavioral Marketing & Decision Research programs, sponsored jointly with Social & Decision Research in Dietrich College.

Thanks to the Zoom adaptation of the program’s weekly Afternoon Tea, incoming students had the unique opportunity to begin making connections with faculty, staff, and returning students this summer.