T’21s Madeleine Livingston, Afolabi Oshinowo, Shayda Teymourpour, and Dennis Gallagher reflect on the expected and unexpected lessons of their MBA experience.
The Tuck Class of 2021 was always going to be historic. When the 284 students arrived in Hanover in the summer of 2019, they were the first class to partake in an enhanced MBA experience that commenced earlier than ever, with international adventure trips, optional programs, and pre-enrollment activities starting on July 20. The refined core curriculum began in earnest on August 10, with the two-week Tuck Launch program. Designed around the principles of integrated programming, experiential learning, and reflection, Tuck Launch included sessions of the new course Managing People, personal leadership programming with Professor Syd Finkelstein and others, and presentations and exercises from Career Services, Centers, and more. The adjusted schedule and new programming were intended to help students better acclimate to the rigors of the Tuck MBA program while reflecting on their career path.
At Investiture almost two years later, class speaker Sarah Blatt T’21 recalled those early days of her MBA experience. She agreed her class occupied a unique place in Tuck’s annals, but for an entirely different reason. “We expected the coming two years to truly be personal, connected, and transformative,” she said. “Standing with you all today, reflecting on the last year and a half, transformative feels like an understatement. Our time together has been historic.”
Historic in that her class completed much of their MBA during a global pandemic, via remote and hybrid learning. Historic in that the Tuck community was called upon to be resilient and creative to adapt the countless crucial social interactions to virtual and physically-distanced formats. Historic in that Blatt was standing at a podium surrounded by hundreds of people, when the year before, during one of the pandemic’s spikes, the Class of 2020’s Investiture was entirely virtual. The COVID-19 pandemic has torn apart lives and traditions, and only through a massive community effort at stopping its spread was Tuck able to welcome students and their close relatives to campus for the event on June 11.
Remarkably, many cherished Tuck events still happened despite the pandemic. Tuck Talks, the periodic event where members of the Tuck community share the experiences, relationships and passions that have shaped their perspectives, continued in various formats while maintaining the magic of a person telling their life story. Tuck Tails, where students meet up for food, drink and socializing, were offered with grab-and-go refreshments and food, which students took back to their homes and consumed while streaming the virtual event. The time-honored tradition of Small Group Dinners resumed outside at the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year; the events then moved inside with a maximum of six people. Wine Night, which was organized by T’21s, took place multiple times in the last two years—students received instructions on which bottles to buy, and then had a virtual wine tasting at their homes led by a sommelier. This spring, Tuck leadership and faculty organized outdoor walks with students. Even the Tiny Tuckies Halloween Parade occurred, but instead of walking through the Tuck buildings, the costumed children walked around Dorm Circle and picked up bagged treats. “I give the students so much credit for being creative and innovative, yet still maintaining that uniqueness and what’s so special about Tuck,” says Sally Jaeger, associate dean of the MBA Program.
"Health so often begins at the community level so volunteering in that setting provides an opportunity for local connection. It’s important for me to know the needs of the community I’m living in and give back."
—Madeleine Livingston T’21
To acknowledge the challenges and heartaches the Class of 2021 endured during the pandemic, and to maximize their Spring Term, Tuck leadership worked with students and faculty to create Tuck Rising, a set of special programs and events that ran from mid-April to June. Every week, T’21s received a Tuck Rising digest listing upcoming events, such as Country Connections events with GIX faculty members; a new Intercultural Leadership Program; multiple Pathway Connections about entrepreneurship, climate change communication, and art programming at the Hood Museum and Orozco murals; an outdoor leadership challenge in the woods of New Hampshire; and Wine Nights with faculty members. “The best Tuck innovations are those driven by the collaboration of students, faculty and staff,” says Richard McNulty, the executive director of leadership development, “and Tuck Rising was a good example of that. The T’21s wanted to maximize opportunities to gather this spring, to learn and engage in new ways, and to reconnect with classmates beyond their social circle. Tuck Rising helped the T’21s finish their year on a high note as we collectively worked together with a sense of renewed engagement and hope.”
By the end of the Spring Term, T’21s had truly come to exemplify the wise, decisive leaders that Tuck strives to develop. Wisdom occupies the most prominent space in Tuck’s mission statement because of its enduring power to connect us in our human endeavors through expertise and empathy. The Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne said you can be knowledgeable with another person’s knowledge, but you can’t be wise with another person’s wisdom. You must build your own wisdom, by way of encounters, experiences and reflection. “Wisdom has an embodied moral element,” Times columnist David Brooks has written. “Out of your own moments of suffering comes a compassionate regard for the frailty of others.” The Class of 2021 now knows what Brooks was talking about.
Madeleine Livingston T’21 probably knew it before she came to Tuck, but the pandemic gave her even more space to serve others. After college, Livingston lived in New York, worked in banking, and volunteered at a community health clinic. When she moved to the Upper Valley, she began volunteering in the palliative care department at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. “Health so often begins at the community level so volunteering in that setting provides an opportunity for local connection,” she says. “It’s important for me to know the needs of the community I’m living in and give back.” As the pandemic set in, Livingston was starting her First Year Project with Parsley Health, a primary care provider with an innovative approach to chronic medical conditions. Her FYP team quickly pivoted to helping Parsley serve patients virtually. “It felt so nice to be valuable in those early days of COVID when there was so much uncertainty on what support the medical system needed,” she says. In September, Livingston started working with the Virtual Visit team at DHMC. She spent several hours per week, including on Thanksgiving, at the hospital with critically-ill patients, helping them see their family via Zoom, as family visitors were unable to come to the hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions. “I would be sitting with patients who were seeing their family members during some of the hardest moments of their lives. I understood that families wished they could be there to see their patient in person so I would often describe the view out the window or how the light was streaming into the room. I am still blown away by the immense privilege of being able to support families in that way. It completely changed my life,” she says.
"I knew the school was going through a tough time. I looked for ways I could help make an impact or steer the ship in the right direction."
—Afolabi Oshinowo T’21
Since she was often in the hospital volunteering and privy to the distress of families upset that couldn’t visit their loved ones, Livingston was conservative about going out around Hanover. But she found the experience grounded her even more to the Upper Valley, and connected her to the Dartmouth community at a deeper level. “That wouldn’t have been the case in a non-COVID business-school experience,” she says.
During this past winter, Livingston led a Visiting Executives Program event with Cuong Do T’89, a member of the Tuck Board of Advisors and the president of Samsung’s Global Strategy Group. “He said something that really resonated with me and it matched how I felt during most of the pandemic,” Livingston says. “He said ‘The universe owes you nothing. Nothing in your life is guaranteed. You make the most of what happens to you.’”
For Afolabi Oshinowo T’21, coming to Tuck was part of his strategy to improve the healthcare system in his home country of Nigeria. A licensed medical doctor, Oshinowo practiced medicine in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic, so he knew he had some experience that might help the Tuck community respond to COVID. As he saw the fear and uncertainty grip those around him, Oshinowo penned an email to all Tuck students with the subject line “A Word of Encouragement.” He urged everyone to not panic, avoid sensational news, and above all, be a good neighbor. “I remember that the experience in Liberia was emotionally exhausting,” he wrote. “It was always refreshing to have a friend or family check on me and just be a form of encouragement. It made a whole lot of difference. Please, let’s do so for one another.” He signed off with “We will overcome!!!!” He got dozens of responses and thank-yous, and learned that his email was forwarded to many friends and family members.
Before the first confirmed case in Hanover, Oshinowo met with the Deans and told them about strategies that would help curtail the spread of COVID, and how people in Liberia were able to protect themselves from Ebola. And throughout the pandemic, he sent thank-you notes to the Deans when he suspected they were dealing with especially challenging circumstances. “I knew the school was going through a tough time,” he says. “I looked for ways I could help make an impact or steer the ship in the right direction.”
"I resolved to be more intentional with my time, to set up time with friends, to do the things on my Hanover bucket list, and to give back to the Tuck community. … Building relationships at Tuck with my classmates and the faculty has been really important to me."
—Shayda Teymourpour T’21
Shayda Teymourpour T’21 didn’t have Tuck on her short list of MBA programs. Born and raised in a small town in Illinois, Teymourpour figured she should go to business school in a city. Then she realized that Tuck’s unique learning environment would allow her both to focus on her education and be part of a tight-knit community. And even during the pandemic, Tuck came through for her on those points. The first year was more academically challenging than she expected, and she was able to self-source her FYP with Credo Beauty, a consumer beauty company, which was in the space she wanted to pursue after graduation. Then the pandemic arrived. After multiple terms of virtual classes and extra-curricular events, Zoom fatigue eventually set in. “I was always so energized by doing all the in-person engagements, both socially and professionally, but I ended up drained on Zoom,” she says.
The hardships gave her the impetus to step back and reflect on what she wanted out of these two years. Talking to her fiancé and friends, she homed in on a dream underlying her motivation to attend Tuck. “I decided that I didn’t want to go back and work for a corporation,” she says. “The pandemic highlighted how some companies treat their employees, and I learned what I really value in a company, so I pursued my own entrepreneurial venture—a direct-to-consumer skincare company rooted in Persian ingredients based on traditions passed down for generations in my family. I joined Tuck’s incubator and really hit the ground running on my venture. And I resolved to be more intentional with my time, to set up time with friends, to do the things on my Hanover bucket list, and to give back to the Tuck community. One of my favorite roles was serving as the Wellness Chair. I implemented a student partnership with a meditation app, and coordinated virtual and hybrid yoga, physical therapy and Pilates classes. Building relationships at Tuck with my classmates and the faculty has been really important to me.”
"I like to think we are filling a void in the community and letting other people know there is a support network for them. Knowing that Tuck students were helping to fill that void is a meaningful thing."
—Dennis Gallagher T’21
Dennis Gallagher T’21 will never forget the day he got into Tuck. He got a phone call from Hanover the day before he expected to hear from the school. “I figured they were probably calling with good news,” he recalls. He came to Tuck to ramp into corporate leadership and community engagement, and he was advised to get involved with as many clubs as possible and to get to know everyone he could. He took that advice to heart, joining Tuck Stuff, Tripod Hockey, and the Consulting Club. After the pandemic began, he volunteered with Hanover Helpers, a group founded by T’20s that delivers groceries to the Kendal at Hanover retirement community. “I like to think we are filling a void in the community and letting other people know there is a support network for them,” he says. “2020 was a pretty lonely time, so knowing that Tuck students were helping to fill that void is a meaningful thing.”
Gallagher took every chance he had to be in class with students and faculty during the hybrid sessions, including a December mini (Quantitative Digital Marketing) and Tax and Business Strategy in the winter. “We had 20 of us spread out in Georgiopoulous,” he says. “It was the first moment of feeling normalcy in about a year.
Ten years from now, when Gallagher projects how he’ll remember doing his MBA during a global pandemic, he hopes to see it as a catalyst for a commitment to community involvement. “It would be great to look back and say it started because of the circumstances of 2020-2021,” he says. “If I could look back and see that, it would be a huge positive for me.”