As the pandemic upended life on campus and around the globe, Nathalya Mamane MBA’21 was just like any other Babson student trying to adjust to the new normal.
Mamane came to Babson because she was looking for a change. Having run her own event-planning business since 2008, she now wanted to do something with a higher purpose. So when the crisis hit, Mamane contacted Cheryl Kiser, executive director of The Lewis Institute and Babson Social Innovation Lab.
“We just can’t sit back and do nothing,” Mamane says. “When I saw this unfold, I went to Cheryl and said, ‘Put me to work.’ ”
Despite the disruption, Babson remains a community at work, and the learning and vibrancy of the College continue.
“I am really proud of our student body for handling this situation extremely well,” says Wasi Mahi ’21, president of the Student Government Association. “We are doing a good job of adapting and keeping the Babson spirit and community alive.”
That has meant taking classes online, holding virtual events, working on startup ventures, and, in some cases, tackling new projects they never could have imagined.
The spring semester had been humming along before the pandemic changed everything. Mahi remembers the shock and sadness of his fellow students when the College announced March 10 that the campus, for the most part, would be shutting down.
“You could see the looks on people’s faces as they realized what was happening,” he says. “That took a huge emotional toll on a lot of our students.”
As students scrambled to adapt, Aly Massoud MBA’20 mourned the loss of community in Olin Hall.
“Never in a million years could I have thought I would be wrapping up my MBA from my living room,” says Massoud, president of the Graduate Student Council.
Maintaining connection has been a top priority for students and for the College, and Babson has provided a range of digital tools. “The beautiful thing is that technology makes the world small,” Mahi says.
In both the undergraduate and graduate schools, most events moved online: coffee hangouts and book clubs, bingo games and chess matches, job fairs and professor meetups.
“I have had a lot of students reaching out,” Massoud says. “There was a huge influx of support. People were realizing, ‘I want to stay connected to the community.’ ”
Making a Mark
In these times, says Mamane, something essential defines Babson.
“Everyone here just wants to make a mark,” she says. “Sitting back and waiting, while being stripped of everything you can control, we all were looking to be able to do something.”
That need to be pro-active is what led Kiser to quickly connect Mamane with Dr. Claire-Cecile Pierre, the executive director of Babson’s Kerry Murphy Healey Center for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship. Pierre also advises health systems in the United States and abroad.
One of those health systems offers integrated services for seniors, including a day program that brings them together for exercise, food, medical evaluations, and community. With social distancing, however, that program required a new approach.
Mamane was presented not only with a chance to give back but also a unique learning opportunity. She worked with Pierre, as well as students in the Future Lab: Mobility Innovation class, to think about potential technological solutions that can help the seniors stay connected and help the staff monitor them at home.
“All we can do is use our own sense of heart to help others,” Mamane says. “Being involved with this has helped me stay sane. It has given me so much hope.”
This being Babson, the work of starting and building businesses continues as well. Christopher Lally ’20 is the founder of Flight Squad, a platform that aims to simplify the process for booking and managing flights.
Amid the economic disarray, Lally knows that this might not be the best time to launch a business, particularly in the travel industry, but he’s not concerned. He plans to spend the upcoming months on developing his venture so that, when people are flying regularly again, he’ll be ready.
Lally is working on his business while living with five eTower friends in a ski condo at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. When Babson closed the residence halls, one of the friends offered up his family’s condo as a place to stay. They relished the support at eTower, and they knew they could replicate that community off campus.
The students spend their days taking online classes, working on their businesses, and chatting with professors and mentors on video calls, while also taking time for hikes and games of Monopoly. “We are helping each other through the struggles,” Lally says. “It’s amazing to have this group to rely on in such a tough time.”
Massoud is curious about what kind of ventures Babson entrepreneurs such as Lally ultimately will build. “I wonder how they will pivot their business to adapt to the new reality,” he says.
Whatever they do, he knows it will be amazing. “I’ve always been impressed with Babson,” he says. “It has never let me down.”
Posted in Campus & Community