Loyola Business Blog

Loyola MBA Students Respond to COVID-19 Challenges

The coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses to change how they operate in just a matter of weeks. Companies are relying on their management leaders to navigate the challenges of this new reality. Loyola University Maryland’s Professional’s MBA program prepares students to be strong leaders.

“Loyola’s part-time MBA program provides students with a depth of knowledge that enables them to meet challenges head on in times of crisis,” says Kathleen Getz, Ph.D., dean of Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business and Management. “The Sellinger School of Business and Management is guided by the Jesuit tradition of strong ethical leadership, social responsibility and a global perspective. We encourage our students to consider the kind of leaders they will become and to reflect on how they will use their leadership positions to assure that their organizations contribute to both prosperity and justice.”

Karyl Leggio, Ph.D., professor of finance for the Sellinger School, reaffirmed the value of an MBA. “During the pandemic, all typical rules have been thrown out the window and businesses have to quickly make a number of decisions,” she says. “The nature of an MBA degree teaches students to be strategic in their thinking, and that ability is needed now more than ever.”

Sellinger students are immersed in the values of a Jesuit institution. They are taught to think through the human impact of how their businesses operate. “When our students come together and discuss the issues of what is the right timing to reopen businesses and the tradeoff between reopening to protect the economy and the impact on the health of particular at-risk populations, the conversations are richer because of our Jesuit environment,” explains Leggio.

The Loyola MBA is designed for working professionals and offers flexible, part-time weeknight classes. Many current part-time MBA students are on the front lines of COVID-19 operations in Baltimore.

Making Rapid Decisions and Taking Time to Reflect

Brandon Ellis, Professional's MBA student

Laboratory manager for the Division of Medical Microbiology and the Microbiology Laboratory in the pathology department of Johns Hopkins Medicine

Brandon is responsible for the oversight of laboratory operations and is active in the Johns Hopkins Medicine preparedness response for COVID-19. He says, “The pandemic has shined a light on how critical testing is for the safety and health of our community.” 

Ellis manages a laboratory that operates 24/7 with over 100 faculty, staff and research personnel spread across three shifts. He had to rapidly develop and implement a plan to scale up COVID-19 testing capacity within a short time period without the usual strategic planning period. Ellis credits the PMBA program with enabling him to make rapid decisions and feel confident about them.

“I pulled knowledge from every single class I have taken in the PMBA program to help me lead through all of this – from operations to finance, to acquiring new equipment to do testing, to ethics and leadership. Every professor has had a role in providing me with the tools to be successful in this situation,” he says.

A strong influence for Ellis has been the emphasis Sellinger places on reflection. He says, “It is one of the core values ingrained into all of our courses, and I have used it a lot throughout this experience. Whether it be success or failures, it is important to take a moment to stop and reflect on what has happened and celebrate the victories where we have them and keep pushing forward. It is not something I would have done before going to Loyola.”

A Focus on Ethics and Teamwork

Tom Hettleman, Professional's MBA student

Director of environmental health and safety and the emergency preparedness coordinator at Loyola University Maryland

“I am not a businessman. My background is in biology and environmental science,” he says. “The PMBA program develops executive, big picture thinking that gives me a much better understanding of how businesses do business. It has helped me think critically and be organized, which allowed me to quickly plan and execute Loyola’s overall COVID-19 response.”

Hettleman leads an emergency preparedness team of more than 30 campus department leaders. They had a comprehensive emergency operations plan in place and had been refining it for more than a decade. COVID-19 happened so quickly, however, there was a steep ramp-up phase. Within a week the campus was closed, students were safely at home, all departments were working remotely, and classes were operating online.

“If we had not prepared so thoroughly, it would have been significantly more difficult to transition the way we did,” according to Hettleman.

He says all of his classes have been great, but the Sellinger School’s course on ethics has been most impactful. “The ethics course supports the mission and vision of Loyola University Maryland and teaches how to be a compassionate, ethical leader who cares for people and does things in a fair manner.”

Hettleman has also benefitted from the team environment of the PMBA program and the many opportunities to present in front of classmates. He explains, “Very few businesses operate alone. It is all about teamwork, and you have to be able to communicate in order to be successful.”

Developing Effective Processes and Support from Faculty

Ethan Ulrich, Professional's MBA student

Captain in the recently mobilized Maryland Army National Guard

He says, “The Loyola MBA curriculum has enabled me to make effective leadership decisions during the COVID-19 response effort.”

His unit has been mobilized to help the state respond to the pandemic by supporting community testing sites, creating additional medical capacity and providing logistical support to include transportation and distribution of medical supplies and food. The unit’s response missions include but are not limited to 24/7 state emergency operations center staffing and synchronizing efforts with local and state partners.

Ulrich serves as a brigade personnel officer and is responsible for the personnel, medical and administrative requirements of more than 1,000 soldiers within the 58th Troop Command. “It is incredibly important to establish effective processes for communication and tracking personnel when managing such large volumes of data.”

He says he felt fortunate to be able to reach out to one of his professors and use him as a sounding board to review data-tracking options. “Ultimately, I stayed with the system I had already selected, but my professor gave me confidence I was on the right path.” He credits his coursework with giving him the ability to extract information from the data that enabled commanders to make critical decisions.

Baltimore's Premier Part-Time MBA Program 

Loyola University Maryland’s Professional’s MBA is a part-time MBA program designed for working professionals. Tailored to meet the needs of our students, the Loyola MBA is a flexible, self-paced program offering a blend of course format options. Beginning fall 2020, the Loyola MBA will be offered as a fully online degree option. The Loyola MBA encourages students to customize the curriculum by aligning their course choices with personal interests and career goals. We offer several MBA specializations in a variety of top industry focus areas, including data analytics and digital technologies, finance, interdisciplinary business, management, and marketing.