Executive MBA Program Blog

Into the Octagon: My EMBA Virtual Orientation Experience

Posted by Scott Garsed-Donnelly on Jan 19, 2021 1:24:56 PM


An Orientation Via Zoom - I'm Skeptical!

I really didn’t know what to expect from our three-day orientation session in advance of starting Class 29 of RIT’s Online EMBA program. I think so many of us – especially this past year – have sat through mind-numbingly long Zoom meetings, where you’re writing email and chatting online with colleagues about how you’d rather be watching paint dry than be here right now, all the while trying to keep at least a tiny part of your brain focused on the proceedings. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried that the next 20+ hours might end up like that, too. But given where we are in our global struggle with COVID, it makes perfect sense that what would normally be an in-person experience in Rochester would have to happen online. So I fretted a bit, prepared myself for the inevitable, and waited.

When my iPad and swag box showed up from RIT, it definitely raised my excitement level; everyone likes two Christmases so close together! So many great things in the shipment, and the book aimed at spouses and partners was a thoughtful, kind approach – being part of program that understands that this experience (and the workload that comes with it) affects everyone in the house set a great tone for my wife and me.

Then it was Wednesday morning, bright and early here in Mountain time. Coffee’d up, ready to go, and something felt… different. Sixteen strangers from around the globe (literally, this time), at first all just staring at each other through our webcams. But then, we started talking. First, as we were getting organized, then in Zoom chat while our moderators were moving things along, and then eventually in Slack over the course of the three days, we continued talking, sharing, and getting to know each other. Sharing our excitement and hesitations, our worries about numbers and schedules, our kids and our pets. It felt easy to talk with all these people – to laugh, and be nervous and confused, all at the same time. 


Class shot day 3


From conversation, to exercise, to breakout room, I think we could feel the group really gelling. Our Team Building + Ethics class that filled two hours of each day got our brains readjusting to thinking like students again, wrestling with tough questions while scribbling notes. Spending time with faculty in small groups gave us the chance to chat with them as people and partners, and hearing alumni validate our fears while talking us through their tips and tricks for program success put a friendly and successful face on our 17-month trek ahead.

But I honestly think the best time spent was the time we spent with our teams and the entire cohort. From a crunch-time project that we had to knock out together, to our portrait drawing fun that turned out hilariously horrible works of art, to our virtual escape room that had us solving puzzles, “hacking” into websites and scouring old MySpace pages for secret bits of data. (Fun fact: MySpace somehow still exists.)

So, after three days, and with my first class starting this evening, where am I? Still some reticence for sure, but after a weekend of reading, writing my first paper (already!), and chatting with my class on Slack, I think I’m ready. Maybe not 100% ready, but I know that my classmates will be there to support me, to help, to joke, to cheerlead. And I think that’s going to be the secret to our success.


            SGD       SGD2


At the end of the experience, students were asked to submit their favorite quality of each of the members of their cohort through an online wordcloud software. See Scott's below

Scott Garsed-Donnelly


Read more about the orientation experience:


Topics: online learning, Experiential Learning, Executive MBA