Executive MBA Program Blog

Virtual Orientation: From Anxiety, to Team Bonding, to Awareness

Posted by Frederikke Catral on Jan 19, 2021 1:41:02 PM


Orientation is Crucial for a Successful Journey 

These challenging times have most of us, nonessential workers, working from home. Those who were not used to this “remote working” gig were suddenly thrust into a very unfamiliar work environment. Adjustments, frustrations, sometimes paralyzing fear of the unknown. What happens now? My internet speed is not fast enough! How do I pay attention when there’s this gallery of people staring back at me? Then, there were those of us who’ve had the experience, especially if we have been working with national and global companies.

But, a Virtual Orientation? The need to personally know and appreciate your cohort members and faculty is crucial to a successful journey through this program. For 17 months, we are supposed to be working together as a TEAM. How will meaningful connections be established? Until finally, Day 1 had arrived!


Day 1 - Anxiety, Anticipation, Excitement 

I think everyone in my cohort was wired. Everyone could feel even the quietest one’s excitement and eagerness to learn from the next three days. The electrifying feel was transmitted through the 0s and 1s of this so-called cyberworld. Our Team Builder, Lauren Grimshaw, immediately took control of the process gleefully but firmly. She was an emcee, DJ, point person, and team leader in one. On the first day, I felt and witnessed the anxiety and concerns from each student’s facial reactions wane as each hour passed. And the excitement? Whew! You could feel that as if we were physically present in a room! It was undeniable, especially after every breakout session. The smiling faces and the glint in our eyes shone through. I know – as is second nature to a former litigator, I observed and scanned the courtroom every chance I had. Here, I scanned the Zoom gallery and felt so good to be a part of this cohort.


EMBA Cohort 29

Day 2 - Team Cohesion & Bonding

If Day 1 put us all at ease with each other, Day 2 instilled in us what Lauren told us will happen and what this team building should make us understand, “What you do will be judged. Not you.” Trust developed. In Business Ethics class, we discussed issues with a “critical thinking and analysis” mindset. We learned from each other’s experiences, values, cultural differences/sameness, moral beliefs, and wits. We disagreed, yes, but with respect and without condescension. We demonstrated team cohesion when one of my cohorts suggested using the Slack app to have a unified way of communication as a cohort and for our group.

Then there was the Business Ethics class. I, for one, know in my heart that my passion lies in leading, managing, and winning through others. Ergo, I'm a leader, right? Until Dr. Robert Barbato challenged me with ethical dilemmas that had me committing multiple murders in under 15 minutes, I did not realize that my self-actualization has not completed its maturity cycle. Exhilarating, emotional, and edifying. I believe I am now well-equipped with much awareness, and I am ready to proceed to Maslow’s next and final level 7.


Day 3 - Awareness, What it Means to be an Ethical Business Leader

Day 3 was bittersweet. As one of my cohorts declared, “Honeymoon’s over.” We’ve reached the pinnacle of knowing that we can work as a TEAM. Through experiences like the virtual hacking exercise (which our Team 3 won, by the way!) proved to us that, yes, it is possible to bond virtually. The foundation for our bonding and willingness to learn from each other was laid and fortified with the thoughts and acceptance that we will get through this journey victoriously. Together. The wealth of knowledge and experiences we will amass together will last us a lifetime as leaders.

The program faculty and staff were all equally responsible for strengthening my resolve: I was not wrong in choosing and wanting to be a part of the Saunders Online EMBA Program in order to become the kind of leader I envision myself to be.


Frederikke Catral

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 Frederikke's above


Read more about the orientation experience:


Topics: online learning, Experiential Learning, Executive MBA