Forté Fellows

Women & COVID-19: Balancing Motherhood and B-school During a Pandemic

We all have different purposes in life. For me, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to empowering as many children as possible by providing them access to the education and learning opportunities. As I developed my career, my strategies to make a difference evolved but my goal was always the same.

From being an Executive Director to volunteering at a children’s home in Peru, I slowly began gaining the experience and knowledge needed to pursue my life’s passion. But I knew I needed more. I needed to strengthen my leadership skills, learn how to better manage teams, and discover how to adapt in crisis.

I applied to the Schulich School of Business to complete my MBA and graduate certificate in social sector management. I knew starting an MBA with a nine-month-old baby and extensive volunteer commitments would be a challenge. Little did I know that by the end of my MBA, I would also be juggling a full-time job, no day care, and too many Zoom calls to count.

There have been many times when people ask why I chose business school. And that hasn’t changed during the pandemic. I can’t count the amount of times I was asked why I would do an MBA with a little baby, or why I would do it at all if I knew I was going to work in the nonprofit sector.

Here’s the thing. Having an MBA and having a baby are not mutually exclusive – nor should they have to be. And an MBA for me is not just about getting a salary bump. It is about learning how to lead change, manage crisis, and learn how to build your legacy.

Which is why during a pandemic like COVID-19, an MBA is more valuable than ever.

Online classes with a toddler running in the background is not ideal, and missing opportunities to meet with classmates can be discouraging. But these experiences have taught me valuable lessons about how to adapt and strengthen teamwork in times of crisis.  They have tested my ability to multi-task to a level I did not think was possible. They have forced me to learn how to develop and strengthen relationships virtually.

But most importantly, balancing motherhood, b-school, and a career during a pandemic has taught me the importance of empathy in our leadership. Every student, professor, and alumni are going through unique challenges that affect the way they work, deal with stress, and communicate. Our ability to support one another and adapt our workplans accordingly is a skill that will not only help us succeed in b-school but help us succeed as we strive to become future CEOs, Executive Directors, and leaders.

Melanie Rodriguez is a Forté Fellow, MBA Candidate at the Schulich School of Business, and passionate leader dedicated to improving communities through cross sector collaboration. She has worked with over 20 nonprofits and completed nine consulting projects in North America, Central America, and South America.

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