Teo Gonzalez T'21 & Hannah Sacchini T'22 tuning in from Hanover and sending our best wishes your way for a great 2021! We serve as presidents of the classes of 2021 and 2022 and wanted to share our reflections on the past year and share our thoughts as we look forward.
Reflecting on 2020, we probably feel similar to most of you—it wasn’t the year we expected. When we applied to business school, it was easy to get lost daydreaming about upcoming adventures. Just think about it: dynamic classrooms filled with the energy of people sharing ideas in-person, travels to foreign lands packed with cultural immersion, and social engagements—what wasn’t to love?
The events of this past year meant a lot of those plans had to shift. In March, almost over night, the traditional academic setting we knew needed to be transitioned into a virtual Zoom experience where we tuned into classes in sweatpants while in our respective homes. International travels became longing glances on Instagram or Google Maps. Socializing? Well, that would become more complicated in every way.
Professor Ramon Lecuona makes hybrid learning more interesting in his Strategy in Emerging Markets course.
At Tuck, the experiences you dream about from an MBA aren’t just pros on a pros and cons list—they are core to what we do. In our minds, the Tuck MBA experience is the most immersive and connected available because here in the Upper Valley, all day, every day, and in some capacity, your life centers on what you are doing related to your Tuck experience. When the Coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S., the question on the minds of many people in our community was suddenly, “What is Tuck when you can’t partake in its unique value proposition—forming relationships, learning, pursuing new experiences, and pushing ourselves to new heights in real-time, all together, and in person?” It was a scary time, but there was something surprising that emerged from our challenging circumstance: a strong desire to rise to the occasion and make the most of the situation. We’re proud of our Tuck community because all of us really made the most of this experience—and in some cases, we even elevated it. Here are just a few of our favorite highlights from the year.
All around us, members of our community went to the drawing board to figure out how we could still facilitate hallmark experiences without having access to our normal tools or circumstances. While classes couldn’t be entirely in-person, professors leveraged their networks to amplify the learnings of class by asking influential figures to join us throughout course discussions.
In Strategy in Emerging Markets with Professor Ramon Lecuona for example, the main protagonists from our cases frequently visited our virtual discussions to share their perspectives and advice with us. During one class, we were joined by Andre Street, chair and co-founder of Stone, a Brazilian company that services its customers through payment and management tools, among other flexible financial products. Andre was such a hit with students that he was invited back to speak alongside leaders and entrepreneurs Arianna Huffington, David Rubenstein, Bethenny Frankel, and more, who were all featured in a celebrity video congratulating the Tuck classes of 2020 and 2021 on completing the academic year.
Trying to reimagine extracurricular activities was a particular challenge, but students and others rose to the occasion. The Tuck soccer team for example, which is responsible for organizing Tuck’s annual MBA World Cup Soccer Tournament, recognized they couldn’t arrange the popular event in person. Rather than completely cancel, they hosted Tuck’s first ever Virtual FIFA World Cup, a tournament that occurred over both Xbox and PlayStation platforms and was open to anyone who wanted to get involved in the activity.
Professor Brian Melzer leads an in-person session of Tuck’s “Ethics in Action” course in the McLaughlin Atrium.
At Tuck, we talk a lot about our tight-knit community. The unparalleled access we have to the Tuck alumni network; the frequency with which students interact with each other; the close relationships we forge with our professors; and more—connections at Tuck are constant and integral to the MBA experience. During the pandemic, building and maintaining strong connections became even more critical, and Tuck found new and creative ways to keep the community engaged.
The Dean’s Office set up Strolls with Tuck Leadership, an opportunity for students to take socially-distanced walks around campus with the leaders who drive Tuck into the future: Deans Matthew Slaughter, Sally Jaeger, Joe Hall, Brian Tomlin, Dia Draper, and more.
Students were also able to benefit from some awesome uplifting experiences organized by Quality of Life Chairs Tara Nooyi T’21 and Madeline Henderson T’22, including pumpkin painting, cookie decorating, and a holiday door decorating contest.
Social Chairs Caroline Raymond T’21, Elisabeth Sum T’21, Andrew Goldstein T’22, and Takunda Ndoro T’22 took advantage of the fall weather by organizing small group hikes around the Upper Valley and beyond. They also launched new socially-distanced events like the Student Board Socials which bring (masked) students together in a social setting.
And Tuck alumni were more engaged than ever. Whether hosting virtual talks with students, including the Tuck Board Chats, or setting aside time for career advice, alumni have been instrumental in helping to build a valuable and supportive experience for current students during this challenging time. Recently, the Northern California, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland chapters of Tuck Alumni recently invited current students to their virtual happy hours. This is just one example of how students regularly engage with alumni in geographies and industries of interest.
Like many people in the U.S., Tuckies still found ways to discover adventure in the diverse geographical landscape that exists across the country—specifically in beautiful rural New England. Many of us chose Tuck because we wanted to experience rural Upper Valley life, but the opportunities for hiking, sightseeing, and rewarding outdoor experiences were more than we could have imagined. Small groups explored Acadia National Park, located on the coast of Maine, while others benefited from hiking and camping in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Because Tuck is located on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, these rewarding natural experiences are just a mere drive away from us. It just goes to show, you can experience something completely new and exciting if you’re willing to open your eyes to what is in front of you.
Tuck Student Board members don their go-to Zoom outfits: business up top, pajamas on the bottom.
As we look ahead to the new year, the student board is focused on a few key initiatives. First, we’d love to continue to strengthen our relationship with the local Upper Valley community in a way that is mutually beneficial. Fortunately, we’ve already found some great Upper Valley partners in local business owners and government officials. Some classmates, like Lulu Carter T’22, are working alongside Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin to determine ways Tuck can be an even more active partner in the local community. Natalie (Triedman) King T’20, for example, created the Hanover Helpers Initiative which delivers groceries and more to Upper Valley neighbors in need.
Second, we want to put in place additional support structures for people to effectively maximize their time at Tuck. We have years and years of knowledge that has to be transferred over from class to class every single year. In our dream world, there’s a way this can be managed successfully so people are liberated from having to recreate the wheel and can pursue new opportunities. It’s the kind of activity that doesn’t necessarily seem super exciting but could have a longstanding positive impact.
Finally, as we enter the spring term, we want to re-read and potentially even re-write the Tuck script. Our focus in the coming days is to work closely with the community to discover the most time-honored Tuck traditions and how we can refresh them to make this spring the most relevant, engaging, and exciting experience as we wrap up this academic year.
2020 was challenging in more ways than we can count. But even as we continue navigating this pandemic, we can’t help but feel hope as we embark on 2021. For this hope, we must thank our classmates, alumni, staff, faculty, administrators, and everyone else in our Tuck community. Serving and working with you is one of the great honors of our lives and you consistently impress us with your abilities to adapt, create, and persevere. You’ve done so much already and we know you’ll continue to play your role in making this world all the better.
To those reading, we hope you channel the Tuck spirit of connecting with your community, striving to innovate in the face of disruption, and doing everything you can to leave your positive impact on the world. Cheers to 2021!
—Hannah & Teo
Teo Gonzalez is a Consortium Fellow, a Tuck Admissions Associate, a Venture Capital Fellow through the Center for Private Equity & Venture Capital, and President of the Student Board. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he majored in Health Policy and Management. Prior to Tuck, he was a management consultant at Accenture. Teo enjoys playing soccer, learning about venture capital and emerging markets, and assisting with Tuck’s recruitment/yield efforts.
Hannah Sacchini T’22 graduated from College of the Holy Cross with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Before coming to Tuck, she was a marketplace operations manager at Catalant Technologies in Boston.