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At Virtual Cafés, Zicklin Grad Students Lead Collaborative Learning Sessions

April 20, 2021

With classes at the Zicklin School of Business online for more than a year now, many folks are suffering from Zoom fatigue. Zicklin’s Graduate Student Ambassadors are doing their part to combat this by leading collaborative learning sessions, known as Virtual Cafés, for fellow students.

Ambassadors have facilitated sessions on navigating the virtual learning environment, virtual networking, pandemic investing, and spring break. Each session is co-led by two ambassadors, with 23 sessions having taken place since they were first offered in spring 2020 at the suggestion of ambassador Maria Anna Karga (MS, ’21).

From left: Didia, Guliaeva, MacMahon

“It’s a really good platform for learning from your peers,” says Elizabeth MacMahon (MBA, ’22), who led a recent session on spring break, which discussed how students could take full advantage of their time off with internships, continuing education classes, and the like. For example, her cohost, Udit Bhandari (MS, ’22), mentioned a “really cool opportunity” at Goldman Sachs to join the investment bank’s talent network and take part in virtual learning sessions: “I never knew about that.”

“Graduate school isn’t all about going to classes and getting A’s,” MacMahon added. “Sometimes you get even more from your peers—a lot of them already have great jobs and access to top companies, or they’re really aspirational and offer tidbits that help you take charge of your journey through business school.”

Morris Didia (MBA, ’22), who led sessions on pandemic investing as well as other topics, says he uses the virtual cafés to get to know his fellow students better. “Not everyone wants to talk about school 24/7,” notes Didia, who also teaches undergraduate business courses at the Zicklin School. “I want to know what else my fellow students do—what makes them who they are.”

“It was so cool to hear personal anecdotes from our peers,” says Evgeniia Guliaeva (MS, ’21), who led a session on virtual networking. Students in her session shared relatable stories about exploring networking tools and overcoming the anxiety of reaching out to strangers on LinkedIn. “I really like the virtual cafés,” she adds. “People are more candid. They share their raw, unfiltered experiences and everyone brainstorms resources for them and offers connections—that’s what the virtual cafés are all about.”

And if students think they’re too burned out on Zoom classes to join a café, they might want to reconsider. “Part of what causes ‘Zoom fatigue’ is the lack of interactivity we often see in videoconferences,” notes Nahida Rahim, assistant director of graduate programs at the Zicklin School. “By contrast, these virtual cafés build community and create peer-to-peer learning moments, which are both effective ways to engage students and create more active learning.”

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