With three priorities – the community’s health and safety, keeping students on track for graduation, and teaching, researching and serving at the highest levels – and five core values, the School is navigating the new world of COVID-19. Amid the changes and uncertainty, the silver linings – big and small – emerge.
Paying it forward
As learning and working went online because of COVID-19, the UNC Kenan-Flagler community had special concerns about eight members, in particular.
Café McColl workers aren’t UNC employees and whose paid leave quickly ran out. To help them meet their basic needs, the School established a fund and raised over $30,000 from over 360 contributors.
Every gift sent a message to the Café McColl staff: They are part of the community, valued and missed.
Dave Stevens, senior associate dean of business and operations, and Allison Schlobohm and Elizabeth Dickinson, professors of management and corporate communication, spearheaded the effort.
They sent an email message about the fund to faculty and staff, but when students heard about it, they contributed, too. Word spread and gifts came in from alumni, former employees and students’ parents.
“This is an amazing testimony to a culture of caring at the School for valued members of our community during their time of need,” says Stevens.
Messages of thanks and support for the Café McColl staff included concern, affection and inside jokes, including:
“As a community we can come together to help others in need. And if there’s one thing I learned during my time at UNC Kenan-Flagler, it’s that.”
“We are thinking of all of our fabulous workers in Café McColl – thanks for all that you do. Hang in there, stay safe and stay healthy.”
“Stay safe, healthy, and joyful during these hard times. To all of the Café McColl workers who made my time at Kenan-Flagler feel like home.
“I love all the notes from our Kenan-Flagler community members,” says Schlobohm. “Reading them gives me hope and joy – two emotions I can’t get enough of these days!”
“At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, our Café McColl workers were the first group some of us thought of,” says Dickinson. “When we started this, I thought we might get a few thousand dollars, at most. I am utterly floored by the response. Seeing our community come together in this way – and so quickly – to help those in the most need has been truly remarkable. I am honored to be a member of this great community.”
“Food is a great way to bring people together,” says Alex Brandwein (MBA ’20). Creating a sense of community is a big part of why he founded his bagel company. “I want to put smiles on people’s faces and connect with people every day.”
He found a way to do just that even amid the pandemic.
He surprised workers at UNC Hospitals – for the first time on March 26 – by dropping off bagels and cream cheese.
“Hospital workers are true heroes in this fight against COVID-19,” says Brandwein. “It just felt like the right thing to do and I feel really lucky to be able to do something that can make even the smallest difference in their day, especially now with all that they are dealing with.”
After classmate Becca Jordan (MBA ’21) heard about his food missions, she posted a notice in the first-year MBA WhatsApp group and sent an email to a few faculty and staff to encourage donations via Venmo to place a bulk order of bagels for UNC Health.
“Together in 72 hours, we raised enough money for Brandwein’s Bagels to make five bagel deliveries to the UNC Hospitals’ Emergency Department,” says Jordan. “We all are looking for ways to help, and this was a win in multiple ways: supporting local healthcare workers, small business and a classmate and friend.”
The bagel deliveries continue, including a recent delivery of 100+ bagels to the ER and another 50 or so bagels to the Ambulatory Care Center, where 40 hospital workers set up tents to test for COVID-19.
“We went in extra early that morning so that we could catch the transition of the over-night shift workers leaving and day-shift workers coming in,” says Brandwein. “It’s so amazing to see their faces light up at the sound of ‘We have bagels for you!’”
100 percent online
Moving classes and events online had its challenges – and wins. Here are a few.
Eight PhD students successfully defended their dissertations.
is keeping the community strong during these uncertain times. It hosted a virtual stitch-along to make masks for UNC Health, sent care packages to women admitted to the full-time MBA Program, and will host virtual yoga, high-intensity interval training and book club sessions. (Follow their Instagram @CWIB_MBA_KenanFlagler.)