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A look back at a year like no other

IESE's Annual Report reflects on a period of transformative challenge

The rapidly transformed means of delivering programs ensured the health crisis wouldn’t alter the essence of IESE or its commitment to students. Photo: Edu Ferrer

December 14, 2020

As a year like no other draws to a close, the IESE community can take comfort and pride in the way the school bound together to face the historic challenges of the pandemic, and how it adapted to a world changed seemingly overnight.

For while the 2019-2020 academic year was defined by the pandemic, IESE’s shared knowledge and resources and, of course, the rapidly transformed means of delivering programs ensured the health crisis wouldn’t alter the essence of IESE or its commitment to students, alumni, faculty and staff.

The IESE Annual Report 2019-2020 reflects on many of IESE’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an introductory letter, Dean Franz Heukamp writes that “while we come to terms with the health-related consequences of the virus…the broader economic and social consequences are just beginning to be felt. Against this backdrop, IESE’s mission of working for the common good…has never been more relevant.”

A Time for Reflection

How will the IESE community look back on this extraordinary time?

The annual report’s reflections on the course begin with the urgent move to online learning during the spring lockdown. IESE was fortunate to have made recent investments in digital technology that gave it the infrastructure to swiftly change teaching methods for a world temporarily at home.

“Nobody really believed this would ever happen,” said Professor Sandra Sieber (Information Systems Department), a member of the Covid Academic Committee. But collective shock and widespread grief had to compete with the need for action and finding solutions. IESE did this by drawing on existing and new digital learning resources as well as training sessions for students and professors.

The agile methods of the Limitless Learning model will surely be one of the defining legacies of this challenging year, and should help IESE to keep innovating long after the pandemic subsides and hybrid learning persists as a desirable model for students around the world.

Another tech-enabled response to the pandemic was the Alumni Learning Program’s series of live online learning sessions focused on a comprehensive array of topics related to the pandemic. The hunger for shared knowledge and resources quickly became clear. Between March and June, an audience of over 520,000 people watched the 43 open-access sessions featuring insights from our professors and, eventually, esteemed leaders from various business sectors.

Of course, IESE also maintained its commitment to traditional research, including the second report in the Future of Banking series and a new Smart Cities edition focused on the need for municipal resilience.

These are just a few highlights of this strange and difficult year. Others include the €5.5 million COVID-19 scholarship fund to help students affected by the crisis finance their studies and the Project Safeguard online program to deliver practical tools to executives during the crisis.

Safety and Service 

But what connects IESE’s many efforts over the past year is the desire to nurture and protect the people who form our community, and to contribute to society. This was perhaps most evident in the Ready. Safe. Go initiative and the thorough safety measures that greeted students and staff as they returned to campus. It was also illustrated by the scores of alumni who took positive action through pandemic relief efforts.

As Dean Heukamp writes in the report, the IESE community, like so much of the world, has faced difficult times and tough decisions this past year. But through its outstanding efforts, the school will help businesses, and its own community, emerge “wiser, stronger and ready for whatever comes next.”