HEC Paris Executive MBAs get their back to school moment

When the Covid pandemic forced this group of new Executive MBAs to start their course online, it wasn't exactly the start they had envisioned. Six months later, their welcome to campus was an exciting moment in their EMBA journey.

Last week marked a special occasion – the first time that the HEC Paris EMBA 2021 One Day a Week 2021 Intake had been on campus together since joining the program six months earlier.

The cohort have endured a particularly unique EMBA experience, with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting the initial in-person program, like it did for so many educational institutions – and other organizations – around the world.

However, taking it in their stride like the poised and capable professionals that they are, they adapted to the situation, swapping what would have usually been a week of getting to know each other through class activities and social events, for online lectures and zoom apéros.

Adapting to Challenging Conditions

HEC Paris Executive MBA participant Meity Mandagie enjoying the EMBA Networking Cocktail event during her first day on campus.

The One Day a Week ‘21 cohort began the first six months of their EMBA journey in a virtual classroom, though they still found ways to connect and get to know each other during this challenging period.

But nothing was going to give that back to school feeling like arriving on campus for the first time. Especially when it involved a memorable welcome at the HEC Paris Chateau on a perfectly sunny September morning.

Executive MBA participant Meity Mandagie, Technology Commercialization Adviser at Nicholas Daniel Consulting, said finally being able to join her cohort in person was a special moment.

“We’ve really been looking forward to this day because we weren’t sure when we would get to meet or if it would go ahead, so I’m really, really happy. ” – Meity Mandagie, HEC Paris Executive MBA One Day A Week participant. 

“I was so excited this morning. I got up really early because I wanted to make sure I was on time to meet my classmates who I’ve known for six months on zoom,” said the Australian based in Paris. 

“It’s like going back to school, but it’s funny because normally when you’re going back to school either you haven’t met your friends or you already know them, but this is somewhere in between because you kind of know them already.” 

Coming Together to Collaborate

HEC Paris Executive MBA participant Maxime Ferrand was all smiles during his first day on campus. Photograph by Nathalie Oundjian.


Executive MBA participant Maxime Ferrand, Chief Of Staff at Enedis – Data & Digital Operations, was equally happy to have the opportunity to connect with his classmates in person after beginning this transformative journey together back in March.

“We all had this feeling that we’d known each other for a long time, but still had so much to discover at the same time. The Zoom courses let us understand “What” brought us together – obviously the HEC Paris EMBA – but now we get to discover the story of our “Why’s?”.

Maxime said that during the “collaborative and happy” week, he also felt a common sentiment between his peers around the values of leadership and how important this is during challenging times such as Covid for maintaining drive and motivation.

Maxime Ferrand (left) arriving on campus, meeting fellow EMBA participant Ridai Yakoubou.

“Maybe it’s a consequence of the Leadership courses we took, but together we were all linked, wanting to push each other further ahead,” said Maxime.

And as for his favorite moment during the week?

“Definitely the first morning when at last, we got to meet each other. Before we only knew our classmates through a webcam, but suddenly we got to discover the humor and common points among us,” replied Maxime.

“Even with the masks, these moments let us take a bit of a ‘pause’ from Covid in our minds.”

HEC Paris Executive MBA participant, Maxime Ferrand

A Flexible Learning Environment

HEC Paris Executive MBA students during class on their first day on campus, adhering to the school’s new Covid safety measures.

As our executive participants have returned to campus, the EMBA program has adapted to additionally allow for participants to join remotely, when unable to attend the campus during this exceptional period. Even in cases where students have been unable to be in Paris, the local participants have been getting together to discuss course content and experience the social benefits of the HEC EMBA community.

In order to allow the Executive MBA community to return to campus, a number of strict health and security measures have been put in place. HEC Paris has a work group that is monitoring the situation on a continual basis. They are surveilling new information and implementing guidance coming from the French Government to ensure a safe return to campus for all students and staff, as this is the school’s number one priority.

Of course, the school’s hope is for all students to be able to resume the in-person learning experience soon, but until then, we are happy to gradually welcome back our Executive MBAs to a safe learning environment for these moments which demonstrate the inspiring essence of the Executive MBA.

To learn more about the HEC Paris Executive MBA visit our website here.