College of Business > News & Events > “Portraits in Resilience” at the Driehaus College of Business, Part 4
By Nadia Alfadel Coloma /
May 25, 2021 /
Posted in: Students, Alumni, Faculty /
As we prepare to end the DePaul business college’s first-ever fully remote academic year, we continue to reflect on the challenges that have shaped us while looking forward to a return to campus in the fall. Here is the final installment in our “Portraits” series that we hope sheds light on the unique pandemic experiences our students, faculty and staff have faced, but more importantly, on the resilience, wisdom and connectedness that have united us as a community during the era of COVID-19.
In March 2020, I received an offer to join a co-op (internship) program that would start in June 2020. But due to the pandemic, the program ended up canceling. Fighting off my disappointment at this loss, I remained optimistic. I continued to apply for other internship opportunities. I was soon selected for another one in mid-May 2020, but unfortunately, that too became canceled. I became even more disappointed as I realized I could not control these external circumstances.
Fortunately, the pandemic has taught me to turn disadvantages into advantages. I leveraged my technical and interpersonal skills to create opportunities. I took advantage of the summer course offerings at Kellstadt and took a class in data science. I also joined a data science online certificate boot camp sponsored by Thinkful to gain more hands-on experience in solving problems involving real-world datasets. Lastly, I connected with several data scientists on LinkedIn to seek their advice on how to stand out as a unique job candidate during this hard time.
Many DePaul resources helped me along the way. My Kellstadt advisors, Erin Warns and Adrienne Corona, helped me with mock interviews, résumé preparation and academic advice. DePaul’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge network also connected me with alumni who are currently data scientists. And DePaul Handshake provided many great job opportunities that matched my profile and interests. All this help, combined with my own efforts, led to the data science position at Midtronics that I was hired into this spring, just in time for my graduation in June. To anyone who feels discouragement during this pandemic, I say, stay resilient and don’t lose hope. The feelings of discouragement are only temporary and the joy of success awaits you.
My biggest challenges of the past year have been staying motivated and managing my mental health. Being a full-time student in addition to running for the school board in the Village of Lincolnwood, bringing out the vote throughout the previous election cycle, being involved in the student advisory board at the college as well as leading a student organization (IGNITE DePaul) – I must admit this pandemic made me realize my grit and my purpose. I’m grateful to have all these opportunities but this past year I had to constantly evaluate myself to make sure I wouldn’t burn out. I took up journaling to help get me through it all and I learned that my mental health is definitely something to take seriously. I’m an extremely social person, so it was rough being separated from so many people in my life.
Through the challenges I learned my strength and the extent of my drive and passions. On days I felt low, I disciplined myself to continue working for what I believed in because this pandemic made me realize the value of the roles I’ve chosen to get involved in. And even though it was a tough time to be a student, my peers and the faculty from the college’s student advisory board played a big role in helping me navigate the year and get me through this era of e-learning.
I’ve always been a front-row student so I could pay attention and ask questions – but learning virtually has made this more complicated. Being able to pay attention, apply myself and create strong relationships over the computer has been my biggest challenge over the last year, but facing this challenge has created my most successful academic track record.
I’ve learned that when change is occurring, opportunity is everywhere. Not only are we capable of adapting, we are capable of excelling in any venture we set our mind to. While I lost the opportunity to be in the classroom full-time, I was granted the opportunity to work in my field and try out a job I had never considered before. The past year tested all of our limits, and we have proven our ability to grow, adapt and overcome any adversity we are faced.
I don’t think I would have made it through without my classmates. It’s harder to reach out to people via email/Zoom, but teamwork and a strong support system are critical to success in graduate school. My classmates and my graduate assistant advisor were always there to listen and advise me, whether it was for school, work or life. I encourage all graduate students to reach out to classmates when you join a new class because everyone at DePaul is willing to help and work together.
My biggest challenge was the lack of human interaction. I missed seeing family, friends, coworkers and students. Even though introversion-extraversion scales place me on the introverted side, I do get some of my energy from others, and not having that was especially difficult. Zoom helped for a few months, but it simply didn’t cut it.
On the other hand, the lack of in-person interaction allowed me to focus intensely on my research and professional pursuits. I was much more productive than I had been and, with nothing else to do other than work, I worked!
I learned so much about myself, particularly how important my family is in my life. I am not a native Chicagoan and, other than my husband and our dog, I do not have any family living here. My family is scattered throughout the country. It made me realize how vital they are in my life and how good we had been pre-pandemic about traveling to see one another. Not having the option to host family, or pick up and fly to my brother’s, parents’ or in-laws’ homes for a weekend affected me much more than I thought it would. It made me grateful to have their love, even from afar.
My colleagues and friends in Driehaus really made a difference in getting me through the past 12-plus months. I survived on funny and upbeat texts from friends who were going through the same perils of recording all lectures, moving exams online, feeling removed from the students, and other harrowing situations. Walks in the park, outdoor lunches and driveway hangouts with friends (who also happen to be faculty members) kept me sane and connected to DePaul.
part two and
part three of our “Portraits in Resilience” series.