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Making a positive impact in challenging times

2020 has most certainly been a year with a ‘difference’, and throughout, our students, faculty, staff and partners have continued to impact the business world.

In January, our Winter Congregation, as always, was a wonderful celebration to mark the achievements of our impressive graduates at the Castle, the Cathedral and back at the Business School with special celebrations. This great celebration saw the release of IMPACT magazine – Issue 7, looking at entrepreneurship and innovation.

Our Durham MBA (Full-time) students were set an exciting challenge of developing a business idea to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The winning team then went on to win the University’s Hult Prize 2020, taking part in the 11th Hult Prize Regional Summit in the spring.

From March onward, several topics were explored, including panic buying, the impact of Covid-19 on SMEs, sport, pension scams, airlines, and how collaboration is key. The pandemic also brought about an immediate shift to many people working from home, which Dr Mariann Hardey explored in-depth and asked whether it could become the ‘new normal’. As Covid-19 progressed, the School looked at how we could support local businesses, whether lockdown was more efficient in some countries than others, and the impact of Covid-19 on economic productivity. A project involving colleagues across the University, alongside alumni, students and external connections transformed vacuums into ventilators, being included in the National Centre for Universities and Business’ (NCUB) report on collaboration in crisis.

Our students and alumni showcased their ability to adapt and innovate under pressure, whether that was the case of balancing work, family time and the Durham DBA, using what they’d learned in their MSc Finance degree to quickly change their family business’ strategy or making their undergraduate business placements work in a pandemic. Masters student Cosima told us about her positive experience virtually travelling to Switzerland and Germany for her international study experience, securing a job shortly afterwards using the experience acquired. As we headed into the summer, we also celebrated the achievements of our graduates, reminiscing about when we may get to experience the Castle and Cathedral in person once more.

As we entered the new academic year, we welcomed our new students both on campus and virtually across the world. Durham MBA (Full-time) student Apoorv Shrivastava told QS Top MBA how safe and supported he felt coming to Durham to study. Undergraduate students shared their positive placement experiences in the first ever virtual Placement Year Conference. Alumna Khdeija Sidi Boubacar was also named in the Poets and Quants Masters in Management Entrepreneurs of 2020 list.

Our next issue of IMPACT magazine (Issue 8) was released in October with the theme of Society, showcasing the many ways our School has a positive impact on the society and world we all share.

In this term, there were also opportunities for reflection and looking ahead to the future - the possibility of rationing being recommended in future pandemics, why social distancing is more difficult in lower-income areas and if daily Covid-19 testing in schools could keep them open and stabilise the economy. Professor Jo McBride also looked at how the mind-set towards what is seen as valuable work changed this year, but would that be reflected in how they are protected by the Government?

Professor Carol Adams explored how neurodiversity at work benefits everyone, and Dr Martyn Griffin and Professor Mark Learmonth invited us to explore which boss we may have based ourselves on from TV or film. Dr Jeremy Aroles advised how Covid-19 track and trace technologies must be regulated to ensure they don’t normalise a ‘big-brother-like’ society in future.

As Professor Susan Hart said in our latest IMPACT magazine: “We take our responsibility to influence the development of a better, fairer world very seriously and as the Covid-19 pandemic has progressed, we have focused even more of our collective attention and efforts towards this, looking for ways to make a positive impact in such globally challenging times. This positive impact took form in many ways in adapting and thriving in the ‘new normal.”

As we say goodbye to 2020, we look forward to 2021 as we continue to develop and enthuse leaders and entrepreneurs who create, share and use knowledge to deliver equitable and sustainable futures around the world.