An incredible array of virtual events inspired worldwide collaboration and engagement for the Booth community amid the global pandemic.

When Chicago Booth hosted in-person Economic Outlook events in Chicago and Hong Kong in January 2020, little did anyone anticipate the total upheaval of people’s daily lives the next few months would bring around the globe. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, greatly increasing the health risks of in-person interactions, Booth—and the rest of the world—had to pivot quickly to virtual connections in nearly all aspects of life. 

Booth faculty, staff, alumni, and students discovered ways to make virtual engagement work to share thought leadership, stay connected, and support each other in unprecedented times. Their efforts included a wide range of events from the Rustandy Center’s On Board conference to the Kilts Center’s Marketing Summit.

Since March 2020, Booth has hosted more than 275 virtual events, including Worldwide Booth Night, the Distinguished Speaker Series, academic webinars, startup pitch events, networking sessions—even wine tastings. Two virtual Reconnect celebrations gathered more than 2,000 attendees from 48 countries—while 1,400 people tuned in for Management Conference 2021, which featured a keynote with Cliff Asness, MBA ’91, PhD ’94; David Booth, ’71; and Eugene F. Fama, MBA ’63, PhD ’64, as well as six alumni and faculty panels.

For the 15 school-wide virtual events held since May 2020, more than 30,000 people registered, and Booth alumni made up roughly 40 percent of those registrants. Over 100 alumni volunteers helped plan these events and invited nearly 200 different speakers to share their knowledge with the Booth community. Read on and discover how Booth stayed connected in a virtual year.

Hands holding chat bubbles

Reflecting on Diversity and Inclusion through Virtual Dialogues

Booth’s Office of Advancement launched the D&I Dialogues series in 2020. Bringing together speakers from unique backgrounds, the series explores a wide range of diversity and inclusion–related topics such as social justice and equity, inclusive leadership, organizational strategies for overcoming bias, and more. Chicago Booth Women’s Network and the Chicago Booth Black Alumni Association, established alumni affinity networks who connect, support, and advance their communities, have helped promote events.

Past speakers include Booth’s Jane L. Risen, professor of behavioral science and a John E. Jeuck Faculty Fellow, and Carolyn Ou, director of leadership initiatives at the Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership. The series has also welcomed outside experts such as activist and author Nova Reid. 

The most recent event in the series, From Alan Turing to Today: How Diversity and Inclusion Can Drive Innovation in Technology, took place in June 2021 and was moderated by Randall S. Kroszner, deputy dean for Executive Programs and the Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics. The event was inspired by the Bank of England’s new £50 note featuring the likeness of Turing, a mathematician who helped crack German encryptions during World War II, saving untold lives. Turing was convicted in the 1950s of homosexuality, a criminal offense in Britain at the time. He lost security clearances he needed to continue his groundbreaking work in cryptology and technology and was ordered to undergo chemical castration. He died at age 41 of an apparent suicide. 

The London-based panelists—Erika Brodnock, cofounder of Extend Ventures, a not-for-profit using big data and machine learning to diversify access to venture capital, and Juergen Maier, chair of Digital Catapult, a nonprofit driving the early adoption of A.I.—explored the legacy of Turing in terms of A.I., computers, and diversity, and discussed how building inclusive technology—and technology teams—can benefit business and society.

The D&I Dialogues series will continue in the coming year and beyond, with a variety of events including interactive workshops, alumni-led peer discussions, and presentations of academic research, all of which aim to highlight the importance of diversity in the increasingly global workplace.

Get really honest about your behaviors and their impacts, and then seek feedback from others, because it’s critical to understand yourself through other people’s eyes as well. What will be more critical is to build some experiments based on this data, try something new, observe and reflect on the results, and then experiment again.

— Carolyn Ou
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Virtual Explorations of Business and the Human

A collaboration between Chicago Booth and the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, A Meeting of the Minds: Business and the Human is an event series bringing together faculty to explore how commonalities and differences in these separate spheres can lead us to a richer grasp of the economic human being.

In October 2020, UChicago professors Michael Greenstone and Dipesh Chakrabarty came together for an engaging, virtual discussion called Economy and Ecology. They touched on the role of corporations and governments in climate change, the trade-offs of policy decisions, and the connection between ecological issues and human health and longevity. In February 2021, in an event titled Economics East and West, Booth professor Austan D. Goolsbee and UChicago professor Dali Yang explored how recent political and economic events have affected the United States and China.

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200-300

People, on average, who attended each Meeting of the Minds event held on campus before the pandemic began.

200-300
Chicago Booth Harper Center

3,000

People, registered for the most recent virtual event, Economics East and West, which was held globally—with representation from the United States, Hong Kong, China, Japan, and Canada.

3,000
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A Global Perspective on Corporate Social Responsibility

On September 13, 1970, the late Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate and economics professor at the University of Chicago, published a seminal op-ed in the New York Times. “There is one social responsibility of business,” Friedman wrote, “to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits [as long as it] engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

Fifty years later, in September 2020, Booth convened practitioners, professors, and policymakers for its Corporate Social Responsibility Revisited conference, a first-of-its-kind virtual effort that reached thousands across the globe. Alumni including Mary Bush, ’71; Swee Chen Goh, ’03 (AXP-2); Caroline Grossman, ’03, adjunct assistant professor of strategy and executive director of the Rustandy Center; and Calvin Chu Yee Ming, ’09 (AXP-8), offered their perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on sustainability, CSR in emerging markets, shareholder value, and more.

The seven sessions hosted by Booth’s three campuses in Chicago, London, and Hong Kong explored areas of agreement and dissent at a time when COVID-19 and climate change are highlighting the importance and complexities of collective action. CSR’s diversified subject matter allowed the school to reach a higher percentage of registrants from governments, NGOs, and the education sector than other enterprise events.

Chicago Booth Harper Center

3000

People registered for Booth’s first global virtual conference, with live programming in Hong Kong, London, and the United States

3000

I think the capitalist system as defined by Friedman is an extraordinary engine for innovation, growth, and job creation, but we all have a responsibility on our own to address the pain points created by it.

— Ahmed Saeed, MBA ’96, JD ’96
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A Dynamic Array of Distinguished Speakers

Throughout the months of lockdown, Booth’s Distinguished Speaker Series, hosted by Alumni Relations, provided a dynamic forum for prominent alumni and other notable speakers to discuss their careers with dean and the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting Madhav Rajan. At the series’ first virtual event in May 2020, Kurt DelBene, ’90, executive vice president, corporate strategy and core services engineering and operations at Microsoft, discussed the operational challenges of the pandemic and how Microsoft transitioned a team of 150,000 to begin working remotely.

Over the next 12 months, nearly 6,000 people attended the series’ 19 events featuring an array of notable speakers, including Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler, the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, and alumni such as Julia Goldin, ’93; Michael Armstrong, ’02; JP Gan, ’99; David MacLennan, ’88; Ann Mukherjee, AB ’87, MBA ’94; Byron Trott, AB ’81, MBA ’82; and Tom Ricketts, AB ’88, MBA ’93.

One of the key things you want to have as a leader is proximity to people, because people need to feel you, sense you, understand where you’re coming from, understand why you’re setting the direction you are setting.

— Julia Goldin
People virtually connected around a globe

Booth Women Connect Goes Virtual

In spring 2021, the first virtual Booth Women Connect event tackled the critical topic of COVID-19’s impact on women in the workplace. Alaina Anderson, ’06, partner and portfolio manager at the Chicago-based financial services firm William Blair & Company; Jennifer Scanlon, ’92, the president and CEO of Northbrook, Illinois-based safety certification company UL; and Julia Taxin, ’12, a partner at venture capital firm Grotech Ventures in Arlington, Virginia, discussed the challenges and triumphs they experienced as the global pandemic upended the nature of work around the world.

In June 2021—in partnership with Chicago Booth Review’s video series The Big Question—the Booth Women Connect event, What Are the Biggest Barriers to Behavior Change? brought together Ayelet Fishbach, the Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing and an IBM Corporation Faculty Scholar at Booth, and Katy Milkman, James G. Dinan Professor at Wharton. The two experts on the subjects of motivation and change discussed why we find it so difficult to achieve our goals, and provided insights into how to change your mindset. 

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2,590

BWC registrations, bringing audiences from the consulting, financial services, and education/government/nonprofit industries

2,590
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22

Percent of prospective students in the audience—the highest percentage across all virtual events. Attendees came from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, and Mexico.

22

2020 was a unique year to lean into your voice. Don’t underestimate the need for your voice at your company.

— Alaina Anderson

Taking Economic Outlook Online in 2020 and 2021

Even as Booth faculty, students, and staff embarked on the unexpected challenge of shifting to virtual learning for the Spring Quarter, they began adapting one of the school’s most venerable traditions to a virtual format. 

In late April and May 2020, Booth successfully brought together nearly 10,000 attendees across three continents for three virtual Economic Outlook events. The three events focused on North America; Asia; and the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) regions, and faculty members Austan D. Goolsbee, Veronica Guerreri, Chang-Tai Hsieh, Randall S. Kroszner, Brent Neiman, and Raghuram G. Rajan shared their insights into the dramatic impact of the escalating pandemic on the global economy. 

Booth hosted a second series of virtual Economic Outlook events in January 2021. These conversations explored the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies around the world as well as Brexit, trade with China, the incoming Biden administration, and other timely economic issues.

Chicago Booth Harper Center

6,000

Number of people who attended the first-ever virtual Economic Outlook on April 30, 2020, which was focused on North America

6,000
Chicago Booth Harper Center

500

Number of questions posed to the panelists by the attendees of the event

500
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Worldwide Booth Night on the Web

In 2020, Booth pivoted Worldwide Booth Night from in-person events in roughly 100 cities to 100 percent virtual engagement. 

Alumni Relations conducted 14 sessions across global time zones, from Australia to the West Coast of the United States. Alumni champions contributed videos and shared club activities for fellow Boothies in their region.

Dean Madhav Rajan commended Booth alumni around the globe for their enthusiasm and commitment during an unprecedented time, and deputy dean Randall S.Kroszner joined alumni for four sessions in the Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions.

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19

Percent of registered alumni who joined more than one time zone

19
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65

Countries represented as alumni celebrated around the world

65
Chicago Booth Harper Center

46

Percent of registrants who attended Worldwide Booth Night for the first time

46

Attend Upcoming Virtual Events with Booth

Future of Capitalism: The Climate Challenge
October 27 – Virtual

Distinguished Speaker Series with Dan Caruso, ’90
November 8 – Virtual 

Meeting of the Minds: Storytelling
November 16 – Virtual

Distinguished Speaker Series with Jose Antonio Alvarez, ’96 (EXP-1)
November 18 – Virtual 

Economic Outlook: Chicago
January 12 - Hybrid

Booth Women Connect Conference
March 25 – Hybrid

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