Coronavirus Updates

Co-chairs and Evening MBA students Christine Koval, Associate Director of Business Development at Chewy, and Tina Djenge, Co-Founder of Neural Trend, update us on their new mission and future plans.

You transitioned into your GWB co-chair positions as the pandemic unfolded. What were your priorities at that time?

Christine: We had to come together quickly and decide how to adapt. One of the first things we did as a leadership team was think about what the students needed right now. It was evident that building connections was important. We focused our initial events on giving people a platform that was more casual to recreate that feeling of running into someone in the hallway. We were cognizant of Zoom fatigue, and felt that building community was a great thing for us to focus on in the interim.  

Tina: The MBA program is all about connections and networking and students told us they were missing that piece. We’re working towards establishing a mentorship program for the incoming students, to have an easier time navigating through Booth during their first few quarters remote.

Graduate Women in Business at a Yoga Event
GWB Yoga event

What are some of the recent ways your members have connected virtually?


Tina: We put together a virtual speed networking event with breakout rooms on Zoom. We wanted students to be exposed to as many other students in the GWB community. Students introduced themselves and talked about how far they were into the program and what their career aspirations were. Afterwards we shared a list of students with everyone so that women with similar aspirations could get in touch with each other and work on building out their career advancement plans, and those with connections to particular areas could be another helpful resource to each other. We’re planning to run another one because the feedback was so strong.

Christine: Actually, having a Zoom setup can bring even more people together because now Weekend students can participate in our events throughout the week, so it's not geographically limiting. We have regular coffee chats where students can drop in, and we just had a yoga event that one of our co-chairs led. We are also trying to build relationships with the Full-Time Program’s Chicago Women in Business (CWiB), as well as other business schools in the area—for example, we recently had Kellogg participate. We looked at the virtual format as an opportunity to expand our community and learn from others in our network.

Booth alumna and founder of My Art Cache, Jilian Fenton
Recent GWB event featured Booth alumna Jilian Fenton, Founder of My Art Cache

Tell us about the new initiatives you have planned for the year.


Christine: We redefined our mission, which is to create an inclusive community, fostering growth through mentorship and professional development across Booth cohorts. So the two areas where we're really choosing to focus on this year are inclusivity and allyship. We’ve been hearing that our members want to be more involved in programming specific to GWB, so we are looking to offer opportunities that enable our group of women to lead and to influence.   


We have two upcoming opportunities to get involved: the first is an entrepreneurial bootcamp that has been run by Booth students in the past. We plan to continue the legacy. GWB will help women founders in the Chicago area build out their skill set through a series of workshops that address topics like how you approach an investor or how you build your business plan. Not everyone has access to the resources we have, so this is a way for us as Booth women leaders to pay-it-forward. We also have an opportunity with a local nonprofit, where we hope to extend our reach to younger girls in grade school and high school to help them develop their confidence through mentorship and other programming we’ll help develop. 


Tina: Allyship is one of the new initiatives we’re introducing this year. We’re working with the Forte Foundation and Chicago Women in Business from the Full-Time Program to create an allyship committee to drive engagement. There’s an organization in Chicago called Network of Executive Women that is putting together programming for their corporate partners and they offered to pilot within Booth, which is exciting. We are looking forward to leveraging the learnings from already existing allyship programs.


Christine: We want to think about how we can get the entire Booth community to stand behind Graduate Women in Business and promote women to engage in experiences that will empower them to be stronger and more influential leaders.

What GWB event are you most looking forward to in the coming year?


International Women’s Day is our keynote event. It’s a great platform to both network and explore the perspectives of notable female thought leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs. The event enables us to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. We also take advantage of this day as a call to action to accelerate creating a more inclusive community #eachforequal. Now in its second year, we’re looking forward to being creative both with our content and reach—be on the lookout for more information on this event in the coming months!