Grad School During A Pandemic: How Students Navigate Online Learning

The past year has been nerve-wracking as our campus family has been embracing lion pride from afar. Despite the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to connect, collaborate, and generate ideas to fulfill our call to action in the ever-changing spaces around us. We sat down with two grad school students to discuss navigating school during a pandemic.

To maintain our close-knit community, we asked graduate students for advice on all things Emerson, grad life, and adjusting to city-living in the historic town of Boston. From making friends to learning the MBTA system; from managing a full course load; from landing internships to sharing our favorite hang-out spots, we’ve got you covered.


Courtney posing and smiling while holding a mug sitting at a table.

Name: Courtney Burness

Program of Study: ‘20 Writing for Film and Television MFA Alum

Location: Los Angeles, Californi

Currently living in sunny Los Angeles, Courtney gave us the inside scoop on her experience as a low residency alum of the Writing for Film and Television MFA program at Emerson.

It was really great getting to know my classmates in person so that I felt comfortable sharing all this material with them in sort of our first little intensive week.

 As a 100% online degree, all coursework is asynchronous with interwoven synchronous workshops to fit students’ schedules, which Courtney explained is helpful due to the current remote environment the world is living in with the coronavirus pandemic.

Courtney and her four coworkers speaking over a Zoom call
Pictured: Courtney and her coworkers on a Zoom call

Living in this new world where everything is online, learning how to run a mock writers room or give and take notes  virtually has been incredibly invaluable in the job I have now [in talent management].”

 Most aspects of her job have fully transitioned to Zoom calls and other virtual methods of clientele interaction, but because of Courtney’s Emerson experience, she handles her job with ease.

When we asked Courtney how she’ll be able to use these skills in the future, she smiled brightly.

“It will be [so] valuable in my next job in a writers room as a writer’s assistant or show writer’s assistant.”

Learning how to do my job in a place that is much harder virtually makes it all the much easier when we do go back to being in person. Definitely the most valuable skill that I learned outside of obvious writing skills has been how to collaborate virtually.


Hanna smiling while looking into the camera

Name: Hanna Shemke

Program of Study: ’20 Publishing and Writing MA Alum

Location: Detroit, Michigan

As a recent Publishing & Writing graduate, Hanna completed the remaining Spring 2020 and entire Fall 2020 semester online from her childhood home in Michigan. Despite being completely remote, she raved about her experience in the Publishing & Writing Masters program.

“The one skill that I have learned that will certainly aid me and put me ahead of other competitors in the job field after graduation is absolutely our required copyediting course.

Hanna smiles and gives a thumbs-up to the camera while working on class projects in front of her computer.
Pictured: Hanna after submitting her Masters Thesis to the department of Graduate Studies

She went on to explain the core competencies of the class.

“You learn how to content edit, line edit, micro edit, you really get a comprehensive understanding of the Chicago Manual of Style, which is really beneficial when you are applying to certain internships.”

In November, Hanna landed an editorial internship with Harvard University’s Alumni Association, which she heavily attributes to her copyediting and CMS skillsets.

A cat sits in front of two computer monitors from Hanna's at-home work station.
Pictured: Hanna’s home office with her cat, Max

 “Harvard does a lot of internships with Emerson students, and a lot of their requirements… have to meet the needs of understanding the Chicago Manual of Style and pass Emerson’s copyediting course.”

We asked Hanna what she values about her Emerson experience as a Publishing & Writing graduate, she emphasized the importance of the liberty students can take when building their schedules, which impacted her significantly.

“You can really just design your own program as a student here, so I [also] really focus on a lot of marketing and brand building tactics, so I can fuse together my passion for content creation and the technical skills necessary to build a successful marketing campaign for book releases or any other form of promotion and product execution relative to the publishing industry.”

Overall, Hanna had an incredible experience at Emerson that she will take with her into the publishing industry.

This program has helped me hone my skills, and it makes me feel a lot more confident when I’m applying for publishing and marketing roles in the workforce. I just feel like an Emerson education is unlike any other academic institution that you could possibly think of because it’s so special. It’s uniquely designed so students can build on their passion with real life, industry-based skills that will give them an edge after graduation. Thanks, Emerson!


Have questions? Want to chat about starting your very own Emerson adventure? Make a virtual appointment with our Graduate Admission Student Ambassadors!

Follow Hanna Shemke:

Hanna Shemke is a ’20 Publishing & Writing MA alum and the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Emerson’s Graduate Admissions department. Currently, she is working from home in Michigan and working on her Young Adult urban-fantasy trilogy, the House of Shadows.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.