In a Quick Pivot, Stanford LEAD’s Annual Event Moved from On-Campus to Online

Though concerns over COVID-19 forced the cancellation Me2We on-campus, participants brought the same enthusiasm and excitement, virtually.

March 25, 2020

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Close up shot of a computer screen, in which Me2We participants are chatting in a virtual LEAD event. Credit: Tricia Seibold

More than 200 LEAD participants from more than 40 countries attended a virtual “Mini Me2We 2020.” | Tricia Seibold

Each year, hundreds of business professionals enrolled in Stanford LEAD — Stanford GSB’s online program for executives — gather on campus for Me2We, a three-day, activity-filled event for cohort members to meet in person and celebrate their accomplishment.

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Stanford GSB Senior Associate Dean and Me2We host Sarah A. Soule celebrates with the most recent LEAD cohort. | Tricia Seibold

But when concerns over COVID-19 forced the cancellation of this year’s event just 10 days before members were to arrive, LEAD faculty, staff, and participants did a quick pivot. Their virtual solution — “Mini Me2We 2020” — drew 200 online participants from more than 40 countries, ranging from Luxembourg and Brazil, to Ghana, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and the U.S. Tuned in from their homes, LEAD participants listened to a keynote presentation by The General Atlantic professor Jennifer Aaker, honored award recipients, and toasted each other from around the globe.

The one-year LEAD program is aimed at high-potential professionals who aim to become more effective change-makers and leaders, but seek a flexible program to learn on the job. LEAD participants take a range of elective courses with Stanford GSB faculty and collaborate on team-based projects.

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I was in awe of how overwhelmingly present that feeling of community was in the virtual space.
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Marineh Lalikian

Me2We was created in 2016 so that far-flung cohort members could meet the colleagues they’d been working with online for the past year. “Our participants love experiencing how the strong connections they’ve developed with one another online translate in-person,” says LEAD Director Marineh Lalikian. “Participants often refer to the LEAD program as a transformative experience, so they appreciate the opportunity to step foot on the Stanford campus and meet the faculty whose courses have had such an impact on their lives.”

While the cancellation of this year’s on-site Me2We meant participants couldn’t enjoy the campus and Silicon Valley-based company tours, the virtual gathering retained a celebratory tone. “While this wasn’t the Me2We everyone was expecting, I was in awe of how overwhelmingly present that feeling of community was in the virtual space,” Lalikian says. “It was shaped by the energy, enthusiasm, and human connections behind the many faces we saw on our screens.”

— Beth Jensen

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