People of SU

Going the Distance

Written by Allison Nitch

June 23, 2020

Illustration graphic depicting world map and technological devices

When Seattle University announced its plan to transition to online learning in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Rubiná Mahsud, PhD, of Albers School of Business and Economics had to quickly redesign her courses while stuck in a time zone 12 hours ahead of Seattle.

As Associate Professor of Management and the program director of Albers’ Global Business program for 12 years, Rubiná Mahsud’s situation began in mid-March during a personal trip to Islamabad, Pakistan. Originally scheduled to return to Seattle on March 23, she would ostensibly have plenty of time to prepare for the spring quarter. However, due to COVID-19, Pakistan announced the closure of its airspace two days prior to her departure and Mahsud remains abroad until further notice.  

With no access to hard copy course materials, she had to be nimble in figuring out how previous in-person courses and partnerships between some of Seattle’s top businesses, including Amazon, Costco, PACCAR and VOGLIO Digital Marketing, and her students would be maintained. This meant setting up a veritable virtual classroom via Zoom, reaching students and business partners in Seattle and beyond.


“I had some sleepless nights because roughly 95 percent of students in these classes were graduating at the end of the spring quarter,” says Mahsud. “I did not want them to feel stressed, disappointed or as though their achievements have been dampened during the final mile of their last quarter.”

The first priority, she says, was to “work with students to help them realize that together, we can quickly approach the environmental changes with skillful agility and turn it around to their advantage.”

Drawing from her background in strategy and leadership, Mahsud “explained to students that this change did not come with known solutions, so we needed to draw from emergent strategies with a flexible and adaptive leadership approach by adjusting our responses as time goes on.”

In her undergraduate senior capstone class, Global Business Strategy, students learn tools and frameworks of strategic management process, including strategy formation, implementation, evaluation and their application on case studies.

For her graduate-level course, Boardroom Analytics, Mahsud partnered with corporate analytics divisions. Master of Business Analytics (MSBA) students “work with executives providing mathematical and predictive solutions for organizational issues—from where to spend marketing dollars with maximum returns to stacking fulfillment centers most efficiently and effectively,” she says.

Professional Partnerships

Together, Mahsud and local executives determined certain classes would be asynchronous with recorded material, while the rest would stream live with students working on the data and presenting analytical and predictive models to company’s executives.

“Not only did we learn about how to work with upper management, we also learned a lot about ways to navigate the workforce in the current pandemic and how to adapt and thrive in difficult situations,” says Anh Nguyen, ’20 MSBA.

Griffin Deebach, ’16 MBA, VOGLIO director of analytics, has been instructing a session in Mahsud’s Boardroom Analytics course for the past five years. “I look forward to this every year and build the lesson plan and hands-on activity with her guidance,” he says. “Out of 25 VOGLIO employees, we have three SU alum who have all excelled. I’m happy to pass on what knowledge and advice I can during these challenging times.”

Post-Pandemic Life

Considering what the post-pandemic global economy might look like, Mahsud says, “We’ll see more economic differences within and between countries, making societies divisive and fractured. Statistics show the pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color and the lower economic strata."

“Most of the world’s countries are facing two pandemics: COVID-19 and poverty that is now further exacerbated, causing social unrest. … Our younger generation sees the world and its leadership failing. It has a choice … which is the opportunity of making it a happier place by pivoting their thought processes toward a global collaborative advantage that limits the competitive advantage of a few.”