11 May 2021

Returning to Campus: Aldo Peña Moses


by Shona Simkin

As associate director in Student Academic Services in the MBA Program, Aldo Peña Moses provides academic support and guidance to MBA students, acts as a mental health counselor for students, and is the disability coordinator for anyone in HBS programs—Doctoral, MBA, and Executive Education—who needs medical assistance or disability accommodation. Aldo was working from home until January, when he started coming into the office on Mondays. We asked Aldo what his return to campus has been like, and how his role has been affected by the pandemic.

Your role touches so many aspects of student life here at HBS. How has that shifted since the pandemic?
There has been increase in the medical management role. This past year I’ve worked with the MBA students in quarantine—those who have COVID and those who don't but are in quarantine as a close contact. I assist them both from a logistical standpoint in terms of rules to follow and protocols, and also from a more general “How are you doing?” standpoint both mentally and academically. The level of distress that students are reporting has gone up, making the role of providing support more complex. I’ve used my background as a counselor to provide mental health support for students about heightened feelings of anxiety, low mood, grief and loss, a lot of the issues that have come up this past year.

What is your day like when you’re on campus?
On Mondays, I split my time between test kit distribution in Chao and student meetings (via Zoom) in my office in Spangler.

How do you like being back once a week?
It's been wonderful to see people and interact with them. I like the people I work with, I like the people at HBS, and it's really nice to see them. It's nice to see people I've worked with for many years and to hear about how they're doing. I wouldn't set up a Zoom meeting to talk with someone I don’t work with very often to see how they are, but if we're both doing test distribution together, or happen to be in the office on the same day, it’s just so nice to bumping into them and hearing about their children, how they've been occupying their time during COVID, and about their family. It's an important part of any work culture—those interactions are part of the glue that helps work be a good experience. Those random unscripted conversations are good, and a lot of that is lost when you're virtual.

What were some of your concerns about coming back to campus?
I'm a single dad, so the number one thing I was worried about is safety. I knew that there were a lot of protocols were in place, but they're only as useful as the people who follow them, so I was a little bit concerned about how safe it would feel. If I get sick, then I put my kids in danger. Is it going to feel safe, and is it going to be safe?

Why did you decide to come back, and how has it been?
The on-campus learning experience is an important component of HBS, and I was excited to be back because I'm an extrovert and I much prefer to be around people. I was still worried, but saw that there were amazing protocols in place and that people were following them. I was happy to see that all the students—or at least the large majority—were following the rules and protocols of capacity limitations and the other thoughtful restrictions around campus. I’ve had to tell a few students to put their masks on, but by and large they’ve followed the rules.

What would you like the community to know about working and being on campus?
I think it’s nice to be back. I certainly missed seeing people and being here. I think people will enjoy many things they have not been able to experience since COVID. I think the safety protocols have been well thought out, and I do observe people following the rules. However, I think for many people, coming back is about more than simply being physically here in person. It’s also about trying to re-adjust to normal life while the pandemic is not yet over, and that is the challenge.

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