How We Grew During a Downturn

When necessity becomes the mother of invention.

This fall, Leeds welcomed its largest graduate class in history. A total of 445 students enrolled in Leeds’ MBA and MS programs—a 19% increase over last year’s class.

Looking back to the beginning of this year, a milestone this signifi cant seemed unlikely. Before the pandemic, graduate programs across the country were facing a decline in applications. Though concerning, it was also typical of how graduate programs tend to run counter-cyclical to the economy, says Kristi Ryujin, associate dean of Graduate Programs.

“When times are good, people fi nd ample opportunities in the market. When the economy is weak, people see an opportunity to invest in their future by going back to school,” she explains. But when COVID-19 hit last March and the economy took a nosedive, the situation was anything but typical.

Things changed overnight

At CU Boulder, in-person classes were canceled; students attended via Zoom instead. For those about to graduate, their post-graduation plans disintegrated as job opportunities shriveled up.

The graduate programs team, along with the rest of Leeds, reacted quickly. First, they transformed class delivery to a remote format. Since the program had spent the past year piloting hybrid MBA classes, they were prepared to deliver an online model.

“Our mixed-delivery courses largely set us up for success; I’m not sure we would have been capable of flipping over to completely remote without a few semesters under our belt,” says Ryujin.

A flood of interest

Next, they needed to revamp their recruitment and admissions process. Graduating students at Leeds and across campus were scrambling to make alternate plans; some were considering staying in school to get an MBA or MS in business.

Faced with a sudden deluge of interest, the admissions team had to find new ways to engage with prospects. Traditional in-person interviews, information sessions and admissions events were off the table.

“COVID really changed the way we do admissions,” says Ryujin. “While this has been one of the most trying times, it’s also been an opportunity to adapt and innovate.”

Admissions will never look the same Graduate programs staff retooled their in-person information sessions into engaging webinars that went further than just providing admissions information; they gave prospective students a feel for the program experience, with candid insights from faculty, staff, current students and alumni.

Where attendance at in-person information sessions had typically been 15-20 people, attendance on Zoom shot up to 60. “We should have been doing online sessions all along,” refl ects Ryujin.

The popular Leeds MBA Women’s Weekend event for prospective and admitted women was transformed into an inspiring online experience, where attendees saw for themselves how vital women’s empowerment is at Leeds.

In a bold move, Leeds waived the GMAT and GRE for applicants after testing centers shut down due to the pandemic. This decision facilitated a more holistic assessment of candidates and made it easier for them to apply during a tumultuous time. Leeds also extended application deadlines for those who needed more time to consider their options.

The new, record-breaking class of graduate students will continue to see the effects of a global health crisis on their educational experience, as new innovations shape the future of graduate programs.

“While this has been one of the most trying times, it’s also been an opportunity to adapt and innovate.”

—Kristi Ryujin, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs


in graduate students

Gold Line

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in MS students

Gold Line

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in diverse students

Gold Line

Graduate Degrees at Leeds
Full-time MBA
Evening MBA
MS of Finance
MS of Supply Chain Management
MS of Business Analytics
MS of Real Estate
MS of Accounting
MS of Taxation
MBA/MS of the Environment
MBA/MS of Computer Science

Coming in 2021:
Hybrid MBA (in-person/online)



Changing the Face of Business

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Kristi Ryujin, associate dean of Graduate Programs, is passionate about changing the landscape for those who are underrepresented in business. Earlier this year she was recognized by the YWCA of Boulder County with the Community Impact Maker Award for her advancement of women and people of color in Boulder County.

In both her current role and as former assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, Ryujin has spearheaded signifi cant initiatives to promote diversity:

The Phillips 66 Business and Engineering Diversity Case Competition brings together diverse teams of business and engineering students.

The Leeds MBA Women’s Weekend and New Face of Business events welcome students to the Leeds community.

The Diversity & Business Ethics Case Competition challenges diverse teams with ethical dilemmas.

Outreach to diverse high schoolers builds confidence and skills for business careers.

The End the Gap initiative advances the number of women attending business school and leading businesses.

As the number of diverse students enrolled in Leeds’ graduate programs continues to rise, Ryujin’s work continues to impact the future of business.



“The future workforce is a diverse workforce.”

—Kristi Ryujin

Published: Oct. 15, 2020