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Celine Fort: Carving a Pathway to a Master’s Through Graduate Foundations' HyFlex Coursework

Celine Fort came to the United States from Lima, Peru to complete her undergraduate education, landing after graduation in New York. For the past three years, she’s worked in the startup space, most recently with Rothy’s. With the onset of COVID-19 and working from home with her family, Fort found the perfect excuse to begin the process of going back to school. The only question: What master’s program to pursue?

“That’s when I found Graduate Foundations at Columbia,” Fort said. “The fact that you could do your curriculum based on your interests, I thought it was fascinating. I could take courses in marketing, strategic communication, business and entrepreneurship under one scope, which I hadn’t found before in a program. I wanted to see what I was most passionate about.”

Currently, Fort is enrolled in four courses, three of which are in Columbia’s HyFlex classrooms, which allow for socially distant in-person learning. Fort has had experience in those classes as both a student online and in-person, given that she had to self-quarantine for two weeks after arriving back in the United States after visiting family in Peru.

What has your experience been like in HyFlex courses?

It’s been great. I’ve been surprised by how online classes are taught at Columbia. Every professor is doing such a great job maintaining and ensuring the conversation is flowing. You don’t feel isolated or alone at home. 

But, there is also something nice about being able to see the eyes of the person you’re talking to while you’re both in the same room. I like getting to meet the professor and speak with them in person. My classes are pretty small and there are just a few students in class. It is a good mix, I think.

I value being surrounded by people, and meeting professors in-person is a luxury these days, so HyFlex is really helping now that everyone is isolated.


What have been your favorite courses so far?

One of my favorite classes is an industry insider class in the Strategic Communications program on Wednesday mornings. The flexibility to have Industry professionals join some zoom classes adds a lot of value to the in-depth discussions we have. I’d also say I’ve really enjoyed learning from Michael McGuire in my entrepreneurship course. He is very talented. I value being surrounded by people, and meeting professors in-person is a luxury these days, so HyFlex is really helping now that everyone is isolated.

Is this helping you hone what you want to pursue?

I think so. I feel a little more directed toward a couple of programs I’ve been seeing. Right now, I don’t know exactly what my future will look like, but it is helping me. It is interesting to hear so many points of view. In each class, you hear about 20 different experiences. It is enough to get your mind thinking about other opportunities.

What has your advising experience been like?

I had an advisor help me understand how to apply to some courses because I had to ask permission to register for many, as I wasn’t a current student in those specific master’s programs. In terms of choosing courses, reading every single syllabus really helped me narrow down what I wanted to study this term. 

At the beginning, I wanted to register for more than four classes. There were so many interesting ones! The Add/Drop period for Columbia allows a lot of versatility to see if you like the courses or not. Those two weeks at the beginning of the term helped me be happy with my course choices and enjoy them. 

What do you hope to do in the future?

I’m eager to go back to school after four years of working. There are so many things changing in the world and I’m eager to see how this will change industries, challenge companies and find ways I can help and be part of this sudden alteration to what we think is normal. I think eventually I’ll go home [to Peru]. There’s so much opportunity there, but I want to make sure I learn everything I can from the fast-developing/advanced industry here, so that I can take that experience back to Peru. 

Any advice for students who might be considering this program?

When you’re working, you’re in such a small world, your job is everything. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., you’re looking at the same screen with the same things. Studying gives you so many different perspectives, it makes you realize your company is not the only company out there. There’s so much to learn and so much you can bring back to your career. It never stops. I’m pretty happy

Learn more about the Graduate Foundations program at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies.