Each year, BBA students experience the high-ropes challenge courses and unique Alpine Tower at The Kaplan Mitchell Conference Center in Clayton, Georgia as part of their orientation.

“It’s just a great place for us to help our incoming students transition into the BBA Program and to begin to build the skills and competencies that are the hallmark of our leadership programming,” Sr. Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Andrea Hershatter said.

However, this semester’s orientation was anything but routine, as students were able to witness a unique and monumental event: the solar eclipse.

Approximately 15 months ago, Hershatter and fellow event organizers realized that orientation would fall during the eclipse and Clayton, Georgia would be in the path of totality. The team moved quickly to lock in the date.

Additionally, the BBA Program was fortunate to secure physics faculty member and Director of Emory Planetarium Erin Bonning to come and speak to the students during the event.

Bonning outlined the ways in which humanity has observed and thought about this phenomenon since the time of Aristotle and how it helped to prove Einstein’s theory of relativity. She explained how orbits work and why solar eclipses where totality occurs over large land masses are so rare.

In preparation for the event, Hershatter and team preordered official NASA-approved eclipse glasses and printed NASA and Goizueta logo-themed bandanas.

“We were incredibly excited that this particular class, who will graduate in 2019 during Goizueta’s 100th anniversary, was our eclipse class,” Hershatter said. “It seems like a perfect cosmic alliance to me that the 100th-anniversary class would also experience the total eclipse of the sun during orientation. That was magical.”

What started out as a crystal-clear day became worrisome at about 1:30 in the afternoon, as clouds rolled in and threatened to obscure the view. However, the cloud cover held off just enough for the BBA class to enjoy all the phases of the eclipse, and the full two minutes and 30 seconds of totality.

“We were amazingly lucky that the students could experience full totality,” Hershatter said noting that just 90 seconds later would have obscured the event.

Instead, at the moment of totality, the sky was still clear. The corona flared and students were able to remove the glasses and view the glow around the moon.

“When our BBAs experienced totality, there was a collective gasp and then a cheer,” Hershatter said. “It was an amazing, goosebump-inducing, bonding occurrence, and it was augmented by the fact that because of the clouds, we weren’t sure if we would be able to view it or not.”

College is transformational in total for most students, Hershatter said. However, it is usually measured in individual memories, rather than the collective one that will stand out for the BBA Class of 2019.

“It is rare to be in a moment that you absolutely know is significant at the time it is occurring,” Hershatter said. “This particular event was incredibly poignant while it was going on and I think it will continue to mark a meaningful touch point for their Goizueta experience that they will remember throughout their lives.”