' ); } ?>

Innovating in the Midst of COVID-19: Lessons from FEA – University of São Paulo

Most every business school around the world has adapted to the COVID-19 crisis by providing online instruction in new and enhanced ways. For FEA – University of São Paulo (FEA USP), a public institution, pedagogy is just one example of how the school is adapting to the new environment and connecting its knowledge to the needs of society.

“We were able to adapt very quickly to teaching online,” explained Moacir de Miranda Oliveira, Head of the Business Administration Department at FEA USP. “Two of my colleagues – Professors Adriana Marotti de Mello and Ana Carolina Rodrigues – came to me and said ‘great we moved to online teaching, but is this enough?’.”

The Impact of a Bulletin



The COVID-19 Bulletin is an example of how the school is using its knowledge to help influence managers and the public. In addition, FEA USP has started new studies that have a COVID-19 context. 

“Most all of our lines of research are adapting to the realities of COVID-19,” said Rodrigues.  

This includes:

  • Two colleagues from FEA USP are doing research on online teaching and looking at how education will change in the future. According to Miranda Oliveira: “We broke lots of barriers in the different ways we are teaching and we aren’t going back to normal after COVID-19.”
  • Marketing professors modified a project they were running about consumption patterns to reflect the impact of COVID-19.
  • A team is researching sustainable transitions in mobility and the food industry. The goal is to show how the disruptions from COVID-19 can contribute to a more sustainable production and consumption system.
  • Rodrigues and her colleagues are studying commitment, bonds and rhetoric in the midst of the crisis by analyzing how managers have changed their rhetoric. Rodrigues also published an article with the Brazilian Society of Work and Organizational Psychology for its series on the pandemic and work relations in Brazil.
  • A group is looking at the differences of how workers in formal and informal job market have been impacted by COVID-19.
  • Miranda Oliveira started a new research project on “Covid19 and its impact on Startups Business Models”, in partnership with other players of the innovation ecosystem and the prominent Brazilian newspaper Jornal Estado de São Paulo.


Last year, São Paulo represented 30% of Brazil’s GDP and tourism accounted for 9% of São Paulo’s GDP. At the time of writing this, Brazil has over 960,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic struck and the country is on track to surpass the United States in the number of deaths. Tourism has been greatly impacted and a group of professors and graduate students from FEA USP is leading a strategic partnership with São Paulo’s Tourism Office to deal with this reality.

A crisis committee was established and this led to the creation of a website that serves as a repository of best practices for dealing with crisis situations. It also features recommended protocols for transportation, restaurants and entertainment, among other areas. This information has been leveraged by all the different stakeholders involved in tourism in the state of São Paulo.

“This is an opportunity to learn from our different experiences,” said Miranda Oliveira.

A separate group is also working with Anprotec (the Brazilian Association of Technology Parks and Incubators) on a project that explores the type of assistance required by 400 business incubators and start-ups.

Partnership is also important internally. As a public university, some students at FEA USP come from low-income families and don’t have broadband internet access. FEA USP worked in collaboration with the central administration from the University of São Paulo to purchase licenses from 4G mobile service companies to ensure this student population had access to online learning.

“We made sure that no student was left behind,” said Marotti de Mello.

In addition, FEA USP’s International Office is working on a Virtual Exchange Program since partner institutions will not be able to send students to Brazil next semester. Besides classes, the Office is organizing remote academic orientation and cultural activities. The International Office is also discussing additional initiatives to launch, such as a call for collaboration and comparative analysis related to the situation in Brazil.

Lessons from a Kangaroo

Head of school Fabio Frezatti shared a metaphor with the faculty after COVID-19 hit Brazil: A kangaroo only jumps ahead, never backwards.

“We are doing this – only jumping ahead,” explained Marotti de Mello. “We are teaching differently and will be building on this in the future. We have improved our internal processes for our work organization.”

She also noted that the crisis has exposed inequalities in Brazil and therefore has been an opportunity to better connect business to the needs of society. Rodrigues added that the crisis has served as a reminder about the importance of communicating effectively to the public.

“One possibility is that COVID-19 is here, let’s cross our arms and wait for this to pass,” said Miranda Oliveira. “This is not what we are doing. Rather it is the opposite. We are looking for learning opportunities and to fight against the disruptions caused by COVID.”

Learn more about FEA – University of São Paulo at the following link.


This article was written by Kevin Anselmo, a consultant with GBSN, the founder of Experiential Communications, and the creator of Interview an Innovator, an online experience that enables students to enhance their network, improve their communications skills and establish a strong digital footprint that makes them more marketable.