More can change in one month than most of us had ever imagined. Across the world, we are seeing terrible tragedy, but also the heroic actions of medical workers who are doing all they can to save lives, and the daily sacrifices of service workers making sure we can keep our pantries stocked. Many aspects of life have been put on hold, as we all wait with bated breath for the signs COVID-19 is drawing down.

Meanwhile, at Penn and across academia, we continue to work hard to serve the needs of our students — to help them to complete their education, conduct their research, and embark on their careers — in the safest and most effective way we can. We’re also trying to maintain the vibrancy and health of our the other parts of our community — our medical system, researchers, faculty, and staff.

Through this past month it has been inspiring to see the resilience of the everyone around us — their eagerness to help, the sense of common purpose and resolve to get through this crisis. Leadership across the university, the school, and the department has had to react to changes in conditions, sometimes on an hourly basis — and has shown impressive foresight and judgment. It has been truly inspiring to see my colleagues’ dedication to protecting our people — students, staff, and faculty — and to supporting them with all of our resources. We continue to work on an array of contingency plans, to best prepare for whatever comes next.

Educationally, our faculty — supported capably by many staff — have managed, with essentially one week’s notice, to transfer their courses to online delivery, while maintaining the high quality and interactivity we pride ourselves in! We owe a huge debt of gratitude not only to them, but also to our many magnificent teaching assistants, who have gone to great lengths to support their fellow students!

Outside the classroom, the Penn community have come together in a plethora of ways to help out: some have offered up their homes to help displaced students; others have put their energy into designing and building face shields, face masks, ventilators, and telemedicine carts; many have come up with ways of connecting people and rebuilding community through Zoom groups and even a Minecraft recreation of the campus. The talent and ingenuity of our students and colleagues is unbounded, and we are all beneficiaries!

Of course, we certainly aren’t out of the woods yet. No one knows when we will be able to emerge from crisis mode, nor how quickly the world will be able to put the pieces back together. However, I am confident that the remarkable people in the Penn community — faculty, staff, students, and leadership — will continue to rise to the challenge!

Categories: Stories