Tag Archive for COVID-19

From Global Pandemic to Anti-Racism: Wesleyan’s Year in Review

The year 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most memorable of the modern era. From the threat and real-life toll of a global pandemic to domestic clashes over social, racial, and political injustice, 2020 was full of challenges—and the Wesleyan community met each one head-on. We banded together to keep our students and staff safe and pushed each other to show our resilience, to step up and speak out, and to use our trademark creativity to adapt and lead the way in addressing our new socially distanced and politically charged reality.

In this timeline, we look back and explore some of the University’s accomplishments and happenings amid an evolving pandemic.

Jan. 21: The Jewett Center for Community Partnerships announces the grantees of the JCCP Student Innovation Fund. Students from a range of majors and backgrounds—all with shared interests in utilizing resources in innovative ways to positively impact the greater Middletown community—applied to this fund. Read the story.

Feb. 2: In response to the World Health Organization announcing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Wesleyan’s Chinese community (particularly students and parents) bands together to help their fellow citizens. The student-initiated group WesInAction raises more than $23,000, which is used to purchase medical equipment for hospitals in the pandemic’s epicenter in Hubei province, China. Read the story.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

Students’ Essays on Infectious Disease Prevention, COVID-19 Published Nationwide

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More than 25 students in Fred Cohan’s Global Change and Infectious Disease course have had op-eds published in media outlets nationwide. Cohan, professor of biology and Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment (pictured), assigns the op-ed writing as part of his course and offers students extra credit if they are able to get their work published.

As part of the BIO 173: Global Change and Infectious Disease course, Professor Fred Cohan assigns students to write an essay persuading others to prevent future and mitigate present infectious diseases. If students submit their essay to a news outlet—and it’s published—Cohan awards them with extra credit.

As a result of this assignment, more than 25 students have had their work published in newspapers across the United States. Many of these essays cite and applaud the University’s Keep Wes Safe campaign and its COVID-19 testing protocols.

Cohan, professor of biology and Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment (COE), began teaching the Global Change and Infectious Disease course in 2009, when the COE was established. “I wanted very much to contribute a course to what I saw as a real game-changer in Wesleyan’s interest in the environment. The course is about all the ways that human demands on the environment have brought us infectious diseases, over past millennia and in the present, and why our environmental disturbances will continue to bring us infections into the future.”

Over the years, Cohan learned that he can sustainably teach about 170 students every year without running out of interested students. This fall, he had 207. Although he didn’t change the overall structure of his course to accommodate COVID-19 topics, he did add material on the current pandemic to various sections of the course.

“I wouldn’t say that the population of the class increased tremendously as a result of COVID-19, but I think the enthusiasm of the students for the material has increased substantially,” he said.

To accommodate online learning, Cohan shaved off 15 minutes from his normal 80-minute lectures to allow for discussion sections, led by Cohan and teaching assistants. “While the lectures mostly dealt with biology, the discussions focused on how changes in behavior and policy can solve the infectious disease problems brought by human disturbance of the environment,” he said.

Based on student responses to an introspective exam question, Cohan learned that many students enjoyed a new hope that we could each contribute to fighting infectious disease. “They discovered that the solution to infectious disease is not entirely a waiting game for the right technologies to come along,” he said. “Many enjoyed learning about fighting infectious disease from a moral and social perspective. And especially, the students enjoyed learning about the ‘socialism of the microbe,’ how preventing and curing others’ infections will prevent others’ infections from becoming our own. The students enjoyed seeing how this idea can drive both domestic and international health policies.”

A sampling of the published student essays are below:

Alexander Giummo ’22 and Mike Dunderdale’s ’23 op-ed titled “A National Testing Proposal: Let’s Fight Back Against COVID-19” was published in the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

They wrote: “With an expansive and increased testing plan for U.S. citizens, those who are COVID-positive could limit the number of contacts they have, and this would also help to enable more effective contact tracing. Testing could also allow for the return of some ‘normal’ events, such as small social gatherings, sports, and in-person class and work schedules.

“We propose a national testing strategy in line with the one that has kept Wesleyan students safe this year. The plan would require a strong push by the federal government to fund the initiative, but it is vital to successful containment of the virus.

“Twice a week, all people living in the U.S. should report to a local testing site staffed with professionals where the anterior nasal swab Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, used by Wesleyan and supported by the Broad Institute, would be implemented.”

Kalyani Mohan ’22 and Kalli Jackson ’22 penned an essay titled “Where Public Health Meets Politics: COVID-19 in the United States,” which was published in Wesleyan’s Arcadia Political Review.

They wrote: “While the U.S. would certainly benefit from a strengthened pandemic response team and structural changes to public health systems, that alone isn’t enough, as American society is immensely stratified, socially and culturally. The politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that individualism, libertarianism and capitalism are deeply ingrained in American culture, to the extent that Americans often blind to the fact community welfare can be equivalent to personal welfare. Pandemics are multifaceted, and preventing them requires not just a cultural shift but an emotional one amongst the American people, one guided by empathy—towards other people, different communities and the planet. Politics should be a tool, not a weapon against its people.”

Sydnee Goyer ’21 and Marcel Thompson’s ’22 essay “This Flu Season Will Be Decisive in the Fight Against COVID-19” also was published in Arcadia Political Review.

“With winter approaching all around the Northern Hemisphere, people are preparing for what has already been named a “twindemic,” meaning the joint threat of the coronavirus and the seasonal flu,” they wrote. “While it is known that seasonal vaccinations reduce the risk of getting the flu by up to 60% and also reduce the severity of the illness after the contamination, additional research has been conducted in order to know whether or not flu shots could reduce the risk of people getting COVID-19. In addition to the flu shot, it is essential that people remain vigilant in maintaining proper social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly, and continuing to wear masks in public spaces.”

Dollinger ’22: Pandemic Year in College Brings Pride, Purpose

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An essay on campus life during the pandemic, written by Shayna Dollinger ’22, was recently published by J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

When religion major Shayna Dollinger ’22 imagined her college experience, it never involved mandatory quarantining, weekly virus testing, attending concerts—solo—in a 6-by-6-foot square space, and wearing masks at a socially distanced tashlich on Rosh Hashanah. But this was the true reality of her junior year at Wesleyan.

“But weirdly enough, I don’t miss what could have been. I am proud and grateful every day for the lengths my university has gone to keep its students safe and engaged during these turbulent times,” Dollinger wrote in an essay titled “My Pandemic Year in College Has Brought Pride and Purpose.” The essay, which was an assignment in her BIO 107: Global Change and Infectious Disease course, was later published in the Dec. 3 edition of J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

“There is a culture of mutual respect for the health of our peers,” Dollinger described. “We wear masks at all times, except when in our own residences, and we try to hold as many events outdoors as possible. We genuinely want to be here and stay here, and the only way that is possible is if we all agree to keep our campus safe and healthy. We are young people who care not only about our own health, but the health of our peers, the older members of our community, and the health of our country and world.”

Dollinger wonders what the outcome would be if the entire country were able to implement Wesleyan’s “Keep Wes Safe” strategy on a larger scale, as well as create a culture of joint responsibility. Perhaps, she writes, “this pandemic would ease its course and we might be able to prevent the next.”

“Until then, I will rock my Wesleyan University mask and find joy in my very own college experience.”

Read the full essay online at jweekly.com.

Campus Urged to Stay Vigilant; COVID-19 Testing Site Moved Indoors

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Wesleyan’s COVID-19 testing site moved to Beckham Hall for the winter season. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

With the holiday season approaching, Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee (PPC) reminds students, faculty, and staff to remain vigilant and safe.

“We have made it past the election and the Thanksgiving holiday is in sight,” wrote Wesleyan’s Medical Director and PCC member Dr. Tom McLarney in an email to the campus community on November 16. “As you are undoubtedly aware, the coronavirus pandemic has entered an alarming new phase, with cases rising sharply in most parts of the country and moderate increases in Connecticut. Despite the rigorous testing and safety protocols the University put in place, we are not immune from these trends, as we have also seen an increase in cases recently, though our positivity rate remains quite low.”

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont rolled the state back to “phase 2.1,” reinstating many restrictions on both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Wesleyan continues to follow state and federal guidance closely. Wesleyan’s own campus alert level is currently YELLOW, and students are advised against any unnecessary travel off campus. In addition, the Freeman Athletic Center remains closed.

To keep campus as safe as possible, Dr. McLarney urges everyone to continue to follow COVID safety guidelines, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and practicing careful hand washing. “The current evidence supports that face coverings—whether surgical masks or multilayered cloth masks—protect both the person wearing them along with those around them,” he wrote.

Psychological Scavenger Hunt Helps Alleviate Zoom Fatigue

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. 

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. One group walked more than 2.5 miles during the scavenger hunt.

This fall, the introductory-level course PSYC 105: Foundations of Contemporary Psychology is being taught entirely online to 200 students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After six weeks of remote lectures and interactive breakout sections via Zoom, Professors Steve Stemler and Sarah Carney who are team-teaching the course, hoped to break the “Zoom fatigue” routine and get their students physically interacting. So working together with the eight course TAs, they created a campus-wide psychological scavenger hunt.

With the first wave of students participating on Oct 27, and other waves participating subsequently, more than 110 students participated in the activity in person, while others joined in virtually.

“This was a fun way of doing some course-relevant activities while getting students out and about and interacting with each other,” Stemler said.

The instructors and TAs worked hard to ensure the scavenger hunt adhered to all COVID-19 protocols by keeping team sizes small, start times staggered, and locations spread out across campus and outside.

During the hunt, students worked in groups of four and looked for clues at various campus locations. The clues led them to a station run by a teaching assistant, who asked the undergraduates to complete a task relevant to the course content.

At an “intelligence station,” for example, the groups engaged in a word recognition test that relies on past experiences to prime their perceptions. At a “consciousness station,” students were asked to write down five things about themselves, and then the TA shuffled around their cards. After the cards were revealed, students had to categorize the notes as belonging to the social self, spiritual self, or material self in accordance with William James’ theory of the empirical self. And at a “methods station,” students read a description of a fictional research study and were allowed to ask 10 follow-up questions. The goal of that activity was to get students thinking about what information they wanted to know and why in order to evaluate the validity of the study rather than simply recalling the correct answers about the study design.

The scavenger hunt also led students to stations on memory, cognition, and bystander intervention.

The Teaching Apprentices for the course are Nolan Collins ’23, Maya Verghese ’23, Sarah Hammond ’22, Charity Russell ’21, Will Ratner ’22, Christian Quinones ’22, Arianna Jackson ’22, and Ezra Levy ’21.

Photos of the scavenger hunt on Oct. 27 are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Makomenaw Focuses on Resilience Building, Prevention in Student Mental Health

Angie Makomenaw

Angie Makomenaw is the mental health education and prevention coordinator at CAPS.

Angie Makomenaw, mental health education and prevention coordinator, joined Wesleyan’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in January 2020. She talks about her goals in this new position, the uniquely challenging circumstances affecting students’ mental health, and how CAPS is reaching and supporting students during the pandemic.

sleepYou are Wesleyan’s first mental health education and prevention coordinator. Please tell us about your role and what needs on campus you were hired to address.

This position was created out of an understanding of the importance of prevention in mental health. I am accountable for organizing initiatives for the Wes community in the areas of resilience building, holistic wellness, and suicide prevention. I am also responsible for program development, planning, and implementation, as well as assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of these programs.

Student mental health is always a need that Wesleyan takes seriously, but it seems the stakes are higher than ever this year. How would you describe the current climate and how it is affecting students?

​The combined impacts of the global pandemic, nationwide racist violence, and a contentious presidential election have resulted in unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress among students. This is why we are collaborating with our campus partners—WesWell, the Office of Support, Healing, Activism, and Prevention Education (SHAPE), and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL)—to provide virtual drop-in spaces. In recognition that our BIPOC students are being particularly affected by national and global events, we are offering two spaces per week specifically for these student communities so they can come together to provide and receive support. Only staff of color will facilitate these spaces. Two spaces per week are designated for student allies, and students attending these sessions will be able to receive support for themselves as well as talk more about how to be effective allies for BIPOC students. Two spaces per week will be offered as general drop-in sessions for all members of the Wesleyan community to come together. One of these sessions will involve structured mindfulness/mediation, and the other will be unstructured general support.

What is your advice for students—or anyone reading this—about coping with stress?

Stress is a natural reaction to an overwhelming situation. Just like taking care of our bodies by sleeping and eating well and exercising, it is important to take care of our minds. There are many ways this can be done: journaling, art, talking, taking recharging breaks. The CAPS team has put out videos with great advice on managing stress; see “Staying Well in the Midst of Social Distancing – Mental Health and Self-Care Routines with Dr. Visalli,” “Stress Management with Elena Cela,” and “Resilient Wellness with Dr. Kidkarndee, Tamanna Rahman, Sri Harathi, and Priya Senecal.”

Adherence to Safety Protocols Results in Safe and Successful Fall Semester

campusWesleyan’s careful planning, creative problem-solving, and exemplary adherence to safety protocols have resulted in the campus community staying together this semester. For the third week in a row, Wesleyan has 0 reported cases of COVID-19.

“This is a proud and happy moment for us all,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a recent Public Health Update. “At the same time, it is a precarious moment. We understand that the pandemic is still with us and that the public health context can change at any time.”

With these considerations in mind, Wesleyan will hold Thanksgiving Recess from Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Monday, Nov. 30. Classes resume remotely on Tuesday, Dec. 1, with all classes and exams conducted online for the remainder of the semester. Students may return to campus for the spring semester beginning Friday, Feb. 5, and classes will begin online on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

“These are challenging times, but I am heartened by the many ways that you have risen to these challenges,” Roth said. “Thank you for all you are doing to care for yourselves and one another.”

Pictured below, while practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, students enjoyed a sunny afternoon on campus Oct. 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Working at Wes during a Pandemic: Hurteau Helps Science Library Adapt to New Social Distancing Guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the way faculty teach, students learn, and staff work to help the University. In this article, we spotlight Linda Hurteau, Science Library assistant, who has helped make the library a safe environment for patrons and staff alike.

The once busy and bustling Science Library, which stays open until 2 a.m. to accommodate those who study late into the night, is open for service this fall semester. However, the pandemic has drastically changed the way students interact with and use the library. And no one knows this better than Science Library Assistant Linda Hurteau, a 16-year veteran of Wesleyan Libraries.

“Most people are aware that Sci Li has always been the ‘noisy library’ because, from the basement to the second floor, the building is basically designed for students to be more social and group-study-friendly,” Hurteau said. “Without the ability to study in groups during this semester, we have less student traffic, and it feels very different and much quieter.”

Prior to the pandemic, Hurteau would come to campus prepared for a busy day of dealing with the remnants of the day before: searching for requested books, fixing jammed printers, maintaining copiers, working with fines and fees, putting furniture back where it belongs, and dealing with various building issues.

“I’d deal with so many students every day, and as any student who used the Science Library knows, we are a science library and supply store in one. We had always had available for any student pencils, pens, markers, staplers, scissors, folders, envelopes, and just about any other office supply they needed for their classwork. Obviously, lots of unseen projects are always happening, with library materials coming in and out and back on the shelf.”

But nowadays, Hurteau has altered her daily routine to emphasize keeping her library community safe.

Although students continue to frequent Sci Li to use public computers and printers, or to study or relax, the facility’s capacity may not exceed 50 percent. All library-goers and library staff wear masks at all times and practice social distancing.

Like students who first arrived on campus, the books also go through a quarantine period (of four days) before being recirculated. “We have the book stacks closed or off-limits at this time, and I think many students actually prefer it this way,” Hurteau said. “They request their books online, and we have them ready for students to grab and go in the lobby.”

The circulation desk is now lined with a clear, plexiglass wall to provide the staff and student workers with separation from the public. And the library’s lobby was reconfigured, by Hurteau, to allow for a safe and redirected traffic flow. You simply follow the oversized arrows.

“I have designed and constructed many parade floats on land and water for various holidays or other reasons. Anybody who works with large-scale temporary mediums knows we use lots of duct tape, cardboard, and zip ties,” she said. “I must have 50 different colors of duct tape. Using a couple carpet runners and those under-your-desk-chair carpet protectors, and making bright neon arrows out of duct tape on them, gets attention. It works very well for us.”

Hurteau credits the operating successes of the Science Library and Olin Library during the pandemic to early planning. Library staff began COVID-19 discussions as early as February and developed hypothetical scenarios and talked out various solutions to potential problems.

“Despite what some people may think, library people are very adaptable,” Hurteau said. “We knew we needed to successfully finish the semester.”

Hurteau recalls discussing how faculty could have all their course content available online; how the libraries could accommodate students’ needs in their pursuit to finish the academic year and earn their degree; how to deal with late books and waiving fines; how the campus community would retrieve their library materials; and who would and could work remotely.

“It was very obvious from the start that most of the circulation and reserve staff would still need to come to campus and work in the buildings. Once everything settled down from the spring 2020 semester, the digital requests for fall 2020 started coming in. Tons of scanning is still being done to upload for faculty course requests and reserves.”

Hurteau worked from home full-time for only two weeks and continued to manage 40 student workers through emails and Zoom meetings. “Once it was decided that the Science Library could offer many of the services we previously had through contactless means, it was (almost) business as usual,” she said.

In addition to working at the Science Library, Hurteau volunteers as a team captain for Wesleyan’s Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT).

“CERT members and Physical Plant staff have been . . . unsung heroes to many during this time,” she said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic and up until two days ago, it was mostly CERT members who would deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner to students in quarantine on- and off-campus and be responsible for all the PPE kits on campus, from ordering and filling the bags, to distributing them to students, staff, and faculty. CERT members also would be the people on campus at 6 a.m., setting up the COVID testing tent, and in the evenings they would be the ones to pack it up for the day.”

Students Explore New Reality through Dance

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the third of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center. Kolcio also is a core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs at Wesleyan. This fall, she’s teaching DANC 216: Contemporary Dance Technique: Dancing During Pandemic; DANC 435: Advanced Dance Practice A; and DANC 445: Advanced Dance Practice B.

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Katja Kolcio, pictured in the background in black clothing, teaches her Dancing During Pandemic class Sept. 4 near the Wesleyan softball field. Students keep a 12-foot distance between themselves. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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Twenty-five students are enrolled in the Dancing During Pandemic course.

In a standard Wesleyan dance technique course, students corral inside a studio setting and work to develop artistic virtuosity in a particular dance genre: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, West African, South Indian, and Afro-Brazilian.

But when the pandemic and its effects fundamentally altered the way people interact, communicate, and engage with one another, Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, decided to design a course specifically focusing on bringing attention to the physical experience of our new reality. So she created the practice-based course DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic, open to all students.

“It’s common to feel too busy to dedicate attention to our physical sensations and experiences, or to the way in which new ideas or realities encountered in the world resonate within us,” Kolcio said. “So with this course, we examine, ‘How do we physically and socially navigate the new environment?’ We need to fully engage in our physical selves and awareness and bring greater attention to the ways humans utilize our physical and creative capacities.”

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression


Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

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Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

outdoor classroom

Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.