Students, faculty, and alumni had to pivot their summer plans when the pandemic made travel difficult for class trips, internships, faculty research, and conference meetings. Graduates also got creative to continue their professional lives.
Summer internships are a regular feature of the college student experience—as seen here from summer 2019. Some of those became virtual in summer 2020, if they could.
James Hirsch, an economics and public policy leadership major, interned online with the Leadership and the American Presidency program cosponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute and The Fund for American Studies. He completed the American Presidency course at George Mason University, interned with the Healthcare Leadership Council, and interacted with guest speakers.
“My online internship included document review and collaboration; they used Zoom for a meeting with 50+ healthcare sector CEOs. Although we sacrificed physically visiting Mount Vernon and the Presidential Leadership Symposium at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, we gained valuable insight in other ways—specifically our ability to interact with people ordinarily unavailable.”
FACULTY TRAVEL COURSES
Randy Wadkins, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Jody Holland, associate professor of public policy leadership, reimagined their summer travel classes through the Study USA program.
Wadkins’ Chem 393: Science and Public Policy class was originally planned with visits to Washington, DC, and Baltimore to hear from government and healthcare leaders about how society and science are intertwined. Instead, he created opportunities to speak with scientists and leaders in Vietnam, Australia, Mississippi, and DC about their responses to the COVID-19 crisis—local, state, and federal government members, infectious disease and science experts, and hospital directors.
“This was one of my most impactful classes, even though it was different than I anticipated,” said Brittany Ferguson, forensic chemistry major. “I now know more about the science behind this epidemic, and I can use my voice to help others.”
Holland was going to introduce students to the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and innovation through PPL 491: Leadership and Social Innovation by attending Momentum Summit, a conference for mission-driven CEOs and leaders held in Portland.
“Because the conference moved online, our students had unprecedented access to major leaders. It can be difficult to have a one-on-one conversation with busy CEOs from national foundations and centers, but our students participated in small online break-out sessions. Leaders were more than willing to participate in powerful discussions with our students; they really took on mentoring roles.”
Online conferences made professional development more accessible due to the reduced cost and time commitment.
Nancy Maria Balach, interim chair and professor of music, and UM development officer Brady Bramlett (BA biological sciences ’16; MS integrated marketing communications ’18) presented at the virtual conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
“Our presentation introduced specific ways to enhance existing music degree programs with educational experiences and career development opportunities that stimulate interdisciplinary projects, create community partnerships, open new funding sources, and prepare students for a 21st century ‘mosaic’ career in music,” Balach said.
Balach and Bramlett direct the Living Music Resource, a program that engages students in music-based projects outside the classroom, building skills for the future.
At a time when the entertainment industry was crippled by the pandemic, two theatre alumni debuted a new play live via the internet.
Kaleb and Tina Sade Mitchell (BFA ’14; BA ’15), husband-and-wife actors, performed Partners, a new work written and directed by N. Emil Thomas, executive artistic director of New Theatre in the Square in Marietta, Georgia. The story is about property developers and former lovers Solomon and Zenobi forced to confront aspects of their previous relationship when a crisis locks them indoors together.
The play was scheduled for its live-audience premiere until the pandemic silenced theaters. But for the two-person play starring actors already sheltering in place together, all they needed was a camera and an internet connection to make it work.
Transitioning a work of theatre from live to livestream—especially during the time of social distancing—required adjustments to nearly every aspect of the play: the set design, the lighting, the blocking, and, of course, the rehearsals.
See more about their production here