Deans’ forum to place COVID-19 in fuller context
October 28, 2020
When the coronavirus pandemic upended the world earlier this year, the fields of medicine, public health, and biomedical research all mobilized as part of the international crisis response. Yet those disciplines are not the only ones with important contributions to offer.
“The pandemic is multifaceted, and a full range of expertise is needed for essential insights into both its immediate and enduring impact,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “What lessons might we learn, for example, from the influenza pandemic of 1918? How can we use mathematical modeling to tease out critical factors in viral spread? And what can the disability community teach us about coping with the pandemic?”
To help answer those questions, Belmonte teamed up with Sally C. Morton, dean of the Virginia Tech College of Science. Together, they will host a trio of virtual events aimed at illustrating how a range of fields can contribute to an understanding of the pandemic.
“We already know that solutions to the world’s greatest problems call for broad expertise, drawing knowledge from multiple disciplines,” said Morton. “The experts on these panels show the deep thinking and promise that come with collaboration, and demonstrate the transdisciplinary strengths of Virginia Tech across the sciences and the humanities.”
In the event series — “COVID-19 in Context: A Deans’ Forum on Living with a Pandemic” — Virginia Tech experts in political sociology, statistics, history, international communication, mathematical modeling, occupational health, and disability studies will offer a broad context for the pandemic.
The first event, “Understanding and Responding: The Politics of Public Health during Epidemics,” will take place Nov. 2 from noon to 1 p.m. In this event, Rebecca Hester, an assistant professor of science, technology, and society, will present “Pathogenic Entanglements: A Reflection on the Sociopolitics of COVID-19.”
Ron Fricker, a professor of statistics, and E. Thomas Ewing, a professor of history, will then offer their expertise in “Comparing Epidemics: Influenza in 1918 and COVID-19 in 2020.” Belmonte will moderate the discussion. The registration link for this event is here.
“Intervening and Monitoring: Health Policies and Practices during Infectious Disease Outbreaks” will be held Nov. 12 from noon to 1 p.m. Julie Gerdes, an assistant professor of English, will draw on her experiences on the USAID Zika team and the international COVID-19 Task Force to offer “The Multiple Ontologies of International Infectious Disease.”
Lauren Childs, an assistant professor of mathematics, will then present “Choosing Intervention Strategies During an Emerging Epidemic: Bridging Basic and Applied Science.” Morton will moderate the discussion. The registration link is here.
Both deans will moderate the final event, “Maintaining and Surviving: Challenges to Community Health during an Epidemic,” on Nov. 30 from noon to 1 p.m. In this webinar, Charles Calderwood, an assistant professor of psychology, will discuss “Maintaining Occupational Health in a Pandemic: Lessons from Before and During an Unfolding Crisis,” followed by “Cripping a Pandemic,” a presentation by Ashley Shew, an associate professor of science, technology, and society. The registration link is here.
The entire Virginia Tech community is invited to participate in the Zoom sessions, as are members of the public.