Researchers from Conn and its partner institutions around the world presented their findings during a virtual symposium
When Professor of Slavic Studies Andrea Lanoux recruited a group of Conn students last summer to explore the global impact of COVID-19 on various facets of society, she couldn’t have imagined how far-reaching the project would ultimately become.
But the idea quickly took off, and now, along with several of Conn’s global partner institutions, a website has been launched showcasing the collective research that began in January and will continue through April.
The research, drawing from 24 distinct academic fields, involved the work of 42 undergraduate students from 15 countries. The virtual collaboration was the first of its kind for Connecticut College and involved Conn’s partner institutions: Ashesi University in Ghana, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Higher School of Economics in Russia, and Ashoka University in India.
Nineteen Conn students joined with their peers from partner schools abroad to work in teams mentored by four Conn faculty members. They received regular support from the College’s research librarians; the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA), which is directed by Lanoux; and the Otto and Fran Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement.
The students examined the pandemic’s impact on five areas: education, the environment, inequality, activism and public policy. Each team presented its research and unveiled the project website April 1 during a live Zoom symposium hosted by Conn that brought together participants from around the world.
“I have been to a lot of academic conferences and there was a kind of energy and excitement about the students’ research that I rarely see,” Lanoux said. “There’s a creativity here that I think has enormous potential to move global education into a new phase.”
The research is presented on the website in a variety formats, offering digestible summaries of the findings through interactive content, visuals, key statistics and relevant news stories, all of which examine not only the impact of the pandemic so far, but also look ahead to the lingering effects COVID-19 might have on the project’s five prominent areas of focus once most of the world returns to some semblance of post-pandemic normalcy.
Taliah Broadus ’23, an economics, international relations and French triple major, said she was amazed by the passion and determination of the students, who did whatever it took to accommodate the wide range of time zones and languages represented among the teams.
“The Global COVID-19 Project was the highlight of my academic school year,” Broadus said. “It reshaped the way I engage with and conduct research, and also gave me the opportunity to experience a diverse set of opinions, research skills and backgrounds that I would not normally be exposed to if not given this opportunity. Collaborating with students on campus but also with students from universities in different parts of the world is an experience that I hope to have again in the future, because it led to research that I’m extremely proud to have been a part of.”
For Olivia Loo ’24, researching environmental issues related to the pandemic was particularly rewarding for its global components, and helped her to hone her research skills.
“It was such a great opportunity to work with a transnational cohort, and we were taught to harness the strength of our library resources and cultural backgrounds in conducting research that focused on global-local environments,” Loo said. “I hope to continue learning more about environmental injustices in the future, and I believe that this project set a strong foundation for research projects ahead.”
Amy Dooling, associate dean of global initiatives and director of the Walter Commons, said this project was a stark example of student resilience in the face of a global pandemic, and showed how building international collaboration and dialogue with the College’s global partners can still be achieved, even when travel isn’t possible.
“For me, one of the silver linings to the terrible disruptions we are living through is that we have been forced to think outside of the box when it comes to global education,” Dooling said. “Traditional study away will always be a signature program at Connecticut College, but this year we are discovering that virtual international exchange, done right, also has enormous potential for developing the knowledge, skills and mindsets our students need in order to thrive in the 21st century.”