How colleges are beginning to tell their coronavirus stories

Harrisburg University and San Diego State University are soliciting coronavirus stories

With coronavirus disrupting higher ed in a variety of historic ways, colleges and universities are beginning to chronicle that history in real time.

A handful of institutions are now collecting the stories of their community’s experiences with the pandemic, online learning and and stay-at-home orders.

In Pennsylvania, the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology last week launched the “HU Stories: Facing the 2020 Pandemic Together” project to collect stories, songs, artwork, photos, videos, performances and other reflective pieces from its 6,000 students as well as from faculty and staff.

“It’s about capturing different people’s experiences in the HU community during these unusual times,” says Bili Mattes, provost and chief academic officer. “We also want to do some research into the themes that come out of the submissions to see how we might, in the longer term, use some of the insights provided to fortify folks for any future crises.”

The university has received a handful of submissions far.

The stories, which will be published on the university’s website and social media channels, are also meant to maintain connections between students and staff who have been separated since the campus closed in March, Mattes says.

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“We’re hoping this will be also an authentic way to continue to building community and make something positive during these uncertain times of crisis,” Mattes says.

San Diego State University in California has launched a similar SDSU COVID-19 Memory Project to collect materials that document the coronavirus experience.

The school’s Special Collections and University Archives has asked students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni to submit digital or handwritten accounts, diaries, artwork, photographs, zines, poetry, video, and audio files.

The program’s website offers some ideas:

  • What challenges have you faced learning in an all-online environment?
  • Have you experienced food, housing, or job insecurities?
  • Are you juggling family and caretaking responsibilities with school?
  • How would you rate SDSU’s response to the pandemic?
  • What do you miss about campus life?
  • What are your thoughts on Netflix’s Tiger King?

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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