‘A Whole New World’: CGU in a Time of Pandemic and Quarantine
An overview of the university’s measures to protect its community and continue with its academic mission
ON A CHILLY WEEKDAY MORNING in late March, CGU President Len Jessup was the only figure who could be seen walking around the university’s deserted campus.
Normally this is a busy time of year, and CGU is typically buzzing with activity as the end of the academic year approaches—but this year is far from typical.
Since mid-March, the campus—like other companies, organizations, businesses, and educational institutions across the nation and world—has been shut down in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The entire CGU community of faculty, students, and staff is working remotely from their homes in observance of state and federal social distancing measures.
Though campus security has stepped up patrols of CGU and the other Claremont Colleges, Jessup says he still likes to come by.
“I try to get over here every few days just to check on the place. I’m not far away,” said Jessup, whose home is a block away on Harvard Avenue. “In all my years in higher education, I’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s unprecedented. It’s a whole new world.”
At the time this article was released, a federal social distancing guideline through April 30 was in place across the country. Jessup said his leadership team was working hard to create continuity and some semblance of normalcy despite a constantly changing situation.
CGU’s swift online transition is providing a ‘business as usual’ alternative during unusual times.
That effort includes Jessup’s participation in a variety of meetings via Zoom and other social media platforms, including a recent Graduate Student Council Town Hall that was organized to address the pandemic’s impact on the university.
In this time of social distancing, Jessup also has been forced to replace his typical accessibility and approachability with a regular weekly email to the CGU community to stay connected with them.
Sometimes these messages contain practical information related to online learning; at other times they offer encouragement and express thanks.
“I want you all to know how proud I am of all of you,” he wrote in one message with the simple subject line “We’ll get through this….” “I’ve always said that this university is nimble and entrepreneurial and that this is a place where we care deeply about students and their success. All of that is truer now than ever. I’m amazed by all of you, and I’m lucky to be here with you.”
Students & Faculty
With the arrival of spring break the week of March 16, the university’s Office of Information Technology team prepped faculty to fully move to an online instructional format for the rest of the semester. In an email to the community Jessup expressed his thanks to faculty for their flexibility and responsiveness to the quickly changing situation. Pictured here is Professor Robert Klitgaard, who is seen talking to students in his Policy Design & Implementation course.
During spring break, the university’s staff—like students and faculty–also transitioned to a work-from-home setup with the help of the university’s OIT team. Before staff left for quarantine, department supervisors worked with their groups to identify mission-critical tasks and ensure that these services could be supported digitally from home.
A part of CGU’s swift transition to online support includes many of the resources that students need throughout the academic year, including the university’s career center, writing center, and support from the Claremont Colleges’ student health services. All of these were up and operational by the time the stay-at-home decision was put in place.
All in-person events for the rest of the spring semester were canceled. As an alternative, webinars, livestreams, and other online options were developed. This included a livestream of the video “Excavation at Akko” and “The Storm Makes You Stronger: Managing Your Mind in the Face of Crisis,” an online session with Drucker’s Jeremy Hunter.
This month, Jessup and Provost Patricia Easton announced to the community that this May’s Commencement ceremony had been cancelled. In an email message he and Easton said that the annual in-person event “will be postponed until a time when health regulations determine it is once again safe to gather in public.”
In its place, they said, the university will host a special online commencement event on May 30. Families and friends will be able to virtually attend the event, and in place of walking across the stage, graduates’ names will be read aloud while a photo and personal message from the graduate will be displayed on the screen.
Jessup also recorded a special video addressed to the university’s newest graduates:
Outreach & Positive Social Impact
Beyond transitioning to remote learning, many in the CGU community also have been focused on another aspect of the pandemic: helping others.
Many faculty experts have been offering their insights to major media outlets; others like SCGH Professor Javad Fadardi are on the frontlines of the global crisis in places like Iran.
Closer to home, SCGH’s Bree Hemingway and Kimberly Morones (pictured) used materials and the nearby Umakers space both provided by Drucker alum Rob Perhamus to create protective masks for healthcare workers at local hospitals.
To highlight these and other inspiring examples, the university has launched an online story series, “CGU Heroes,” about people in our community who are providing an expert, compassionate response to the pandemic. Fadardi’s story is one of them.