Rockefeller Chapel at twilight

Photography by John Zich

Together in spirit

How the University is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a novel coronavirus fanned out around the world this past winter, life changed quickly everywhere it touched. The University of Chicago community worked fast to adapt its work to a new world and affirm the institution’s mission—unchanged in past world crises, and so too in the face of this pandemic.

March and April, when this issue was being prepared, saw the earliest of the adjustments. On March 12 the president and provost announced that Spring Quarter classes would be held remotely. (A decision about Autumn Quarter classes will be announced by the end of June.)

For Spring Quarter, students with travel restrictions or other extenuating circumstances had the option to remain in University housing. About 125 students stayed on campus, living in Max Palevsky Residential Commons and getting take-out meals from Baker Dining Commons and the Maroon Market. Others departed the residence halls by March 22, to meet again when the new quarter began in hundreds of Zoom rooms.

In April the University announced that the 533rd Convocation ceremonies, scheduled for June 13, will be held online. The University will confer degrees at the virtual event and celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2020. Graduates will receive their diplomas by mail, and everyone in this year’s class will be invited to participate fully in the 534th Convocation, planned for June 2021 on campus.

As the University of Chicago Medicine prepared for COVID-19 patients, it quickly got several coronavirus studies off the ground. Across the disciplines, faculty members shifted research agendas to better understand the social, economic, psychological, environmental, and other dimensions of the pandemic—and one also worked to beautify Twitter. Classes carried on remotely, with teachers and students alike finding creative ways to forge an intellectual community from their far-flung locations.

See below for more on these institutional and individual responses to an extraordinary challenge to higher education and all of us. In upcoming issues, we’ll delve deeper into some of the ways members of the UChicago community—faculty, students, alumni, and friends around the globe—are contributing to helping end the pandemic and address its repercussions.

Ready, set, go
Inside a February planning meeting for COVID-19 and the early days of UChicago Medicine’s response.

Learning curve
Pritzker School of Medicine students add COVID-19 to their studies.

Quick thinking
Researchers across UChicago were fast out of the gate this spring with data, ideas, and guidance for a COVID-19 world.

Beautiful somethings
On Twitter, a historian interrupts bad news with beauty.

Gallery view
Faculty reflect on teaching remotely.

Into the woods
How Randy Picker, AB’80, AM’82, JD’85, is Zooming his way through Spring Quarter.

A community together
The University reaches out to help the surrounding neighborhoods.

Remote learning, under control
How the Law School’s IT team helped faculty prepare for an unprecedented Spring Quarter.

Read the latest UChicago COVID-19 news.