One of my first messages to the Drexel community about the pandemic noted that “much about this new virus remains unknown.” Even after all that we learned since that time in late January, that statement remains true. In fact, we’ll be grappling for some time with many questions, such as the timetable for developinga vaccine, the long-term impact on colleges and universities, and the pace of return to a new normal.
That being said, it will come as no surprise that your alma mater has taken a proactive approach to this new challenge — with each initiative designed, first and foremost, to safeguard the well-being of our people and students, while also staying true to our mission of teaching, research and service.
The cornerstone of our response has been the shift to online instruction. Given mere weeks to prepare, our faculty and instructional technology team did transformative work — enabling professors each week to conduct more than 3,200 course sessions that, prior to the pandemic, would have been taught face-to-face. We saw a remarkably smooth virtual classroom experience for thousands new to this form of instruction, with positive feedback from students and faculty alike.
We also marshaled our research capacity to fight this disease, creating the Rapid Response Research and Development Fund and launching more than a dozen projects focused on health-related research and product development. The work runs the gamut, from producing medical masks and face shields, to creating a new app to track infections, to vaccinerelated research, and chronicling the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
And we certainly are not letting the pandemic prevent us from celebrating achievements of our students. A University-wide virtual graduation celebration was held in June, in addition to similar celebrations for individual colleges and schools. The College of Medicine kicked off our virtual commencement season with its virtual ceremony on May 29, including remarks from Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient Katherine A. High, MD, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Spark Therapeutics.
The pandemic has left no one untouched. At the same time, I am confident that the Drexel community is navigating the challenges and opportunities it presents with increasing success. In that spirit, I want to assure you that our students and faculty continue to focus on making a meaningful and positive response to this extraordinary period in history.