The Big Question

What Have You Learned—About Yourself, Your Discipline or the World—During Quarantine?
Illustration by Jason A. Keisling John Bono Associate Clinical Professor of Decision, Operations and Information Technologies, Robert H. Smith School of Business With the proliferation of technology, a desire to succeed and a willingness to put in the hard work, quarantine has definitively proved quality teaching and learning are realistic and achievable outside the walls of a physical classroom.
DeNeen L. Brown Assistant Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism I used to love watching dystopian movies until we ended up living in one. Each morning I step outside, I feel I am stepping into an episode of “I Am Legend.” People turn away as though they are terrified of my very existence. Their eyes dart in terror. They race across the street. Neighbors, wearing masks, are no longer friendly. They do not speak as they scurry down the sidewalk. A woman just turned her back and huddled against the post near the crosswalk. I was wearing a surgical mask, but I didn’t know whether she was more afraid of me than I was of her. “This is terrifying,” I thought. “The very thing that makes us human—social contact—is the thing that is killing us.” When—and if—the pandemic ends, I wonder whether we will be more human or less human.
Brian Butler Professor and Senior Associate Dean, College of Information Studies No matter how amazing our technology, ultimately the people gathering information, making decisions and taking action are what matter. For better or worse, the information we have and the choices we make change the world.
Trevor Foulk Assistant Professor of Management and Organization, Robert H. Smith School of Business People are resilient. The world doesn’t look like the one we’re used to, and may not for a while. Nonetheless, people are finding ways to be productive at work, to keep kids’ educations going, to connect with loved ones. Our resilience provides hope that we’ll get through this dark time, and emerge stronger and better than before.
Anil K. Gupta Michael D. Dingman Chair in Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Robert H. Smith School of Business There are two big economic takeaways. First, the trend toward digitization of everything has accelerated, and companies that lag in the move to digitization at the core will probably not make it. Second, income and wealth inequality, which was already high in 2019, is becoming a lot worse. The risks of social revolution have increased.
David Kass Clinical Professor of Finance, Robert H. Smith School of Business As someone with a background in finance and economics, I learned how a $21 trillion dollar economy in the United States can be virtually shut down at one time for at least several weeks and what impact that could have on both the health and finances of its population.
David A. Kirsch Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, Robert H. Smith School of Business I’ve been reminded of this quote, particularly the final sentence: “My main thesis is that the progress of medical science during the last century has obscured the human species’ continued vulnerability to large-scale infection. We fail to acknowledge our relationship to microbes as a continued evolutionary process. This is far from equilibrium, and we cannot take for granted the near-term outcomes that would be optimal from either our, or our parasites’, perspective. We have a reasonable lead on bacterial intruders; we grossly neglect the protozoan parasites that mainly afflict the third world; we are dangerously ignorant about how to cope with viruses.” That’s from J. Lederberg, “Pandemic as a Natural Evolutionary Phenomenon,” Social Research, 1988. Yes, 1988!
Amna Kirmani Ralph J. Tyser Professor of Marketing, Robert H. Smith School of Business People are resilient. We create new routines, new connections and new rituals under restrictions. Passover, Easter and Ramadan are different experiences, but just as valuable and rewarding. We find new virtual communities, and we can reach out to our connections globally. COVID has brought me closer to my family living far away. I am thankful.
Rafael Lorente Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Philip Merrill College of Journalism I’m reminded that journalists run toward stories, no matter how scary or dangerous. Sure, they’ve made their share of mistakes. But the good ones correct themselves and work to do better the next time. They make me proud to be a journalist.
Jui Ramaprasad Associate Professor, Decision, Operations, and Information Technologies, Robert H. Smith School of Business The importance of staying connected: through FaceTime with family across the globe, through WhatsApp with friends just down the road, with strangers on Twitter, fitness trainers on Aaptiv, colleagues on Zoom. And, enjoying being disconnected: no airplanes to catch, no dinners to run late to, and no appointments to make.
J. Gerald Suarez Professor of the Practice in Systems Thinking and Design, and Fellow in the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change The field of systems thinking has become explicitly relevant. The pandemic has underscored the multidimensionality of complex problems and the need to seek holistic solutions. This is not a healthcare problem or economic problem, or national security problem. Those labels in front of a problem will only lead to fragmented solutions.
Allan Wigfield Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and Professor of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, College of Education Lack of structure, lack of “real” contact with friends, and concerns about the virus have students very distracted and unmotivated. They greatly appreciate having faculty who understand these challenges and provide some support.
Brittany L. Williams ’05, M. Arch ’07 Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation I’ve been surprised to learn how quickly long-held cultural norms and building code regulations dealing with personal space and room occupancy can be so disrupted by how a single virus spreads. The metrics about how many people should safely occupy a single space have shifted so significantly and so rapidly.
Caro “Spike” Williams-Pierce Assistant Professor, College of Information Studies I’ve learned that ignoring the clock and following my mind and body is the best way for me to be happy, healthy and productive. Hungry? Time to eat something. Eyes getting tired from staring at screens? Time to sit on the back porch and stare at birds. Exhausted by email? Time to read a book. Share your answer or suggest a future question in the Comment section.


Leave a Reply

* indicates a required field