College of Arts and Sciences launches COVID-19 research webinar series

Woman sitting at desk holding pen in hand. "COVID-19 response grants webinar series"

Western Michigan University’s College of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with WMUx, is launching a new webinar series surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. "College of Arts and Sciences Research Webinar Series: COVID-19 Pandemic Research at WMU" is focused on the various research projects that the college's faculty are working on to better understand the long-term effects of the current global pandemic.

The University’s Office of Research and Innovation has recently awarded five grants for research related to the pandemic. These projects cover a range of fields of study, from religion to the future of higher learning.

Totaling $31,620, the grants are funded by the Meader Presidential Endowment – a fund specifically designated for promoting excellence at WMU. The projects selected have a broad impact, are collaborative in nature and began immediately in a remote capacity. In addition to those working through the Meader grant, many other faculty in the college are conducting research into the global pandemic as well.

COVID-19 pandemic research at WMU

Four webinars will take place in the 2020-21 academic year surrounding research related to the pandemic from arts and sciences faculty. All presentations will be available online at the start time of each webinar on WMU's College of Arts and Sciences YouTube page. Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy, vice president for research and innovation, will be the moderator for the webinars.

Fall 2020

Student studying on the couch from home writing in a notebook with a laptop and tablet on the table in front of them.“Factors motivating the timing of COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders by U.S. Governors”
Dr. Matthew Mingus, professor of public administration
Thursday, Oct. 15 at noon | LINK TO WATCH

There are numerous factors to explain when governors decide to issue shelter-in-place orders at the onset of COVID-19 in the United States. Administrative capacity explanations and even the urban-rural divide do little to explain when orders were issued whereas state-level political party control provides a very strong explanation. In this webinar, Mingus will look at the story of American federalism in action, for better or for worse.

Female wearing a mask while holding her hands to her head looking stressed.“Moderators of social isolation and mental health outcomes during COVID-19”
Dr. Brooke Smith, assistant professor of psychology, and Alex Twohy, graduate student in psychology
Thursday, Nov. 12 at noon | LINK TO WATCH

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on human activity worldwide, in part due to many governments issuing stay-at-home orders and limiting the types of social interactions in which citizens can engage in. Implications for promoting mental health and buffering against the harmful effects of social isolation during the pandemic and beyond will be discussed during this webinar.

Spring 2021

Priest walking outside of a church in a mask.“Pandemic response and religion in the United States”
Dr. Stephen Covell, chair and professor of comparative religion, and Dr. Diane Riggs, faculty specialist II of comparative religion
Thursday, Feb. 18 at noon | LINK TO WATCH

Religious organizations have been on the front line of local and national responses to the pandemic. These organizations have been involved in activities from organizing food drives to protesting stay-at-home orders. This initial study will lay the groundwork for further research at WMU and nationally on religious responses to pandemics. In this webinar, Covell and Riggs will discuss the implications COVID-19 has had on religious organizations and the responses these organizations have taken.

A mask, notebook and textbooks on a table.“The COVID-19 crisis, accreditation and the future of higher learning”
Dr. James Cousin, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and master faculty specialist of history
Thursday, March 18 at noon | LINK TO WATCH

The rapid move to online instruction is likely to have significant downstream effects, not only for educational environments but to standards of instruction. Major and minor accrediting bodies are now considering how their models will bend or be remade to accommodate new instructional realities. In this webinar, Cousins will discuss the findings of a rigorous year-long study into the implications of the COVID-19 crisis on accrediting bodies and, more generally, how these impacts will influence higher education for years to come.

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