Webinars explore WMU research regarding social consequences and response to COVID-19

Contact: Kathleen Refior

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—As discoveries unfold regarding the physical implications of COVID-19, Western Michigan University researchers are also unpacking the pandemic's social implications. Studies related to driving factors for shelter-in-place orders, mental health during isolation, religion and the future of higher education will be highlighted in a series of webinars throughout the academic year.

Launched by WMU's College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with WMUx, the series is funded through University research and innovation grants awarded to promote a range of fields of study surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Webinar Series

  • "Factors Motivating the Timing of COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place Orders by U.S. Governors," Dr. Matthew Mingus, professor of public administration. Co-authors are Dr. J. Kevin Corder, professor of political science, and graduate student  Daria Blinova. Numerous factors explain when governors decided to issue shelter-in-place orders at the onset of COVID-19 in the United States, but the most significant has been state-level political party control. This webinar examines American federalism in action, for better or for worse. Thursday, Oct. 15, at noon. Watch the webinar.
  • "Moderators of Social Isolation and Mental Health Outcomes During COVID-19," Dr. Brooke Smith, assistant professor of psychology, and Alex Twohy, doctoral student in psychology. Research shows that social isolation can contribute to psychological distress. This discussion includes the implications for promoting mental health and buffering against the harmful effects of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Thursday, Nov. 12, at noon. Watch the webinar.
  • "Pandemic Response and Religion in the USA," Dr. Stephen Covell, chair and professor of comparative religion, and Dr. Diane Riggs, faculty specialist II of comparative religion. Religious organizations have been on the front line of local and national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This research represents an initial study and archiving of online materials related to religion and the crisis in the United States. Thursday, Feb. 18, at noon. Watch the webinar.
  • "The COVID-19 Crisis, Accreditation and the Future of Higher Learning," Dr. James Cousin, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and master faculty specialist of history. Educational accrediting bodies are considering how their models will bend or be remade to accommodate new instructional realities of online instruction. The findings of a yearlong study into the implications of the COVID-19 crisis, their influence on higher education's boundaries of credit-bearing programs and degree requirements will be discussed. Thursday, March 18, at noon. Watch the webinar.

About the grants

The grants totaling $31,620 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 of Arts and Sciences are conducting research into the global pandemic as well.

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