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How Life Has Changed

Northwestern professors discuss how the coronavirus will transform our world.

Fall 2020

In the wake of the coronavirus, life will never quite return to “normal.” We asked Northwestern professors to weigh in on how life has been transformed as a result of the pandemic.


Juliet Sorensen, a clinical professor of law at the Center for International Human Rights, focuses on health and human rights, international criminal law and corruption.

“Disparate access to essential health care existed at home and around the world prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has only exacerbated this disparity. The economic fallout of the pandemic has simultaneously had a greater impact on the livelihoods and ability to earn a living of those with the greatest barriers to health care. My hope is that one of many lessons learned from this pandemic is that health care is a human right that can and should be more fully realized than in the past.”


Henry Godinez is a professor of theater
and the resident artistic associate at Goodman Theatre.

“It’s important to remember that theater has persevered for thousands of years. Storytelling has, from the dawn of humanity, been an essential aspect of human society. However, for the immediate future, theater may find itself abandoning state-of-the-art playhouses and looking more like the distant past, with solo performers and texts that reflect the most urgent social needs, exploring open, nontraditional spaces. Communities long marginalized and intimidated by large, centralized theatrical spaces may find themselves witnessing stories from their own front porches or sitting in lawn chairs in local public squares.”


Political science professor Ian Hurd’s research on international law and politics combines contemporary global affairs with attention to the conceptual frames that serve to make sense of the world.

“Once the coronavirus crisis has ebbed, we may find a world that is poorer, more fragmented and harder to navigate. Local conditions will matter a great deal. Disparities between poor and rich are likely to be even starker, among countries but even more so among regions and classes within countries. The contradictions of the old world will be clearer — a huge underclass with poor sanitation, few reserves and no capacity to self-isolate will be most vulnerable and also will continue to be asked to fulfill crucial tasks, while the elite put their wealth to work to protect themselves and read the stock market as the barometer of success.”


Alvin B. Tillery, an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics, and media and politics.

“African Americans continue to have unequal life chances more than 50 years after the Kerner Commission proclaimed, ‘Our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one white — separate and unequal.’ The sad thing is that we are fully capable of fixing these inequalities, but we lack the political will to do it. It will take some deep soul searching on the part of our leaders in both parties if we are going to prevent the next national crisis from replicating the tragedy that is playing out before our eyes during this pandemic.”


Matthew Kugler, an associate professor of law, explores issues of intellectual property, privacy and criminal procedure.

“COVID-19 has started a conversation about greatly expanding surveillance to allow for better contact tracing for infected people. Some of this is about new capacities — building contact tracing apps, installing more cameras — and some is about better linking existing data. But this raises many questions. If we do expand surveillance, are we doing so permanently, or just for the duration of the pandemic? Who needs to be able to see and use this newly collected data? And, perhaps most importantly, how much will this data actually help?”


Linda Darragh, the Larry Levy Executive Director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, launched the Kellogg Small Business Advisory Initiative, which pairs small business owners with Kellogg alumni to provide business mentorship as they navigate the pandemic.

“We won’t truly understand how devastating COVID-19 has been for small businesses until our favorite stores do not open again. The pandemic has forced companies to virtually engage in creative ways that not only retain existing customers but attract new customers from new geographies. In the long run, this might be a good thing for those businesses that manage to adapt.”

Stories by Mohamed Abdelfattah, Hilary Hurd Anyaso, Stephanie Kulke ’21 MS and Kayla Stoner ’12, ’12 CERT, ’20 MS

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