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Sound Off: Silver Linings

What will you keep from the COVID-19 era?

Fall 2021

June M. McKoy ’01 GME, ’05 LLM, ’10 MBA, associate professor of medicine and program director of the Geriatric Medicine Fellowship at the Feinberg School of Medicine

“I lost my mother and my cousin to COVID-19 and thought I would never see a silver lining in this pandemic. However, the pandemic unwittingly gifted me with time and solitude. While I missed friends, colleagues and family, I reveled in the previously elusive gift of silence. Unencumbered by the usual social obligations, I spent ‘free’ time with strangers on the bus and argued with characters tubed in black and white. I wrote more poetry, mailed more letters and played more music on my piano. I cooked more meals. I communed with God. As bizarre as it might seem, sometimes I think the pandemic saved my life. I needed to slow down, and it ultimately brought me sanity.”

Elisabeth Betts, a sophomore in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

This year I wrote an article called ‘Why Remote Learning Has to Stay’ for Blackboard Magazine, Northwestern’s only Black student publication. During the pandemic, students have had access to a plethora of online resources; and while being able to attend classes from the comfort of your bed is certainly convenient, one of the most significant benefits of remote learning is how it has expanded accessibility for people with disabilities. Being able to watch recorded lectures with closed captioning or have immediate access to medications or special accommodations from home, for example, can be invaluable to students with disabilities. Remote learning also could reduce the cost of higher education, making it more financially accessible.”

Mikenzie Roberts, a junior in the School of Education and Social Policy

When the pandemic sent me back home to Indiana, I deeply missed being on campus. Looking back, however, I see that my relationship with my family has grown stronger over the past year. I was home for the birth of my sister. I have spent more time with my 3- and 5-year-old brothers than I thought possible during my adult years, and I’ve grown much closer to my 17-year-old brother, who introduced me to The West Wing during lockdown. Going forward, I will strive to keep spending more time with my family.”

Robert Brown, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and outreach at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

This past year has been incredibly overwhelming. During the initial months of the pandemic and at the height of the racial uprising last summer, my family’s vision center in Chicago was looted, creating an immensely complex and difficult situation. I didn’t realize how many stressors I was reacting to, and how much I was running from one thing to the next, all of which took a toll on me. I learned the importance of pausing, of taking a step back when things feel like they are spinning out of control. It has been in those moments of pause that I have been able to reflect, refocus, breathe and find joy.”

Tracy Foster ’04, founder of START | Stand Together and Rethink Technology

Screen-time pressures have peaked during the pandemic, bringing with it increased anxiety, unhealthy comparisons of oneself to others, loneliness, polarization and exposure to online predators — all issues that are especially harmful to youth. My nonprofit helps parents guide children in pursuing ‘digital health,’ and our new virtual-only reality has allowed us to expand our reach. As we emerge from a year of virtual living, now is the perfect time to reevaluate how we can navigate an increasingly digital world in a healthy way.”

Elysse Longiotti ’09, ’15 MS, assistant director of student career advising, Northwestern Career Advancement

In my role, I advise PhD students on their career search. Prior to 2020 we grappled with balancing support across Chicago and Evanston campuses, in addition to assisting students conducting research internationally. The transition to remote advising and programming enabled students to log in from anywhere in the world. While we always offered virtual appointments, I expect to see continued use of virtual advising, enhancing accessibility. Similarly, geographic barriers are now eliminated in event planning. Despite the challenges of this year, I hope the opportunities created by virtual engagement remain available as we adapt to and define our new normal.”

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