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Navigating the Pandemic with Increasing Success

April 24, 2020

Dear Students and Colleagues,

It was six weeks ago today that everything changed for the Drexel community, and for the nation. The devastating and sweeping impact of the coronavirus pandemic has left no one untouched. At the same time, I am confident that the Drexel community is navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic with increasing success. In that spirit, I want to encourage you to focus as much as possible on all that is positive about our response to this extraordinary period in our history.  And you need look no further than what is happening on our virtual campus to feel proud and hopeful.

In the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, communities around the country are turning to colleges and universities for support, and for answers.  Even while we face our own challenges, Drexel’s quick and multi-faceted response underscores the critical role that we can play here, nationally and globally. Some of the best evidence of that is seen in the wealth of coronavirus health-related Drexel research that has taken center stage in only a matter of weeks. 

Drexel's Rapid Response Research and Development Fund was created to support urgent action, launching more than a dozen projects focused on health-related research and development. The work supported by this fund runs the gamut, from producing new medical masks and face shields, to creating a new app to track infections, to vaccine-related research, and chronicling the mental health impacts of the pandemic. Details on the researchers chosen and their proposals can be found here.

Just as the promise of scientific inquiry ranks as a top priority, we’re also planning to celebrate achievement. A University-wide Commencement, along with one for Kline Law, will likely be held in the fall, but the College of Medicine isn’t waiting: Its virtual graduation ceremony will take place Friday, May 29. The students of the College of Medicine have met the challenges of the past few months, not as obstacles, but as opportunities for growth and innovation. Student representatives from the MD program and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies are helping to plan this meaningful online event where we will recognize their achievements in a forum where graduates and their families can view speeches from University leaders, peers and our esteemed Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient, Katherine A. High, MD, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Spark Therapeutics.

The shift to remote learning for the entire University has tapped the creativity of faculty and students alike, and that extends to the off-hours this weekend. On Saturday, April 25, fourth-year music industry student Michael Silverglade and his Courier Club bandmates will stage a virtual music festival they’re calling Block by Blockwest, which will benefit the CDC coronavirus fund. What better preparation for entering a music world where virtual performances may be the norm for some time? And the festival, while benefiting an important cause, has to rank as one of Drexel’s most unique experiential learning projects.

Thanks to technology, and the sponsorship of NBC Sports Philly, the Drexel community can also enjoy some of the good things that already occurred on campus — notably, a number of Drexel victories by the men’s basketball and wrestling teams. Two-hour rebroadcasts of these events will run for the next five weeks on Thursdays at 8 p.m.

While we embrace the positive, we continue to grapple with fallout from the pandemic, which forced us to hurriedly empty our campuses on March 13 upon the order of state authorities. I know this created hardships for students, in particular, who had to incur expenses in traveling home. The generosity of Drexel donors enabled us to create a $150,000 student emergency fund, and now I’m pleased to report that the federal government has initiated the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which will provide funding to serve students and help them continue to learn during this unprecedented time.

We are in the process of considering how best to allocate the CARES Act funds available to Drexel, which will include direct aid to some students based upon guidance being developed by the U.S. Department of Education. We will make details available as soon as possible. 

As noted earlier this week, the most prudent plan for now is that Drexel should, for the most part, continue to operate remotely. Over the summer term, all undergraduate and graduate courses will be conducted remotely, largely following the same procedures in use now during the spring quarter and semester. Further details on the summer term will be provided soon, and we have assembled a task force to consider plans for the fall term, and beyond.

Please continue to check Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website for updates and utilize the CDC's prevention tips. Take care of yourselves, and each other.


John Fry