It swiftly forced all of us to change our day-to-day routines. For many, it was more devastating than that.
In March, the pandemic forced our students, our faculty, our staff, and indeed the whole University community to quickly adapt to a new reality—one that was complex, challenging, and unlike any other the University of Georgia has ever faced.
With a spirit of togetherness and resilience, we got to work to ensure the business of the University continued—so our students could continue to receive instruction and gain valuable experiences, so our faculty and staff could continue to carry out UGA’s land-grant mission to serve the state in a critical time of need, and so our researchers could quickly respond and join efforts to fight back against the pandemic.
Over the summer, we continued online courses and meticulously prepared for the return of our students to campus in the fall.
The University of Georgia has closed in the past. In 1918, the University shut down for three weeks in response to the Spanish Flu pandemic. But the 2020 coronavirus response was something altogether different. Still, even when our campus facilities closed to most of our students and employees, UGA was by no means shut down.
In just two weeks, our worldclass faculty and support staff were able to move 11,000 course sections online for more than 37,000 students. It was no easy feat as faculty reinvented courses in ways that were unfathomable when they created the original curriculum.
Faculty and students alike saw the new challenges as an opportunity to answer the call. Before instruction even resumed, students in the College of Public Health compiled pandemic-related public health resources for the community during a 48-hour hackathon. As small businesses, nonprofits, and public service groups adjusted operations, students in Terry College’s management information systems program helped the organizations develop customized plans over the summer to move forward.
To help small business owners stay afloat and maintain their payrolls, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), in coordination with the Office of the Governor, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and the Department of Community Affairs, helped navigate the application process for emergency assistance through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Between March 1 and early August, the UGA Small Business Development Center assisted more than 3,600 small businesses in Georgia, hosted 272 webinars that drew 13,000 participants, and helped businesses secure 514 loans worth $73 million.
At a time when local government decisions were critical, UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government quickly moved some of its most in-demand courses online. The institute, which provides professional education to state and local government managers, has continued to adapt and deliver programs so state and local officials don't fall behind during the pandemic.
The student-run Campus Kitchen program continued to provide deliveries to dozens of older adult households in Athens, even without the hundreds of students who typically assist each week. As shelter-in-place orders took effect, a handful of employees in the Office of Service-Learning partnered with food service employees at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel to distribute prepared meals and bags of food to about 200 households each week. Produce was provided by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and UGArden.
As personal protective equipment shortages put health care professionals at risk, UGA created and delivered more than 2,600 face shields to Georgia medical professionals. The shields were produced through a collaboration that included the College of Engineering, UGA Libraries, and the Office of Research’s Instrument Design and Fabrication Shop.
For the agricultural industry, spring is a vital time for maintaining the food supply. During shelter-in-place orders, UGA continued to support Georgia farmers and agribusinesses through Cooperative Extension. Agents provided necessary services, soil diagnoses, and advice while working with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to help farmers get their produce to consumers.