By: Karina Valdes
What are you doing? What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Those are some of the questions University of Miami School of Communication students, alumni, staff, and faculty are answering in a collection of self-generated videos that share their stories of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.
SoC students and alumni spread across the globe, from São Paolo, Brazil and Seoul, South Korea, to Orange County, California, and of course South Florida, have already participated.
“The idea is that we at the SoC are a global learning community with all kinds of connections to one another. Given the scale of the pandemic and how it is affecting all of us, we wanted to find a way to reinforce those supportive bonds using the skills that we all have as communicators,” said Sallie Hughes, chair of a school task force that developed the project.
Called All of Us, the concept was developed after the stay at home order was issued by the University. Hughes asked members of the School’s Global Engagement Task Force if they would like to check in with one another via Zoom and the conversation quickly turned to discussing ways of supporting the UM community.
The Global Engagement Task Force, or The GET as the members call themselves, was convened by Dean Karin Wilkins in the fall of 2019 to lead the School’s efforts in strengthening its global endeavors in research, creative work, teaching, and service. It includes faculty members from each department in the School.
“Each of us in that group, as well as many others at the School, has a global perspective in our work and thinking. We also have a social justice perspective,” said Hughes.
Concerned with how vulnerable groups on campus might be faring during the pandemic, The GET’s first action was to write a statement thanking the University leadership for what they were already doing and detailing further steps that might be taken to support UM’s most-vulnerable groups. The response from President Frenk was prompt and positive.
Then, the task force met again and the idea for All of Us was developed.
“All of Us is a way to reinforce our connection, learn about each other, support each other. Eventually, it may turn into a platform we can use to move forward to think through and act upon complex problems the pandemic has spotlighted, but I think, right now, it’s important to have a period to reconnect and to know how each of us are doing,” said Hughes.
Sanjeev Chatterjee, professor and GET member, linked up with a startup out of Chicago called Gather Voices, which had developed an app to create user-generated videos. The company is allowing the School to use its app at no cost to document these stories. With the technology solidified, Chatterjee and Associate Professor Kim Grinfeder spent hours developing the platform. Assistant Professor Lien Tran designed the logo and all of the members of The GET reached out to current and former students to begin to populate the site.
“Right now, I’m at Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. This is actually the busiest airport in China. And right now, it’s actually prime time, and it’s basically empty because of this virus,” said Matthew Zhang, B.S.C. ’14, in his video.
Zhang was in the airport in April for his first business trip of the year. He had stayed quarantined at home throughout the pandemic and the airport was his first venture out.
“This pandemic is definitely a life-changing event. I mean it definitely changed how we live, and how people work, and everything… basically I can’t get used to it here, anymore,” he said, gesturing toward the near empty walkways in China’s eighth-largest airport.
Any member of the wider SoC community can share their story through All of Us. Please visit https://com.miami.edu/all-of-us?utm_source=website&utm_medium=blog&utm_campaign=all-of-us and follow the three simple steps.
The Global Engagement Task Force is composed of Sanjeev Chatterjee, professor, Cinematic Arts, Journalism & Media Management; Kim Grinfeder, associate professor, Interactive Media; Sallie Hughes, associate professor, Journalism & Media Management, UMIA; Victoria Orrego-Dunleavy, associate professor, Communication Studies; Jyotika Ramaprasad, professor, Journalism & Media Management; Lien Tran, assistant professor, Interactive Media; Joseph B. Treaster, professor, Journalism & Media Management; Wanhsiu “Sunny” Tsai, associate professor, Strategic Communication; Tsitsi Wakhisi, associate professor of professional practice, Journalism & Media Management.