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Aerial Norwich Campus View in early spring

SPECIAL EDITION: Thinking about COVID-19? So is Norwich faculty.

Everyone is adapting to new realities as we learn to work remotely, educate students and serve people in need and this transition has stimulated intellectual curiosities. Norwich has a series of interdisciplinary essays featuring faculty members’ perspectives on the coronavirus to help us all think through the consequences our nation is facing.


e live in a world of pervasive and profound asymmetries – in size of countries, in economic power, in military might, and capacity to project and control information. We also live in a world that features rules against going to war, except for defense. When a country elects to go to war, it must thus construct a case for its decision – a casus belli, a “provocation” that justifies its “response”. 


t is time for Canadians to take a serious look at our neighbourhood – Russia to the North and the US to the South.

Any country bordering Russia – even across a frozen sea – has cause for concern these days. New sea lanes and more exploitation of arctic gas and oil by state-owned companies starved of world-class technology make Canada’s military and environmental defence more urgent than ever. Our southern neighbor also needs a hard look.

The importance of leadership on military effectiveness cannot be overstated: “many factors decide the outcomes of battles,” and “leadership is often the most important” (MCoE, 2018). However, US military underestimations in recent conflict regions, such as Afghanistan, have been attributed to a failure of leadership to understand and communicate effectively with both host cultures and foreign coalition partners  (Stavridis, 2021).

When contemplating a military undertaking, it pays the powerful to return to the classics. Had Vladimir Putin remembered his Thucydides, he’d have thought twice about invading Ukraine.

We are not finished with COVID-19 yet, or more precisely, it is not finished with us. However, there are many lessons we have hopefully learned as we prepare for the next pandemic. I will outline how an understanding of exponential growth, thoughtful improvements in education and an increased public involvement in support of science can all be part of our societal strategy for an improved response next time this happens.

On Feb. 24, as Russia started a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the mainstream media’s grim accounts of COVID-19 progression around the world were replaced by no less dramatic reports of the battles in that country. By the war’s fifth day, it became clear that Russia’s aims in Ukraine were unlimited, the main goal being the destruction of Ukraine’s statehood.

The recent news of a serial killer identified as the “Shopping Cart Killer” in the Virginia area once again highlights the insatiable appetite for crime news, particularly with respect to serial murder. Typically in these narratives, the victims are often summarized simply as a number, with their names and histories subsumed by every last detail of the offender. For example, most people would be able to identify Jack the Ripper as a notorious serial killer who was never caught. Few would be able to point to any significant details of the five women commonly cited as victims of Jack the Ripper — Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddows and Mary Jane Kelly. Author Hallie Rubenhold (2019, Page 292) argues these women “were daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, and lovers. They were women. They were human beings, and surely that in itself is enough.”

The word resilience is really seeing its moment in the light. Deep-rooted in the fields of psychology, ecology and engineering [1], the past two years allowed this word to be adopted by multiple causes and domains. In some instances, it was the call to action — let’s fight back, let’s make change in ways that challenge status quos and transform cultures and systems to make them even better than before. In others, it induced a reluctance, a resistance that said — let’s take a moment and feel and experience the loss and just grieve, let’s not rush into responding and rebuilding.

As the tidal wave of the COVID-19 pandemic pulls back, it is important to assess its aftermath. The pandemic highlighted the contribution of nurses carrying out their primary directive, which is caring for the sick. A shortage of nurses predated the pandemic and was already having an impact on the provision of nursing care. Then, the pandemic created a demand for more nurses in all health care areas, but specifically at the bedside.

In the runup to the 2020 election, states implemented more voting options due to COVID-19 — more drop-off boxes, no reason absentee voting, mail-in voting. These options brought up concerns about the security and legitimacy of the outcome of the election.

2020 ushered in the convergence of multiple societal, political, environmental, and health crises, many of which have continued to churn at a near-constant roil since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic two years ago. In a context ripe with rapidly evolving variables, acute unrest and destabilizing uncertainty, we’ve consistently been presented with the challenge to guide students through curricula while ensuring that the importance of the moment, the depth of its complexities, and associated sociopsychological impacts have been appropriately and adequately conveyed over the past two-plus years. As scholars and educators, questions of how to best engage in what are undoubtedly “difficult dialogues” in accessible and meaningful ways while not succumbing to (or accidentally encouraging) counterproductive actions like doomscrolling and echo chambering have remained constant.

Two years ago, as we watched COVID-19 emerge, spread and impact so many lives throughout the world, my focus as a biologist was almost entirely on the virus and how scientists would respond. There was so much we didn’t know yet — how far would the virus spread? How would it change?  How quickly could we develop a vaccine so we could get back to normal? 

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