In March 2020, when COVID-19 put an end to most in-person learning, UW faculty had to get creative. How do you put on a play when actors are confined to their own apartments? Teach furniture design when students can’t use the shop? Show students how to mix concrete online?
As the UW prepares for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, we celebrate our Husky community: The innovative UW faculty who worked hard over the past year to ensure that their students could continue to grow and learn. The resilient students who adjusted to a drastically different learning environment. And all who worked together to redefine what is possible in a world of physical distance — and digital connection.
Broadcasting to his students from a tripod-mounted iPhone, Griggs puts together a piece of furniture in a shop that’s much quieter than usual.
In a normal year, students in architect Kimo Griggs’ annual Scan|Design Master Studio course would design and build their own furniture on campus — and travel to Copenhagen to study Denmark’s iconic design style. Griggs was disappointed to have to move the course online, but he also saw an opportunity to more closely model the class on the way design practice works today. Griggs and his UW colleagues Penny Maulden and Steve Withycombe acted as vendors, building the furniture that students designed. Students learned how professionals design products from their offices — including working with vendors across distance to bring their designs to life. And when the pandemic is over and it’s safe to travel again? Griggs has promised students who can make it that he’ll take them to Denmark.
Hussein assembles hardware that her students — and others from around the world — could access remotely.
Schnee used technology to enhance his philosophy classes before the pandemic began — and to keep his lessons engaging in an all-remote environment.
The (virtual) curtain is up at the Jones Playhouse, where a technical crew uses 21 computers and a projector to stream “So Far So Good” live on YouTube.
Normally, a dramatic performance is a distinctly in-person experience for everyone involved: actors, directors, tech crew, audience. So how could director Libby King and 11 actors, all graduate students in the UW’s Professional Actor Training Program, pull off a theatrical production in a pandemic? Luckily, King had experience creating theater that pushes boundaries. Over weeks of writing prompts and discussions, the actors co-developed the production. They worked with a set designer to get their individual performance spaces — in their own homes — just right. And then, with a team of technical staff coordinating feeds from all those locations, the School of Drama presented the original play “So Far So Good” live — and online.
Seen through his webcam, Labitzke leads students in a printmaking exercise.
Curt Labitzke, longtime chair of the UW’s Printmaking Program, tailored his printmaking course to the pandemic. He gave his students an easily digestible syllabus and shipped them bare-bones toolkits. Though he has a professional studio, Labitzke taught from his kitchen to make sure the process was accessible — and to appreciate the living spaces where his students created their own art. Whether majoring in art or mechanical engineering, students finished the class having learned about printmaking — and about themselves. Or, as Labitzke put it, “These images … come from what you love, and who you are, and what you do. And that’s what art is.”
Yamaura explains how to test the strength of a concrete beam sample.
In Julian Yamaura’s course on construction materials, students usually get hands-on learning about the properties and behaviors of substances like wood and concrete. Faced with the challenge of creating online versions of in-person labs, Yamaura produced video demonstrations that included deliberate errors for students to find and discuss how to fix. “I figured this might be a great opportunity for the students to supervise me,” says Yamaura, who knows that when they graduate, if his students aren’t handling materials themselves, they might be supervising others who are. He’s invited students to visit his lab and make concrete cylinder samples — a rite of passage for those studying civil engineering — as soon as in-person instruction resumes.
When Salzman couldn’t lead the UW Wind Ensemble in person, as he’s pictured doing here in 2019, he embraced the opportunity to teach his students more about improvisation and composition.
When UW Wind Ensemble Conductor Timothy Salzman realized he’d be teaching remotely, he had to quickly change his approach. Salzman’s Wind Ensemble course, normally performance-based, would instead focus on improvisation and composition. “Improvisation experience makes you a more poised and flexible performer,” Salzman says. “And understanding composition helps you think about form and intention in music in a way you don’t necessarily do when playing your single line on your instrument in an ensemble.” Students recorded short improvisations, then worked remotely in small teams to combine and modify their recordings using readily available mixing software. Seven successful U.S. composers joined as online guest speakers, sharing about their professional journeys, deepening students’ understanding of composition and preparing them to chart their own paths in the field.
After a year of remote learning, Prugh (left) and her students can finally wander wetland trails in Union Bay Natural Area, where her lectures come to life through the animals they see.
For more than a year, we have endured great hardship: loss, illness, stress and physical isolation from the people and communities we hold dear. While the UW community looks forward to a safe return to campus in the fall, this difficult period has led to innovative ways of teaching and learning that we’ll take with us into the future.
Photography by Dennis Wise, Ryan Hoover, Marcos Everstijn, Jackie Russo, David Marksbury and Mark Stone. Each photograph was taken following the appropriate safety protocols at the time.