unprecedented: a campus community reflects on life in pandemic

Fear, uncertainty, chaos, disbelief, and confusion were some of the predominant emotions that marked the first days and weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. No one could have imagined the enormous loss and life changes that were to come. At the University of Michigan-Dearborn, as more news came in day by day, we leaned on each other and worked together rising to the unprecedented challenge of finding ways to safely continue teaching and essential work. Exhibited here are voices and images reflecting the calm before the storm.

Untitled, Adam Styron

Not knowing how long we would be away from our offices, we rushed to make decisions about what to take home, and worked quickly as teams to establish new Covid-19 procedures in each of our departments.

"And I don’t think that I necessarily thought of it as something that was going to be as widespread and as long-term as what it is…"

Noel Hornbacher, Director of Financial Services

Several months into the pandemic, we invited the campus community to pick up a camera or smartphone and examine their homes and communities in a new way. We asked participants to look for interesting methods for depicting mundane objects, photograph family members and elements of nature that bring joy, and document volunteer activities and other scenes in their communities to serve as historic documentation for the pandemic.

Untitled, Ethan Pelkie
Life Stands Still, Christina Lai

Classes were rapidly reimagined and reconfigured for digital learning, and faculty and staff worked long hours to create innumerable new methods of fulfilling our educational mission for the students as we all faced daunting challenges.

"Monday, everything was fine and then by Friday it was like ‘You can’t leave your house anymore.’."

Drew Dykowski, Student

The pace of the news and the consequences were truly unprecedented. Huge decisions, affecting every aspect of our lives, were being made almost hourly in the first few weeks of the pandemic. Before all of us realized how serious the situation was, we transitioned to working from home.

"by the time I got home and woke up from my nap, school was closed for the rest of the semester…"

Bethany McQuiston, Student

Many parts of our community were deserted in eerie ways, and entire empty aisles in the grocery stores created panic. In the beginning, we made cautious trips to stores that felt unsafe not knowing what to buy, and we stocked our homes with canned and boxed foods.

"all of a sudden for it not to be available, that was hard…"

Elisa Madrigal, Administrative Coordinator of Mathematics and Statistics

All was not doom and gloom! Some of us faced the stark realities and constantly evolving circumstances with humor and good cheer.

"We were always joking about how your grocery list suddenly became a wish list…"

Jamie Wraight, Director, The Voice/Vision Archive; Lecturer IV in History

In our home lives, we prepared for lockdown by cobbling together new home offices and teaching ourselves how to tutor our children and sew masks during those first months when the supply was low. In the face of unimagined shortages and uncertain safety, we reprioritized what was important to buy at the grocery store.

Grocery Run, Cody Lovelace
Bringing in Produce, Patricia Smith
Jasmine Tea, Maureen Linker

"we could deal with any shortages that we thought might happen…"

Rich Durant, ITS Operations Manager

When we could not be close to those we loved, we innovated, embracing novel ways of connecting with loved ones through glass and started new traditions of birthday parties and family dinners over Zoom.

Our Glass| Our Love, Sukayna Hamka
Grandfather Glass, Sukayna Hamka
Beyond A Thousand Words..., Shannon Salter