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DePaul University Global Conversations


When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the beginning of 2020, colleagues at DePaul University, one of our partner institutions in Chicago, USA, established a new series of Global Conversations offering students the opportunity to connect and reflect on the impact of COVID-19 with students from across the globe. In April 2021, staff and students from both Nottingham Business School and from NTU’s School of Social Sciences co-hosted sessions in the latest series of events.

The Department of Social and Political Sciences co-hosted a session on 'Adaptations & Obstacles: Human Responses to the Pandemic' which explored the impact of the pandemic on education, health, nutrition, and wellbeing. Faculty moderators were Professor Robert Dingwall (SPS, NTU), Sheila Towson, (DePaul), Rosalia Castillo Villar  (Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico) and Chirag Chandrakant Sheth Shah (Universidad Cardenal Herrera, Spain).

The session was attended by students from many different countries, including UK, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, India, France, and Zambia, along with over 30 students from SPS and Health at NTU. The small group discussions explored the impact of the pandemic on students' experiences of education as well as other effects of the pandemic relating to students' health and well-being. Students were able to compare experiences across the globe and the different ways in which online/blended teaching was conducted. Some common themes included the need for establishing clear protocols for student engagement with online teaching sessions; the loneliness of the experience of blended/online learning and the loss of informal peer-to-peer learning outside of formal classes. The impact of blended learning on student mental health was also discussed and the desire to return to some face-to-face teaching was a fairly universal sentiment expressed by students from all areas and countries.

Colleagues in Nottingham Business School (NBS) ran its session on "Inclusiveness, safety and resilience for supporting sustainable cities and communities" together with ICESI Business School in Cali (CO). Session moderators were Ofelia Palermo (NBS), Euan Hague and Gian Mario Besana (DePaul), Lina Sofia Valenzuela Dow and Maria del Pilar Acosta (Kairos Observatory for Corporate Sustainability, Universidad ICESI).

NTU students, together with their colleagues from Chicago and Cali, discussed opportunities and challenges to reaching sustainable development goals, specifically those tied to inclusiveness, safety, and resilience. Cases from participants' national and regional contexts, and from their study and travelling experiences were used as examples for raising awareness of the potential that sustainability driven initiatives can still explore. The need for forging impactful and creative partnerships between local authorities and relevant stakeholders was acknowledged as important across the board. Insights on the importance of being pragmatic, culturally aware, and having institutions that lead by example emerged as key points for reflection.

In a Spanish-English conversation setting, the collaboration with ICESI offered the possibility of considering the fast-developing sustainable communities in Colombia, enabling students to win physical and linguistic borders.