student walking into regents hall
Category: 2020, Giving News, Stewardship Investment Report

Title:Cura personalis at work

Living our values during a global pandemic

From the earliest signs of the novel coronavirus in January 2020, Georgetown has been guided by a commitment to the health and safety of its community. In early March, the university decided to pivot to a virtual learning environment, a transition we approached with a particular concern for the needs and well-being of students.

The COVID-19 Response & Resilience Fund was established to help students with unexpected expenses. From ensuring their safe travel home, shipping or storing belongings left on campus, to providing internet broadband access and offering continued on-campus housing and other critical services to the small number of students who could not return to their permanent addresses, we sought to provide the support our students needed. In addition, Georgetown refunded prorated room and board costs to all students, including those receiving financial aid, to ensure continued food and housing security for the semester.

Meanwhile, the university quickly shifted to virtual learning for all students, a transition facilitated by our 20-year investment in technology-enhanced and technology-aided teaching and learning. As a result, students were able to finish their semester’s work; seniors and graduate students in their final years were able to graduate on time; and the university was able to successfully start the 2020-21 academic year in virtual mode, in accordance with public health guidance provided by the District of Columbia.

Through the summer initiative 90 Days with Georgetown, more than 9,000 members of our extraordinary community gave $40 million to support the university and help ensure mission continuity. To promote community and connection, the Office of Advancement coordinated more than 200 virtual events with voluntary donations going to the COVID-19 Response & Resilience Fund as well as student financial aid.

Looking back on 2020, Georgetown faculty members have been at the forefront of medical research and public health infrastructure conversations, reminding world leaders and the general public of the critical needs of underserved populations. Given recent tragedies and protests, Georgetown has also invested in wide-sweeping pedagogy reform to combat racial injustice. Here are just a few of the ways Georgetown University is making an impact:


Rebecca Katz, Ph.D., MPH
Leadership in pandemic planning

In November 2020, President-elect Joe Biden named Georgetown University Medical Center’s Rebecca Katz as an advisor for his coronavirus task force. Katz, the director of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, had been part of a team advising Biden on COVID-19 prior to the election.

A professor in the department of microbiology and immunology, Katz has expertise in pandemic planning. For more than a decade, she has worked to help design systems and implement policies to facilitate a coordinated response to potential microbial outbreaks and pandemics. She is also an expert on the World Health Organization and its International Health Regulations.

Since 2007, much of her work has focused on the global governance of public health emergencies. From 2004 to 2019, Katz was a consultant to the Department of State, working on issues related to the Biological Weapons Convention, pandemic influenza, and disease surveillance. In 2019, she co-convened the first international scientific conference on global health security.

At Georgetown, Katz teaches courses on global health diplomacy, global health security, and emerging infectious diseases in the School of Foreign Service. Read more about her work on COVID-AMP (COVID Analysis and Mapping of Policies).

Meet Dr. Katz’s interdisciplinary team in this story video:

Rebecca Katz

Christopher J. King, Ph.D., FACHE
A national voice on health disparities

In June 2020, Georgetown University published a report illuminating the entrenched health and socioeconomic disparities that have caused a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths in Washington, D.C.’s African American communities.

Health Disparities in the Black Community: An Imperative for Racial Equity in the District of Columbia is a publication of the School of Nursing & Health Studies (NHS) at Georgetown University Medical Center. Christopher J. King, Ph.D., FACHE, chair of the department of health systems administration at NHS, is its lead author.

“Black residents in our city face a disproportionate burden of disease, such as cancer, diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases, and obesity,” says King. “These health disparities result from long-standing injustices and makes the African American community much more vulnerable to a highly infectious virus like COVID-19.”

In the Fall 2020 semester, King offered an independent study focusing on racial equity in health care that he hopes will grow into a regular course. The course consists of two phases: the first involves understanding the effects of institutional and systemic racism on health and health care whereas the second phase, an experiential component, centers on engagement in health care settings and providing “resources that help health care executives and practitioners operationalize racial equity concepts,” he explains.

Watch a short video introduction to Dr. King’s important work:

Christopher King's research on health disparities in DC

The Baker Trust
Setting a high standard for educational innovation

In 2019, Jon (C’62) and Patricia Baker (Parents ‘81,‘91,‘94) established the Baker Trust for Transformational Learning with an investment of $20 million. Directed by Randy Bass, Georgetown vice president for strategic education initiatives, the Baker Trust fosters educational innovation and university-wide collaboration.

The Baker Trust leaders organized 2020 projects around two significant events: the COVID-19 global pandemic and an awakening of a national consciousness about equality. One of these is a major new initiative on Curriculum Transformation to advance Racial Justice. “These events have prompted deep reconsideration of what procedures and practices within the university might unintentionally contribute to racial injustices,” shared Provost Groves in a blog post that announced the initiative. “Faculty will begin considering parts of the curricula that were shaped many decades ago. Some have observed that the content and perspectives of some courses omit diverse perspectives and contributions within fields.”

Using resources provided by the Baker Trust, departments and programs will revisit their curricula to address these issues. The Trust also supports coordination, implementation, and evaluation of pilot projects. For example, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Learning Design, and Technology (LDT) program launched “Higher Education’s Big Rethink” over the summer. The Big Rethink is a multi-layered, public-facing community learning event that aims to follow and interpret this moment in higher education as colleges and universities work to adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and the national consciousness around racial justice.

Another project is the Georgetown Public Policy Challenge, a problem-based, experiential learning engagement that takes place outside a traditional classroom. This interdisciplinary competition tasks students with developing innovative solutions to policy issues in the Washington, D.C. region. The winner of the 2020 challenge was The Homeless Youth Parents project, a three-step proposal to assist the underserved and underrepresented population of young parents experiencing homelessness in Washington, D.C. The proposal aims to change policy language to include young parents as a vulnerable and growing population, engage in a continuity of care planning cycle, and ensure earmarked funds for young parents by lobbying with local representatives and utilizing grassroots efforts.

In these and countless other ways, Georgetown is demonstrating “care of the whole person” during a time of unprecedented challenges.

Hear more about Georgetown’s educational innovation and agility in this short video:

Rohan Williamson