When the Global Health Fellows of the Batten Leadership Program started their situation reports about the coronavirus pandemic in March, the students thought it would be a short-term initiative, one designed to combat people’s fears with an array of well-researched facts from authoritative sources.
While the focus on facts has remained, the scope of the project — and the Fellows’ vision for what they are learning and doing — has shifted dramatically. Over the past weeks, all 18 Global Health Fellows have produced five reports. They are presented and recorded on Zoom, ranging in length of presentation from about 20 minutes to as short as seven minutes. All reports are accessible on the COVID-19 updates page on the NA website.
In short, once the project started, it just kept going...and growing.
As the pandemic has reshaped lives in countries spanning the globe, and in all 50 states across our nation, the team has found itself exploring an array of topics obliquely connected to the medical crisis, including mental health, variations in government responses in different nations, and disparities in the impact on different racial groups.
Their investigation is giving them a crash course in public health on a global scale. “It is enlightening to study this topic over the long term,” said Sahib Chandi ‘20. “We’ve been spending the better part of one semester on it, and you see how the situation changes.”
The Fellows developed a strategic process to corral the deluge of facts, create visually appealing and information-packed slides, and provide a final editing polish. Connor Tiffany ‘20 has been the coordinator, choosing the topics for each situation report. Students are permitted to research a different topic in each report, which keeps them motivated and curious, week after week.
Once slides are submitted, an editing team, composed of Julia Duarte ‘20, Gavin Goss ‘22, and Maddie Brooks ’21, reviews all of the slides, making sure that the information is conveyed in a clear manner; that slides are free of grammar errors; and that the slides are aesthetically pleasing.
Connor keeps the project moving on a tight schedule, sending out weekly reminders, and they have delivered the reports on Fridays during E bell. The first presentation was done for Headmaster Dennis Manning and Associate Headmaster Linda Gorsline, but the other presentations have been shared on social media and on the school’s website.
Although the group is eager to share the information and educate others, the audience is not the point. “It’s a testament to everyone’s intellectual curiosity in a way that brings us together,” Julia observed. “It centers on Global Health but leads into other topics.”
Norfolk Academy’s programming focuses on teaching leadership, and the students feel the pandemic has provided fascinating opportunities to observe leadership styles and take lessons from what they see. All three Fellows who were interviewed listed the need to be inclusive of all socioeconomic and racial groups as a top shared concern. “There is exclusion,” Connor said. “When legislation is being passed, some groups are being left behind.”
Sahib noted that good leadership often means making some people unhappy. “Stick to the science” as a basis for decisions in a health crisis, he said.
Leadership, Julia said, “means making decisions that may not benefit you personally, but will benefit a whole bunch of people.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic has halted many end-of-the year initiatives, including the Fellows’ plans for summer travel and research in Belize, the situation reports have been a good substitution—not one they would have chosen, of course, but a way to stay motivated in exploring and learning. And as Connor, Sahib, and Julia head off to college--to Dartmouth, North Carolina State, and UVA respectively--they know the Fellows who are taking the hand-off have the same restless curiosity that they do.
“This program revolves around pragmatic approaches to health problems,” Sahib said. “This pandemic is real-world content.”
This project was designed as a practical tool to help those making decisions, said Mrs. Price Hall, assistant director of the Batten Leadership Program and founder of the Global Health Fellows Program. "A core tenet of the Batten Leadership Program's Fellows Program is not just to learn about a seemingly intractable issue, but to also act and to do something about it," she said. "The GHF COVID-19 Situation Report is just that."
For those who have viewed their situation reports, the Fellows have created a survey to help improve future efforts. Take the survey.