Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Pandemic shutdown sparks innovation at ISE schools
Associate Dean Mary Besterfield-Sacre recounts to ISE Magazine how the Swanson School quickly adapted to remote learning and other challenges following the onset of COVID-19
Engineering undergraduates working in a MEMS lab under new COVID-19 safety protocols. (Aimee Beattie/University of Pittsburgh)

As COVID-19 spread worldwide in early March, businesses shuttered, public places emptied and schools closed for weeks to enforce physical distancing restrictions.

The impact was keenly felt by colleges and universities, where officials were quickly thrust into crisis mode. In mere days, they had to close campuses and adjust to online learning platforms while addressing the various needs of students and faculty.

Mary Besterfield-Sacre was among those caught in the tempest. As University of Pittsburgh students left for spring break, officials at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering began planning how to react to the virus’ approach. By midweek, the decision was made to close the campus before students returned.

“By that time, what I’d already started doing was rallying the troops,” Besterfield-Sacre, a professor of industrial engineering and associate dean for academic affairs, told ISE. “We said, ‘This is what we’ve got to do – we’ve got to get the entire school up and running in a remote mode.’ ... The goal was to do the best we could for the last five weeks, and get over the finish line.”

In the blink of an eye, instructors scrambled to adopt remote teaching techniques while students tried to complete research projects and fulfill summer internships and postgraduate job options. Yet amid the chaos, industrial and systems engineering faculty devised solutions to deliver class material online and students found innovative ways to stay connected and maintain their academic standing. In doing so, everyone learned what worked and what didn’t, and sought to improve remote learning procedures as fall semester approached.

Read the full story at ISE Magazine.

Author: Keith Albertson, managing editor of ISE magazine, 9/7/2020

Contact: Paul Kovach