Published: Oct. 31, 2020

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano posed questions from students to Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, this week as part of a new class that addresses various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The course––designed in part by students––investigates the challenges students face while building their ability to improve personal wellness. Health, Society and Wellness in COVID-19 Times, a one-credit online class, offers lectures taught by 35 scholars from across the university, including a Nobel Laureate in addition to Fauci.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he especially wanted to reach out to college-aged youth with his message. 

“If they get infected, they may be under the false impression that, ‘It doesn’t make any difference if I get infected. My symptoms might be none or very minor…It doesn’t make any difference to the rest of society,’” he said. “That is really not correct. Because if you don’t take care and protect yourself from infection, you are inadvertently and even innocently propagating the pandemic.” 

Through the course, more than 3,500 incoming students in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education and the College of Media, Communication and Information critically analyze the interrelationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism. They also gain tools to cultivate a socially responsible campus and maintain their wellness.

The concept for the course began last spring, when CU Boulder leaders realized students needed practical information to stem the spread of COVID-19 and instruction in antiracism. Rather than study them separately, course developers believed faculty could create an academic experience that explored the historical moments together.

Fourteen students—including some from local high schools, incoming and current CU Boulder students and recent graduates—identified content they thought students needed to know, skills they needed, and ways instructors could most effectively deliver that information.

Faculty were then invited to submit 15-minute lessons for the course and deliver them to the student teams for review. CU Boulder Nobel Laureate Tom Cech was one of the first faculty to submit a lesson.

In the 15-minute interview, Fauci talked about his path to his current position, which began with immersion in the humanities. He also discussed the bigger challenges presented by the pandemic and the ways in which he keeps himself physically and mentally healthy. 

“We’ve got to take not only personal responsibility to protect ourselves. We’ve got to be aware of our societal responsibility...You can help bring this to an end by protecting yourself.”