In the midst of COVID-19, Penn sustains a global mission

November 17, 2020
By Lauren Hertzler | Penn Today

With his research at the intersection of economics and global health, before COVID-19, Harsha Thirumurthy was often lifting off.

In January, the Perelman School of Medicine associate professor was 8,000 miles away in South Africa, opening a first-of-its kind nudge unit focused on HIV prevention. Thirumurthy would land in Kenya just weeks later for a different research project. By the mid-March shutdown, he was back home in the U.S., navigating his work within a “new normal” that has kept his feet on the ground since.

As associate director of the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, and co-director of the Penn Development Research Initiative, Thirumurthy says his worldwide projects’ “saving grace” during these past eight months has rested on the ability to stay connected—to his research partners and study participants—even while physically apart...

Indeed, it is a challenge—to stay true to a global mission, even during the most trying of times—that the entire Penn community hasn’t taken lightly.

“We have not slowed at all,” says Amy GadsdenPenn Global’s associate vice provost for global initiatives. “We continue to do everything we can to provide meaningful global experiences to our students and faculty, bringing the world to Penn and Penn to the world.”

Pivoting already-established programs has been key. For instance, new Penn students and parents from 60-plus countries had the opportunity to participate online in July in Forerunner Global, a pre-departure orientation program that typically only takes place in Beijing and New Delhi. The fifth annual Penn in Latin America & the Caribbean Symposium moved to a virtual format too, as well as a slew of Perry World House events, including its annual Global Order Colloquium.

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