25 Acts of Courage, Compassion, and Creativity

Two people with dark hair wearing all-white clothing, including white face masks, stand close together and look forward. The person on the right wears a white beanie with an IU trident on it.
Illustration by IU graphic design MFA student Christian Wang

When the global pandemic hit, the IU family did not falter. With generosity, determination, and ingenuity, we remained—as we have for 200 years—never daunted. Here’s just a sampling of the ways that IU students, faculty, alumni, and supporters rose to meet the challenge.

IUPUI engineering and technology faculty reverse-engineered, redesigned, and fabricated critical components to enable ventilators to serve two patients if necessary.

125 fourth-year students at the IU School of Medicine graduated early, answering the Indiana governor’s call to help the state mount a response to the pandemic.

Kelley School of Business faculty, alumni, and students formed the #RealHeroesNeedMasks initiative, donating more than 21,000 masks to hospitals around the country.

A red background with information on how to donate to the IU Alumni Peduli #FightCOVID-19 Fundraise." The logo for "Alumni IU Indonesia" is included, as well as a photo of people wearing PPE next to the line "You stay home for them; we help them stay safe."
IU alumni in Indonesia promoted their PPE fundraiser through their @indonesiahoosiers Instagram profile.

The IU alumni community in Indonesia organized a fundraiser to support frontline health care workers. They raised enough to distribute more than 2,000 pairs of latex gloves and 20 liters of hand sanitizer to local hospitals.

Child psychologist and IU East professor Beth Trammell provided resources for parents navigating the complexities of this time period with their children.

Led by senior Hannah Yi, a group of IUPUI students formed Knowledge Share, an online tutoring service for K-12 students. “COVID-19 is neither a ‘you problem,’ a ‘me problem,’ nor a ‘their problem,’” Yi said. “If we all do our own small part, whether it’s helping an elderly neighbor get groceries, or checking in on friends and family, we have to have faith we will get through this, perhaps more united by our common humanity.”

IU South Bend nursing students supported the overwhelmed local health department with contact tracing efforts.

The IU School of Medicine was chosen as a site for Phase III of a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

Bloomington distillery Cardinal Spirits, co-founded by IU alumni Jason Katz and Jeff Wuslich, shifted 90 percent of its production from spirits to hand sanitizer—donating thousands of gallons to frontline and essential workers.

IU design professor Jiangmei Wu used her origami expertise to develop a paper-folding technique for producing face masks.

A smiling woman with shoulder-length black hair, wearing a black turtleneck and black-rimmed eyeglasses, holds up a wooden sculpture.
Jiangmei Wu

IU linguistics students translated crucial COVID-19 materials, like the text of Indiana’s stay-at-home order, for the more than 25,000 Burmese refugees who call Indiana home. “The students are tireless,” said IU linguistics professor Kelly Berkson. “In a time of uncertainty, we get to work on something relevant and time-sensitive. It gives us all a sense of purpose. Who gets to do this? It’s a privilege.”

As an antidote to social isolation, IU Bloomington junior Evan Catron created the Quarantine Buddies program, which matches up individuals based on their interests.

Students in IU’s Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism helped launch the nation’s first county-by-county novel coronavirus tracker.

Faculty and staff stepped up in a big way to serve students remotely. “I have been comforted by the nearly constant contact from administrators and the chancellor during this pandemic,” wrote one IUPUI student. “In an unimaginable crisis, the university has pulled together to begin carving out a new normal until normal changes again. I am proud that my eventual degree will bear the name of Indiana University.”

The IU Art Museum hosted free, online art therapy sessions.

Two people in a warehouse moving furniture.
IU Surplus employee Roger Stout, left, and Michael Smith of A Better Way moving company load chairs and other donated items to furnish a COVID-19 isolation shelter for the homeless in Bloomington. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University.

IU Surplus donated the majority of furnishings for a self-isolation shelter where people experiencing homelessness could stay if exposed to the novel coronavirus.

IU’s Food Institute established the Emergency Meal Project.

IU Bloomington staff member Nichelle Whitney started the Monroe County Meal Train, which distributed 4,200 hot meals and 1,400 nonperishable meals in its first six weeks alone.

20,847 new graduates joined the IU alumni family.

Donors gave more than $500,000 to Indiana University student emergency funds, benefiting IU students needing immediate help with unforeseen expenses.

An IU Kokomo student and single father of two girls received assistance paying his internet bill for two months. “This was a huge assistance to my family of three,” he wrote. “The crisis fund helped me not worry about how I would complete my studies, how my daughter would perform e-learning, or how I would keep the baby monitor hooked up in my youngest’s room. I am grateful for this resource.”

IUPUI senior Jadah Cunningham organized her sorority to raise money for local food banks, and they collected enough to feed more than 3,000 people.

Jadah Cunningham, a woman with light-brown skin and curly hair in a ponytail on top of her head, smiles and holds a whiteboard on which she has written "Thank you! Jadah.”
Jadah Cunningham not only gave help to others, but received help as well. When Cunningham’s car was broken into and her backpack stolen, emergency funding helped her replace essential items and stay on track in her classes. Photo courtesy of O’Neill School at IUPUI.

IU Bloomington and IUPUI offered residence halls as temporary housing for health care workers.

In her pioneering role as a police social worker, IU Northwest alumna Erica Rios, BSW’13, MSW’17, called hundreds of seniors in her community to assess their needs and connect them with resources. She said it opened her eyes to how many in her community are struggling. “I hope to use this as a learning tool to be able to continue helping our most vulnerable residents.”

Speedier and more sensitive diagnostic tests for the viral strain are in the works thanks to researchers from the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI and the IU School of Medicine.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of IMAGINE magazine.

Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.