One Year Later: How COVID-19 Changed Binghamton University

Posted by John Brhel on March 11, 2021

On March 19, 2020, classes at Binghamton University went online. COVID-19 had just hit New York and the University quickly ended all in-person classes for the remainder of the semester. It’s an understatement to say that a lot changed over the next year. The pandemic affected how we held classes, how students lived, how our faculty and staff did their jobs, and so much more. But we adapted and proved how resilient an institution we are -- from students who helped to work on the frontlines, to faculty who developed technology to fight the virus itself, to staff pulling together donations for the local community.

With the one-year anniversary of COVID-19’s impact on campus, we thought we’d take a look back at how life has changed at Binghamton, and how we stepped up to the challenge.

Classes went online

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Unable to meet in large groups due to COVID-19, Binghamton University went online. The transition came fast — the University wanted to ensure the safety of students first and foremost — but the Binghamton community rose to the occasion. Faculty quickly adapted their courses to an online format, students changed their routines — and everyone got used to seeing each other’s cats. When it came time to restart for the fall, we were ready with a plan.

Testing became a priority

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In order to keep numbers down and ensure the safety of the Binghamton community, we started to conduct regular COVID-19 testing. We were one of very few universities in the country to test every incoming student living on campus during fall move-in. Informing the campus community of changes in location and frequency to testing has become a regular occurrence. One of our student writers even documented in a blog what it’s like to get tested, and the University published content focusing on what it’s like to be in quarantine.

Campus life changed

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Like classes, the need to social distance and prevent the spread of COVID-19 required that campus life drastically change — in-person meetings and events went virtual, meals were pre-packaged, masks became the norm. Some groups got creative, like the Binghamton Ballroom Dance Association, pictured here, which held socially distanced dance lessons outside.

Our community assisted the local community

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While students, faculty and staff did their part to meet the needs of the University commuinty, they also banded together to ensure that there was enough personal protective equipment to go around in our local area. From faculty at the Watson School donating medical supplies to a student making homemade masks, campus community members gave what they had to help their fellow citizens, and we couldn’t be prouder.

Students stepped up to the challenge

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While they were adapting both to a new way of campus life and a new method of taking classes, that didn’t stop our students from doing their part to assist in the fight against COVID-19. From serving as contract tracers, to building a ventilator in a dorm room over a weekend, to working at the COVID-19 testing site on campus, our students used their newfound skills to help the University and the greater community.

Faculty conducted amazing research

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When our faculty learned about the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, they used their expertise and ingenuity to help in the fight. Engineering faculty like Guy German and Kaiming Ye, pictured here, worked together on a UV sterilziation system to aid healthcare workers, while Arti Ramesh and Anand Seetharam in Computer Science used machine learning to build COVID-19 predications

Alumni did their part

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Our alumni are some of the best and brightest in the world, and we’re not surprised that they’ve offered their talents in the fight against COVID-19. Whether it was healthcare workers working on the frontlines, assisting in vaccine trials or helping to promote local restaurants, Binghamton grads showed that they’re vital members of society worldwide. 

Commencement went virtual

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Binghamton goes big on Commencement, but we were unfortunately unable to hold our traditional ceremonies in the Events Center. We couldn’t let the Class of 2020 off without a proper celebration, so we hosted a Virtual Champagne Sendoff in the spring. And when December rolled around, we hosted 10 virtual Commencement ceremonies, featuring every graduating student’s name. 

We hosted a vaccination site

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With the COVID-19 vaccine approved, distribution began across the state. Starting in January, the University hosted a state-run vaccination site in Johnson City, a glimmer of hope in the fight against COVID-19 and a step back toward "normal" life.

John Brhel is a communications manager in the Office of Media and Public Relations and a longtime resident of the Binghamton area. When he's not managing social media accounts or crafting press releases, you can find him drawing, watching movies, or spending time with his family.

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