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Pandemic Presents Challenges, Lessons for Students and Faculty

Posted on: March 24, 2020 in Faculty Stories by Michael Mahi

Sean Walker busily signed papers and reviewed departmental emails, stopping occasionally to peek at the Johns Hopkins University global coronavirus interactive map. It’s instinctual for the biology researcher. 

“I’m a population biologist by training,” Walker, interim associate director of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said while finishing some last-minute details before leaving campus for the duration of the COVID-19 response. “So, from a nerdy population biology perspective, there’s some really interesting stuff to watch.”

As the numbers shifted and changed almost by the second, he noted how this moment in time is an excellent classroom lesson for our students.

“We have the students who are like, ‘Why do I need to learn this stuff?’ And it’s like, Well, even if you want to be a physician, guess what. This a real-life scenario happening right now, and we can learn from it,” he said. 

Walker, who serves on CSUF’s Academic Senate, said the transition to online instruction is challenging, but he is encouraged by how faculty have risen to the task.

“I’ve been surprised at how willing people are to take this chance and try a different way of teaching,” Walker said. “The other super positive thing is how much our faculty and our staff care about the students because that’s been something that’s like still at 100 percent no matter what. So that’s been really cool.”

He said one of his main concerns is preserving the research that faculty and staff have toiled over this past semester.

“I think the students and the faculty that are most worried about this, in terms of getting to campus, are people who are worried about their research,” Walker said. “We have students who are working on their thesis. We have students who are taking care of living organisms and all those sorts of things, and we have to figure all of that out.”

Walker reflected on being a witness to history.

“We’re sitting in what is probably one of the most historic periods of time of our lifetime,” he said. “I think there are lots of things that are teachable moments from this that we’ll tease out. I think one that immediately comes to mind is folks don’t understand the sheer connectedness of our world.”

Cal State Fullerton is looking for stories from our campus community about being a witness to history. Contact Senior Director of Digital Media Michael Mahi at

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    Michael Mahi

    Michael Mahi is the Senior Director of Digital Media.

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