UW–Madison’s chancellor and head men’s basketball coach discuss impact of coronavirus

MADISON, WI (April 22, 2020) — In response to the threat of COVID-19, the University of Wisconsin–Madison quickly and successfully accomplished a monumental task — the shift of its in-person classes to alternate delivery online.

“In the space of 11 days, we put over 7,000 classes online,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “By 13 days after we made the announcement, we had 99.9 percent of our classes online,” Blank told an audience of the university’s alumni and friends Tuesday evening. Blank spoke as part of a special UW Now Livestream discussion hosted by the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA).

She also noted that in just a couple of weeks, UW–Madison will confer degrees on nearly 7,500 undergraduates and more than 2,000 graduate students during a virtual graduation.

But the university’s greatest impact on the pandemic comes from its ability to harness innovation and research on behalf of Wisconsinites. Blank emphasized how this moment in time is a testament to the power of public research universities.

“We are on the front lines looking for vaccines, looking for drugs that might mitigate the effects of this disease, looking at what the implications are for our society,” said Blank. “We are research machines.”

Blank said the university has more than four dozen COVID research proposals filed with the federal government. Innovations, such as the creation of easily constructed face shields by the College of Engineering, are already having an impact across the country after they were championed by Ford and other major companies.

The work exemplifies the Wisconsin Idea. Alumni and friends are encouraged to share their support for the university’s efforts in their communities and with state officials.

Blank says university officials are already working on plans to reopen campus this fall, based on guidance from health officials. The primary goal will be to keep students, staff, and faculty feel safe.

“It’s going to involve a lot of testing. It’s going to involve some rejiggering of how we do classes, and I just hope we can get to that point. We’ll have to see how the public health crisis evolves,” said Blank. She added that a decision regarding the fall semester will be made later this summer.

Greg Gard, head coach of the UW’s men’s basketball team also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on his players. He shared the story of how he told the team that there would be no NCAA basketball tournament this year. “As Alando Tucker said that day in the locker room, canceling a basketball tournament is a first-world problem; there are bigger issues in this world, and obviously we’ve see over the last six weeks what has resulted from this,” said Gard. He continues to talk to his team on a regular basis and encourages them to stay positive. “Eventually the storm is going to run out of rain, and we’ll find some sunshine in the other end.”

You can view a recording of this UW Now Livestream now.

WFAA plans to host The UW Now Livestream weekly, featuring UW–Madison faculty and staff with unique expertise.

Media Information

Contact: Tod Pritchard, tod.pritchard@supportuw.org, 608-609-5217, @WisAlumni