Carnegie Mellon University hosted its third annual INTERSECT@CMU Conference as a virtual series during the fall 2020 semester.

The 2020 INTERSECT@CMU Virtual Conference Series considered the pandemic's long-term global effects on four foundational elements of society: health, sustainability, the economy and education (outlined in detail below).

Sessions were held on September 10-13, 18, October 2 and 29, and included afternoon keynote lectures and panel discussions, student-led programming and opportunities for interdisciplinary discussion. 

A university-wide effort supported by all seven colleges, this timely conference gathered thought leaders of disparate disciplines and perspectives from within CMU and beyond to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the future of business, technology and humanity.

Conference recordings are available for viewing at your convenience. Watch to learn how our decisions today can help build a better, more robust and more equitable society.

Friday, September 11 at 1-3 p.m. ET

COVID-19 raises questions about health care at every level. At the individual level, how might the pandemic affect the balance between personal privacy and public health? At the community level, how have the virus’s disparate effects on different communities exposed deeper societal issues related to health care, health status and inequity? And at the provider level, how has the pandemic changed the practice of medicine?

Conversation among practitioners, academics and community leaders will assess how our health care system is coping with the pandemic and how we can prepare for future public health emergencies.

Friday, September 18 at 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET

As COVID-19 reshapes our economy, it presents opportunities for us to rethink how we view sustainability. For instance, as businesses shifted toward remote work, air quality has notably improved. But will these be temporary effects, or will we take advantage of this forced reset to reengineer our society? And, if we hope to make improvements, how can they be integrated across communities? Can we devise local solutions to improve sustainability and equity globally? 

Scientists, academics and community leaders will consider how we can integrate sustainability into our society and how that could affect our resistance to future pandemics and environmental risks.

Thursday, October 29 at 1 p.m. ET

Coping with the pandemic is often presented as a zero-sum game — as a choice between public health and the economy. We can shut the economy down to slow the spread, but what does this mean for workers who lose their jobs and businesses that go bankrupt? Is this a false trade-off? Will we quickly rebound from the economy’s contraction, or will the effects go on for years? How will the pandemic change business, commerce and consumption in the medium and long term?  What does this experience mean for international trade and globalism?

We will bring together business leaders, academics and community leaders to envision how to rebuild a more robust and equitable economy that is more resilient to future shocks.

Friday, October 2 at 1-3 p.m. ET

In a society that has been remade during the pandemic, education stands out as profoundly disrupted. We can see the role education plays, not just in supporting the learning of our youth, but also in supporting the ability of parents and caregivers to work. We have been forced to rethink education — to adapt lessons and other experiences to remote learning. We have had to confront the crucial role technology now plays, and how lack of access leaves some students severely disadvantaged. We have seen that some experiences — lab work, sports, art and music — are nearly impossible to replicate online. And finally, the reliance of our institutes of higher education on international students — which in typical years benefits all parties — has proven to be a significant weakness once the borders closed.

The keynote for the October 2 Education session of INTERSECT will be delivered by Craig Roberts, senior program officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Roberts will discuss national efforts, supported by the Gates Foundation, to research how higher education has adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic. As a former faculty member and director of learning innovation at Duke University, he will also share his personal insights on effective remote learning. His talk will be followed by a panel discussing the lessons learned from COVID-19 and what this means for education and children.