In February of 2020 as we were making the final arrangements for our annual symposium, COVID-19 disrupted our plans and our lives. It felt like we were attempting to tune in to a message from a distant planet, straining our ears and our credulity to determine just how threatening the situation was—how much danger we were facing.
On March 11, 2020 the declaration of a global pandemic by the World Health Organization made the signal clearer and took many choices—and freedoms—away from us all. At RISD and at campuses around the world, students, faculty, staff and administrators scrambled to adjust to ever-changing information and conditions. People were being evacuated and repatriated as an initial 1,197 cases were detected and confirmed on US soil, across 43 states and in Washington, DC.
The signal grew stronger. Our symposium would need to be virtual and our workplaces would move from shared places of human contact to our homes as offices, classrooms, meeting rooms and coffee shops emptied out. A great and sudden migration from shared to private spaces began.
Twenty-three authors contributed to what we ended up calling the Generation C symposium in June 2020. They reflected on what had transpired that spring and imagined what might lay ahead. Twelve months later, 11 of them are again sharing their reflections with us, connecting their writings from last year to the Carry Forward theme of the 2021 symposium by offering insight into what the pandemic has taught them.