Working Through COVID-19

Part 4 of 7

In 2021, a year after the arrival of a novel Coronavirus in Texas caused the University to make unprecedented changes in its operations, we asked some of our staff, “What has it been like to work at UT Dallas during the COVID-19 outbreak?” Here are their responses.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Gary Cocke

Working at UT Dallas during COVID-19 has deepened my pride in our Comet community, as I have seen our students, faculty, staff, and leadership meet the challenge with compassion, flexibility, and resilience. In my role, working in Facilities Management and working closely with students in the classroom and in co-curricular settings, I’ve had a unique perspective into UTD’s response. I’ve seen how UTD has taken care to implement social distancing in classrooms and ensure safety in public areas of campus. I’ve seen the heroic work of our custodial staff as they have made sure that every possible precaution is taken to protect our community. I’ve seen the thoughtful guidance that has been given by University leadership that has placed safety above all else, as we have continued to strive for excellence in all that UTD does. I’ve seen the progress with Phase III of the Campus Landscape Enhancement Plan continue so that our campus will be more beautiful than ever when we emerge. I’ve seen our departmental partners respond to the challenge presented by COVID, and continue to serve students with more urgency than ever. And most notably, I’ve seen the response from our students.

I was teaching a course –Sustainable Development Goals and Local Action– when President Benson announced that Spring Break would be extended by a week, so that everyone could transition to offering fully online classes. We intended to share student reflections on Reduced Inequalities, lecture on Sustainable Cities and Communities, and develop our class project to provide North Texas Food Bank an analysis over how the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a tool for addressing root causes of food insecurity. As we reconvened virtually after Spring Break, we continued to do all that we set out to do, with renewed commitment to the importance of our work and our studies. So did UT Dallas.

Students in the Sustainable Development Goals and Local Action course pivoted to provide more-urgent support to North Texas Food Bank by launching the #WhooshAwayHunger fundraising campaign to provide support to the important role that was thrust upon the food bank. UTD students raised $3,600 to support NTFB. As the class moved forward, students saw the application of their education in addressing challenges related to ending hunger and reducing inequalities. Their response to COVID provided context while showing that they are up to the challenge.

These examples of how UTD responds to challenges are just a small sample, and there are countless others we can point to. The resilience of our students and our UTD community is up for this challenge, this one or the next, as we remain #CometsUnited.

Gary Cocke, M.S
Sustainability Director


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