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By Mary Beech, Ayyub Bokhari, Karina Gerstenschlager, Vivian Mak, Kris Masoor and Sophia Yeres (all 2Y 2020)

This time a year ago, it was easy to envision what Spring Break and Spring Quarter would entail at Kellogg. As the Winter Quarter came to a close, we were about to embark on a myriad of experiences around the world for the two-week break: Ayyub visited Saudi Arabia for Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage. Karina traveled to Ghana and Morocco with the Global Immersion in Management (GIM) Energy course. Mary examined smart transportation on the GIM Greater China course trip. Vivian’s GIM Frontier Markets journeyed across Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Kris explored England and Ireland with his wife, Katie. Sophia climbed Machu Picchu and explored Peru with Kellogg friends. And when we got back from break, we dove into elective courses, interviewed for second-year leadership positions in clubs, attended retreats with our sections, and, perhaps most importantly, deepened our relationships with classmates.

This year was gearing up to be the same, but with the challenge to outdo what we had done last year. We were embarking on our last quarter at Kellogg — 10 weeks left — a thought that was exciting, but also full of urgency. We wanted to take on spring internships to explore things we are passionate about, travel even further as school allowed us the rare opportunity to reach corners of the globe, but most importantly, we wanted to make the most of our time with our classmates. Many of us were grappling with how to fit this all into our remaining time. And just like that, the world changed.

From news articles to Instagram videos across the world, one topic filled the airwaves: COVID-19. While the previous musings were washed away by anxiety, confusion, and fear, we were also filled with a desire to do our part. We reached out to each other to discuss how to approach a time that is completely different — not just for Kellogg, but for the world. As COVID-19 had become an increasingly urgent global challenge, we all canceled our travel plans and focused on answering: What actions do we need to take to make a difference?

The Pledge

Our goal was to bring the Kellogg community together around understanding the importance of and committing to self-isolation and social distancing. Research shows that an effective way to change behavior is to show people the role they play in keeping others safe. Based on this, we wrote the Kellogg COVID-19 Pledge:

“As community members, it is our responsibility to protect those around us by “flattening the curve” through self-isolation and/or rigorous social-distancing. During this critical time period, we pledge to practice this even if we do not feel sick to preserve medical resources and protect those who are more vulnerable.”

 The pledge was accompanied by 1) up-to-date information from trusted academic sources with guidance on why rigorous social distancing is so important; 2) a tracker through which community members set goals for self-isolation and social distancing to increase accountability; and 3) a community board where participants named their social needs and could self-organize by commonalities.

Below is our community board for members to come together socially while physically distancing (names removed):

How the Kellogg community responded

Kellogg is a tight-knit community, and as part of this effort, we wanted to find ways to maintain social connection despite physical distance. We understood that the confusion, anxiety, and fear we were feeling as a community was making us fall further into mental isolation, but we wanted to reverse the tide and bond people together. Through this social contract, our intention was to create a common, guiding principle that would ensure individuals didn’t feel alone. A way for people to find commonality with their peers and to know that we are all in this together.

To date, nearly 150 members of our community made this commitment, from students to administrators to professors. We are incredibly proud of how people have come together to take proactive measures to flatten the curve, and we hope that this shared sense of purpose and connection holds through this difficult time.