National news logos

UR experts in the national news: 2020 highlights

January 3, 2021

In 2020, UR faculty and staff provided perspective on the news of the day on topics ranging from COVID-19 to the presidential election to widespread racial unrest. Their expertise is frequently sought after by national and regional media to make sense of complex topics. Here are some of the notable highlights from the past year.

Thought Leadership

President Ronald A. Crutcher was interviewed about the importance of the arts, especially during times of crisis on Detroit Public Television for the PBS show “Arts Engines.” “The arts can help lift any human being above the vicissitudes, fears, and disappointments of the day," Crutcher said.

Patrice Rankine, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and professor of classics, authors a monthly piece for Diverse Issues of Higher Education where he explores a wide range of topics from strategic plans to civic love to teaching and leading during a pandemic. In “Liberal Arts for the Current Times,” he explores how “liberal arts students learn ways of being in the world, and this helps them/us in the current times and beyond.”

Stephanie Dupaul, vice president for enrollment management, coauthored “COVID Upended the Traditional College Search. But Higher Ed Can Partner With Community Groups to Open Doors for Low-Income Students of Color,” for The 74 Million. “Colleges and universities of all types have an opportunity to deepen their partnerships with comparable organizations to realize this impact, expanding their collaboration beyond the occasional community visit, admissions workshop or on-campus event,” Dupaul wrote.

Dean of the School of Professional & Continuing Studies Jamelle Wilson authored “Finding our way forward” for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Each year at commencement, I challenge our graduates to translate the knowledge they’ve gained and the experiences they’ve had,” Wilson wrote. “In essence, I ask them to focus on the needs and well-being of others, even knowing they long to realize their own hopes and dreams.”

The Conversation

Several faculty authored pieces for The Conversation, an independent news source specializing in articles written by academics for a general audience. The articles are made available on The Associated Press wire service to hundreds of news outlets.

Before COVID-19 dominated the headlines, marketing professor Sara Hanson co-authored a piece explaining why “Customers hate tipping before they’re served.” Hanson was the first professor in the Robins School of Business to write a piece for The Conversation and the first UR faculty member to have an article republished in French. The piece also was picked up by Fast Company, which called on Hanson’s expertise again in October in a piece titled, “The ugly truth about tipping waitstaff during COVID-19.”

After months of quarantine, biology professor Jory Brinkerhoff, a disease ecologist authored “Lyme disease symptoms could be mistaken for COVID-19, with serious consequences,” which had widespread appeal throughout the summer months.

As summer came to a close, sights were set on heading back to school and what that looked like during the COVID-19 pandemic. SPCS education professor Bob Spires gave a comparative analysis of how the reopening of schools was being handled around the world in his piece, “How other countries reopened schools during the pandemic – and what the U.S. can learn from them.” The piece was picked up by more than 50 outlets, including U.S. News & World Report and Business Insider.

The presidential election flooded headlines this year, and when Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, Jepson School of Leadership Studies professor and evolutionary anthropologist Christopher von Rueden weighed in. Von Rueden shared how evolution has played a role in the different experiences men and women face in leadership positions in his piece: Nature and nurture both contribute to gender inequality in leadership – but that doesn’t mean patriarchy is forever."

Law professor Hayes Holderness in October shared his take on news about President Donald Trump’s taxes. Hayes, a tax law expert, authored “Trump’s decade-old audit illustrates why the IRS targets the working poor as much as the rich.

Faculty Commentary

When U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren announced the end to her 2020 presidential campaign in March, Jepson School of Leadership Studies professor Crystal Hoyt quickly responded with her USA Today op-ed “The sexism in liberal politics is real.” Hoyt, a social psychologist who studies gender prejudice in leadership, highlights the subtle discrimination and prejudice female leaders face.

In the wake of this year’s protests following the death of George Floyd, economics professor Erik Craft penned “Discrimination is harder to end for police departments than business” for The Hill. “You might not think economists have much to add to this discussion,” Craft wrote, but we have been systematically researching discrimination.”

As the fall semester kicked off, mathematics professor Della Dumbaugh reflected on how she would adapt her courses to accommodate the COVID-19 classroom and beyond. Dumbaugh resumed teaching classes in person in the fall, but taught virtually in the spring and summer. She explained how she used oral exams and will now continue to do so in the Inside Higher Ed piece “Revitalizing Classes Through Oral Exams.”

When Supreme Court Justice and cultural icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in September, Law professor Corinna Barrett Lain rallied Richmond Times-Dispatch readers to take action in her column, “What would RBG do?”

In the wake of the presidential election in November, Time magazine published “Alexis de Toqueville Warned Americans About How Presidential Elections Could Go Wrong,” which was written by political science professor Kevin Cherry.

Top Media Outlets

In May, finance professor Tom Arnold was quoted in “Public Companies Shut Out of Stimulus Program Face Payroll Challenge.” “While public companies can also access capital markets, smaller companies may find that difficult at a time when investors are skittish about taking on risk,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

In this CNN piece “The 1918 flu caused Halloween cancellations across the US. It could happen again,” English professor Elizabeth Outka, an expert on the 1918 influenza pandemic, provided insight on how pandemics have impacted Halloween historically. "There was widespread disruption and a widespread sense that public gatherings were not a good idea," she said.

In October, SPCS liberal arts professor Erik Nielson, an expert on how rap lyrics are used in court, was interviewed for an episode of the NPR podcast “Louder Than A Riot.” His interview later appeared in the online story, “‘My Dream Was Being Used Against Me In Court.’” “This is not a First Amendment issue with racial implications. It is a racial issue with First Amendment implications,” Nielson said.

In November, law professor Meredith Harbach, was quoted in The New York Times piece “When Co-Parents Clash in a Pandemic.” Harbach, an expert in family law, said that “Courts generally loath to make modifications because it interrupts continuity and stability for the kids.”

Later in November, The Washington Post reported on China’s latest mission to the moon in this piece “China launches moon mission, seeking to be first country in decades to collect lunar rocks,” where physics professor Jack Signal is quoted. “The mission, if successful, will allow scientists to directly date the rocks and volcanic activity from the collection site,” he said.

All media placements, including articles written for The Conversation and opinion pieces written by UR experts, can be found at on the University of Richmond newsroom.