COVID-19 Narratives

An interdisciplinary group of researchers at the College of Charleston is investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus and beyond. Through two related studies, researchers are conducting quantitative and qualitative research to better understand how individuals are responding to the crisis. Participants (over 18 years old) will be invited to complete an anonymous web-based survey and/or to share their stories in written or recorded formats. Participation is completely voluntary. 


The researchers are members of the Women’s Health Research Team (WHRT), a multidisciplinary group of faculty and students who conduct collaborative, innovative research. Dr. Beth Sundstrom, Director of the WHRT said, “we know that women have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated healthcare disparities, especially among women of color, younger women, and women living in rural areas. I am thrilled that the WHRT has been able to connect researchers from across campus to conduct this timely research, which will provide critical insights for public health and communication initiatives.”


The first study seeks to understand personal, community, and institutional influences on COVID-19 infection and perceived susceptibility to COVID-19 infection among College of Charleston students. According to principal investigator, Dr. Leslie Hart, “Given the uncoordinated mitigation response to COVID-19 in the U.S. and the inundation of case reports suggesting that older individuals were most at risk of infection and severe disease, the lack of immediate measures to avoid infection by younger individuals is a public health problem.  By identifying factors that influence the perception of infection susceptibility among our students, we will be able to target containment and mitigation messaging for this demographic during additional waves of COVID-19 infection.”


The second study is primarily interested not in the experience of having COVID-19, but in the psychological impacts of living through a pandemic. Researchers are seeking stories from students, faculty, and staff at the College, as well as the local community, especially from those who feel that their lived identity has made COVID-19 and its social and ideological repercussions particularly memorable. This research will involve collecting, sharing and preserving first person narratives about the emotional impact on lives during the pandemic. Questions such as: If you experienced stress and/or frustration during the pandemic, how did you manage those feelings? How has the pandemic impacted your work, your home life? How prepared do you feel to avoid an infection with the coronavirus? Students will be asked to describe their transition to online learning and faculty/staff will be asked how they have balanced work/life responsibilities.


According to principal investigator, Dr. Kathy Rogers, “As a scholar of illness narratives, I've been particularly interested in narratives of what it means to live through a pandemic.  We all have stories to tell, but they are easily erased in the overwhelming statistics we hear every day. 200,000 deaths is, in some ways, easier to process than reading about a death of someone in our community. Statistics about racial, gendered, and sexual inequalities regarding COVID also abound, but what we need are stories to begin to understand the physical and psychological pain and trauma of the people we see every day.”


The knowledge generated from these studies will provide important data and insight into the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding everyday experiences will inform future public health and communication efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.


About the Medical Humanities Minor

The medical humanities program at the College offers students a fresh approach to understanding medicine, health and healthcare. By its very definition, medical humanities is interdisciplinary. The courses offered in this minor range from anthropology to history, education, health, psychology, sociology and women’s and gender studies. And by design, the program is extremely flexible.


About the Women’s Health Research Team

The Women’s Health Research Team includes approximately 25 faculty and students who conduct innovative women’s health research, promote interdisciplinary research collaborations, and communicate research findings to empower women and girls in our community, South Carolina, and beyond. The College of Charleston is a nationally recognized public liberal arts and sciences university located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Founded in 1770, the College serves approximately 10,000 undergraduates and 1,500 graduate students in state-of-the-art facilities. Students and faculty are engaged with the community in partnerships to improve education, enhance health and well-being, and enrich the overall quality of life in the city of Charleston - world-renowned for its history, culture, architecture, and coastal environment. The history, traditions and environment of Charleston and the Lowcountry offers distinctive opportunities and relationships that advance our public mission in the city of Charleston, state of South Carolina, and the world.


To find out more about these studies or to participate, please visit: STUDY WEBSITE URL