Dr. Todd Rosenstiel hosts the weekly webinar @ This Moment through Facebook. Alex Wittwer/PSU Vanguard

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences continues scholarly community through virtual conversations

@ This Moment—a weekly webinar series—brings subject matter experts to faculty, staff and students via Zoom to discuss questions on various topics relating to COVID-19. 


The free six-part series covers topics from the psychological perspectives of staying-in-place to matters of climate change during the pandemic, discussed by leading thinkers and researchers at Portland State. The series was created by Dr. Todd Rosenstiel, the associate dean for research and graduate programs for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) at PSU, and PSU communication manager Cristina Rojas. @ This Moment is scheduled each week on Thursdays at 4 p.m.


“After talking with students and faculty, we realized we weren’t doing enough to provide a space for the community to come together and talk about all the great scholarship and research that our faculty are engaged in,” Rosenstiel said about why the series began. “The faculty has been eager to participate. Everyone understands how important it is to create community at this time. It’s a casual space where scholars can talk and take questions.”


The show is an hour long, in which Rosenstiel and three faculty guests from related departments talk about what they know and what they’re thinking in relation to the topic and the pandemic. For the last half of the event, panelists answer questions from audience members. 


@ This Moment’s May 7 episode was on the social aspects of COVID-19 and featured scholars Dr. Charlotte Fritz, an associate professor in industrial and organizational psychology and a faculty member within the Occupational Health Psychology Graduate Training Program at PSU, Dr. Dara Shifrer, a sociology professor and a research affiliate at Rice University’s Houston Education Research Consortium and Dr. Cynthia Mohr, a professor of applied social psychology who studies the psychosocial influences on subjective well-being and physical health.


The panelists discussed work/life balance, stress and energy management during the pandemic crisis. Shifrer spoke about learning disabilities and how, for disadvantaged youths, the pandemic is particularly harmful. Fritz spoke about focusing on the positive aspects of our lives and how that focus can ease the stress many of us feel during this time.


“I wonder, looking forward, if we’re going to feel more stigma in public spaces based on how we’re interacting with others,” Shifrer said when asked about looking beyond COVID-19. “I’m curious about how this [pandemic] has been experienced in other countries which have different norms around social interaction.”


The May 14 episode dealt with climate change in the time of COVID-19 with guest speakers Dr. Paul Loikith, assistant professor of geography and Climate Science Lab director, Dr. Rose Graves, landscape ecologist and Dr. Sahan Dissanayake, assistant professor with research in environmental economics and natural resource economics.   


The panelists discussed the outcomes of social distancing on climate change, economics and the future value of nature, and whether global warming is driving the pandemic. Graves expounded on the Oregon cap and trade bill from the perspective of environmental science and all of the panelists spoke about the challenges of continuing their research at this time. 


“It’s not necessarily good for climate change,” Loikith said on the effects of quarantine on climate change. “Short-term reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases really isn’t on a scale that is very meaningful for climate change. The earth takes a while to adjust to temperature. This sort of short-term reduction would find it difficult to show up in the data.”


As for those who attend the webinars: “I would guess a third are faculty, a third students, and another third community,” Rosenstiel said. “There are alumni and friends of the college and people working for the metro who are interested in what we’re doing and they’re watching too. We want to invite students along. We want to give students the opportunity to understand the way scholars are thinking about this time. We think that’s important.”

The first live episode had almost 200 viewers and regularly @ This Moment has had 100–150 views per episode. On the PSU site hosting the videos, Rosenstiel said the program had over a thousand views this week and around 800 views last week. The videos are also being archived in PSU’s research library as part of their growing historical record of the era of COVID-19.


“It’s possible there will be more episodes, but we’re focusing on this term for now,” Rosenstiel said. “I think we’re realizing that this is a platform which seems to work and so I think the question is, once we look beyond these COVID times, might we continue to sustain something like this? I think this is opening up a new kind of engagement and recognition about our college faculty to a broader audience. It’s been successful. I think we will consider doing this in the future.”

Past recorded episodes can be viewed on the CLAS Facebook page or on the PSU website. The upcoming May 21 topic is pandemics in history. It will feature panelists Natan Meir, a Jewish Studies scholar, Friedrich Schuler, a historian who recently published a history on the Quarantine Station at the mouth of the Columbia River and Gina Greco, a professor of French interested in medieval literature. Registration for future events can be found on PSU’s website.