Skip to main content

Fall Dean’s Letter October 2020


Dear Friends,

This year will be like no other. Months ago, we made the tough decision to offer only online and virtual instruction to students this fall because of the pandemic. It’s not what we wanted, but safety is our paramount concern. So, on the first day of the new term, the School was quiet and hallways stood empty.

But something exciting was happening online. Faculty shared knowledge. Students connected with each other, and together we envisioned a healthier and more just world.

We’re still delivering an exceptional educational experience thanks to our resourceful faculty, adaptable students, and our School’s long history in online pedagogy. We are teaching, learning, and gathering as a community using the very best the digital environment has to offer. We call it our Virtual Plus Campus.

To our benefit, we were one of the first schools of public health to offer courses online back in 1997 when we enrolled 36 students in our Graduate Certificate Program in Public Health. By 2019, we were offering more than 200 online courses. These courses, taken by both our onsite and online students, consistently receive high marks for quality and accessibility.

Our technology maximizes faculty and student engagement while providing the flexibility to meet the demands we are all facing in these difficult times. Students can watch carefully structured lectures at their convenience and join real-time, “LiveTalk” sessions with faculty and classmates—all via our proprietary CoursePlus learning platform.

We are also taking advantage of Zoom technology for synchronous teaching and learning. To enhance this experience, we’ve invested in streaming studios that house multiple cameras and large screens that make it easy for faculty to engage with students and deliver a rich “in-class” experience for our remote learners. And we’ve also invested in resources and training for faculty to make the learning experience productive and memorable for all.

Virtual plus insert

But as our alumni know well, coursework is only part of a Bloomberg School education. We’re working hard to ensure students feel they are very much part of our School community and benefit from critical experiences outside the classroom, including:

  • Daily seminars and special events
  • Research and applied practice opportunities that take students to public health’s frontlines
  • Networking events with other students, faculty, and alumni from around the world
  • Academic advising, professional development, career planning, life design, and health and wellness support

Never before has our commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning been more important. The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 jump-started the School’s growth as a leader in research and public health education. And now, 102 years later, we are poised to use the current pandemic as an urgent launchpad for reimagining how we connect, communicate, and collaborate.

Importantly, the lessons learned this fall will accelerate progress toward our strategic plan’s goal of extending the reach and accessibility of our education. By removing the walls of the traditional classroom, we can engage many more learners worldwide and connect them with each other to create a healthier future for all. Our investments in this mission are resonating: Enrollments are up, and we are reaching more students than ever before. Even so, we need your continued support. Our alumni and friends have always been our biggest advocates—recruiting new students, mentoring current students, offering internships, and speaking up for greater investments in public health. We look forward to finding more ways you can engage in the coming months.

I want to close by thanking our faculty and staff who worked tirelessly to make our Virtual Plus Campus a reality. And I deeply appreciate our students—true partners with us on this journey. We look forward to working with them closely to ensure a vibrant, transformative educational experience.

Warm regards,

Ellen MacKenzie Signature

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor

PS – If you’d like to connect further, please contact me at