Community Engagement

Taking Action

Sharing talent, insight and resources to navigate global pandemic

Photo collage, top row man speaking, smiling man writing on bblackboard, man at computer. Second row bottle of Blake Farms hand sanitizer, headshot male, woman at lecturn, man in front of bookcase.

Faculty, alumni and students took actions large and small to help the global community navigate the Covid-19 pandemic.


icon of a calendarMarch 15, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Claudette Zolkowski

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OU business students, alumni and faculty put their talents to work to assist in the nation’s response to a global pandemic. As individuals or as critical members of a team, people took actions small and large that combined to assist and address a greater good.


Powered by data
Connecting people with data is crucial to gaining insight and improving response to COVID-19. OU’s Center for Data Science and Big Data Analytics hosted a virtual symposium where thought leaders from around the country gathered to learn and discuss how analytics, artificial intelligence, statistical modeling, deep learning and other data is powering the fight against COVID-19. The symposium presented sessions illustrating the impact data has across medicine, research and public health. Vijayan Sugumaran, Ph.D., co-director of the research center and distinguished professor, management information sciences, led the symposium. Read the full story.

Shifting business models
The pandemic has impacted nearly all business models. Almost every type of business has been required to pivot to address changing needs. Jae Kang, Ph.D., management professor, launched a YouTube channel to offer insight into changing business models from the entrepreneurial perspective. In addition to sharing his expertise, he interviews professionals who are successfully leveraging or reimagining their approach to succeed in these changing times. From start-ups and subscription boxes to esports and musicians, Dr. Kang is sharing firsthand experiences of businesses in real time.

Resource planning
Early in the throes of the pandemic, Mark Isken, Ph.D., professor of management information systems, lent his analytics expertise to Beaumont Health. Assisting in the adaptation of open source materials from an ongoing project at the University of Pennsylvania and CodeForPhilly, Isken provided analysis and software to aid in effective resource planning, modeling and programming during the initial peak of infections and hospitalizations. The tools he developed are open source and freely available at

Vulnerability index advantage
Research into the social and economic factors that contributed to the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the U.S. by Nivedita Mukherji, Ph.D., associate dean and associate professor of economics, illustrates the benefits of creating a vulnerability index for disease spread. Developing this type of index would assist policymakers in determining the places that need to be protected first when facing the threat of similar diseases. Details into Dr. Mukherji’s research is available in this preprint paper, “The social and economic factors underlying the incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths in U.S. counties,” MedRxIV, July 2020. Full paper


Addressing immediate needs
When Ray Gunn, MGT '80, joined Blake Farms as CEO/CFO two years ago, he joined a family business known for innovation. Charged with leveraging his vast expertise to prepare the business for the next generation, Gunn, now an advisory board member for Blake’s family of companies, played a key role in helping the organization pivot to meet immediate market and customer needs in the midst of a global pandemic. By shifting its hard cider production to hand sanitizer as well as offering lunches to school-aged children and a curbside drive-through service, the Blake Farm Teams has brought valuable resources to local hospitals and the surrounding community. Read more here:

Team ventilator
It took a team of thousands for General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to deliver 30,000 critical care ventilators in 154 days to the healthcare frontline early in the pandemic. As Senior Product Engineer at GM, Denis Jordao, EMBA ’20, is proud to be a member of the team that supported the development and implementation of this life-saving response. “Our drive to put critical care ventilators into production was fueled by thousands of people at GM, Ventec and our suppliers who all wanted to do their part to help save lives during the pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO, in a GM press release at the time. “It was inspiring to see so many people achieve so much so quickly.”


Vaccine clinic volunteer
In the pandemic era, volunteers can be difficult to find. Chris Fultz, EMBA student and executive director of project management for Consumers Energy, volunteered to assist at the Henry Ford Health Systems COVID vaccination clinic. “Volunteering always feels good, but seeing people’s hope in getting vaccinated feels amazing,” he says in his LinkedIn post. “I’m in awe of the amazing hospital staff working tirelessly to help the community.”

Appreciating healthcare heroes
As part of their monthly outreach activities, undergraduate business students in OU Business Ambassadors launched an initiative to show love and appreciation to the healthcare workers at Troy Beaumont. As these healthcare workers risk their lives to care for COVID patients, the Scholars encouraged members of the OU community to participate in an e-greeting campaign that would share digital cards and video messages of appreciation to the Beaumont staff. Find out how you can get involved at OU Business Ambassadors web page under the OUTREACH tab.

Share your story
Businesses and individuals across the county pivoted and pitched in to make a difference in the pandemic. We’re interested in your stories. Share what you or your organization did in the face of COVID-19. Drop us a line at

Pictured in photo above: Left to right top: Ray Gunn, Dr. Vijayan Sugumaran and Denis Jordao. Left to right bottom: Blake Farms, Chris Fultz, Dr. Nivedita Mukherji and Dr. Jae Kang.

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