Thursday / February 25, 2021 / 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Building Resiliency in Classroom Design: COVID-19 and Beyond


Lecture Center C – University of Illinois at Chicago; Gensler; Tom Harris Photography

Across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-person instruction, forcing many colleges and universities to shift courses to remote instruction. While this recourse prevented the spread of the virus in the classroom and kept students and instructors safe, a variety of challenges would present themselves in online instruction, which for many institutions went from an optional feature to an absolute necessity. Moreover, the change highlighted that universities were not prepared with an equitable alternative to in-person instruction. This interdisciplinary panel presentation will offer insight on current teaching pedagogies, the pros and cons of remote learning, and an outlook on design and instruction strategies that seek to make more resilient and agile learning environments beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.


Dr. Erin O'Leary - Executive Director Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence, UIC  Dr. Erin Sanders O’Leary is the Executive Director for UIC's Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence (CATE), an Associate Professor in Biology Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and an Associate Adjunct Professor in the Microbiology & Immunology in the College of Medicine.  In her capacity as the CATE Executive Director, she works in collaboration with faculty across our campus to support inclusive, learner-centered innovation in instructional practices. Dr. O'Leary joined the UIC community in July 2020, coming from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) where she served for six years as the founding Director of UCLA’s Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS). In addition to her leadership role, Dr. O'Leary dedicated more than 15 years to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at UCLA, experiences that shaped her approach to instructional development. Dr. O'Leary earned her B.S. in Chemistry at DePaul University in Chicago and her Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry at UCLA in Los Angeles.

Thomas Okon M.S.Ed - Instructional Designer, UIC  Thomas Okon has an M.S.Ed in Instructional Design and Workforce Education from Southern Illinois University, as well as a B.S. from DePaul University in Marketing and Advertising. Previous influences included careers in Video Production, Information Technology, and Real Estate. In his current position as an Instructional Designer, he is devoted to making learning easier for students, and helping faculty design interactive, collaborative technology enhanced learning curriculum for The Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Meghan Webster, AIA - Principal, Gensler  Driven by a lifelong passion for shaping the human experience, Meghan brings strategic leadership, innovation, and expertise to architecture and its core business in client services. She empowers teams, clients and project leaders to collaborate, fostering success at all scales across the platform of design.

Based in Gensler’s Chicago office, Meghan is a Principal leading the Education Practice Area, developing new business, leveraging research and thought leadership, building client engagement, and guiding strategy for the practice. A licensed architect, she has experience in every phase of the design, management, and construction process, and her work encompasses projects at multiple scales, including planning and feasibility, new construction, and building renovations. Meghan’s vision and focus on delivering results to clients cultivates long-term relationships, and her team’s portfolio includes work with many repeat clients regionally and globally. Her collaborative approach across markets has also built her experience in healthcare, science, urban development, workplace, and other sectors.

A frequent blogger and speaker, Meghan regularly contributes to Gensler’s blog series and industry publications and has presented at regional and national SCUP, IIDA, and ULI conferences and SXSWedu. Meghan is an active member of the Urban Land Institute, and currently serves on the University Development & Innovation National Product Council and the Women’s Leadership Initiative Chicago Advisory Board. Meghan was recognized as one of BD+C’s distinguished 40 Under 40 Class of 2018. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from University of California Berkeley and her Master of Architecture from MIT.

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