Building a Resilient University During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ideas Lab for Postdocs and Students

The Challenge: How do we design a safe return to campus in the midst of a global pandemic?

You have just lived through an unprecedented situation — your spring semester was abruptly shifted to an online learning and training environment; study abroad, internships and research labs were suspended; you may have lost your housing or your job; you have been unable to see your friends or loved ones in person; sports, arts, and other activities were halted; time honored college experiences such as graduation were dramatically altered or cancelled; and your family may have and still be experiencing medical, financial, or other stress.

The Ideas Lab provides a forum for you to 1) reflect on this spring — what worked well and what could have gone better, 2) to use that experience and your creativity to propose ideas to UConn leadership about what you would like to see in place moving forward, and 3) compete for a small monetary reward.

What is an Ideas Lab?

An Ideas Lab is a process for developing creative, collaborative solutions to complex problems. InCHIP is partnering with UConn leadership to solicit ideas from students and postdocs through this Ideas Lab that can guide UConn’s response to the pandemic.

Ideas Labs – pioneered in the UK by Knowinnovation – are typically multi-day workshops designed to solve complex problems by harnessing the creative energy of newly forming interdisciplinary teams. UConn’s Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) has successfully utilized intramural Ideas Labs to tackle wicked health problems (e.g., opioid-related deaths in CT), engaging individuals with expertise in behavioral, social, biomedical, and environmental sciences; engineering and mathematics; policy and law; business; education; and the arts and humanities.

Any topic relevant to the Grand Challenge is appropriate. We think some core areas of focus will likely be how to 1) best monitor COVID-19 on campus; 2) create an environment in which people want to take preventive action (like wearing a mask, physical distancing) to stop the spread of COVID-19; 3) promote good mental health and emotional well-being; and 4) create an engaging educational and social experience despite anticipated changes in class formats, residential life, etc. The Ideas Lab provides a forum for considering these issues and others.

Who should participate?

You! If you are a UConn student (undergraduate or graduate) or postdoctoral fellow, we’d love to have you join us. The Ideas Lab is open to all disciplines and campuses and to incoming students as well as those who graduated this May. If you have some ideas about how UConn can best respond to the pandemic and you like to work in a collaborative fashion with others interested in exploring similar topics, we encourage you to sign up.

Yes! You can participate to whatever extent your schedule allows. Most of the participation is asynchronous although there will be some groups meetings if you decide to join a team. These meetings will be focused and action oriented.

Why should I participate?

You should participate if you’d like to part of the solution. This Ideas Lab provides an opportunity to offer your expertise, experience, and/or perspective to develop actionable ideas that can be implemented by UConn leadership. The Ideas Lab will also provide you with a chance to work closely with faculty members in various disciplines and the top three proposals will be recognized with a small monetary award.

How does the Ideas Lab work?

Visualized version of Ideas Lab Process

In brief,

  1. you sign up,
  2. you meet others with similar questions, concerns, and ideas,
  3. you develop very brief proposals in small groups,
  4. your group receives feedback from other Ideas Lab participants,
  5. you revise your ideas, and
  6. your group submits a final proposal to share with UConn leadership.

All of this is done online, mostly in asynchronous fashion.


Here are the 6 steps of the Ideas Lab:

  1. Generating questions (beginning May 27): When you sign up for the Ideas Lab (below), you will be asked to generate your top three questions, concerns, and/or ideas about how to design a safe return to campus in the fall. These responses will be grouped by the Ideas Lab organizers into key themes.
  2. Joining groups (week of June 1): Themes will be shared with all Ideas Lab participants. You will be asked to select the theme you are most interested in working on. Theme-based teams will be formed.
  3. Virtual meetings (weeks of June 1 and June 8): InCHIP will hold virtual meetings for each theme area. We anticipate subgroups forming within each theme. Groups will be guided by through an idea formation process that allows for an open sharing of perspectives to conceptualize potential solutions to the questions and problems at hand. Groups will asked to produce a short overview of their initial proposal by June 12..
  4. Opportunity for feedback and changing groups (week of June 15): Ideas Lab participants and other stakeholders (e.g., students, university leadership) will be invited to provide feedback on these initial proposals. Groups will be provided with a document that consolidates the feedback received. Participants will be invited to switch groups, invite new members, etc.
  5. Revise and refine proposals (weeks of June 15 and June 22): After receiving feedback, groups will be encouraged to revise and refine their proposals.
  6. Final proposal (by June 30): Groups will be asked to share their final proposals by June 30. These proposals will be shared with other Ideas Lab participants and university leadership. The proposal should be brief, written in such a way that non-topical experts can comprehend, and offer recommendations that could be implement at UConn this summer and/or fall. Ideally, and dependent on group interest, a version of these deliverables would be presented to the public. Groups who write the top three proposals during the Ideas Lab will receive recognition and a small monetary award.

Have Questions?

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Amy Gorin, PhD ( or Grace Morris, MA (

Ideas Lab Sign-Up

Deadline to Sign Up: Tuesday June 2nd, 2020 by the End of Day

We have closed this opportunity- if you are interested in participating, please email to sign up.