NU professors prepare for holiday travel, reflect on pandemic impacts


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

NU faculty told The Daily their holiday break plans and reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on travel.

Kimberly Espinosa, Reporter

Just like students, Northwestern faculty are excited for upcoming holiday plans as the end of Fall Quarter nears. 

NU’s Fall Quarter exam period officially concludes Dec. 10, 2022, and instruction for Winter Quarter begins Jan. 3, 2023.

But before officially going on break, some instructors like neurobiology Prof. Justin Brown are spending the remainder of the quarter wrapping up final tasks.

“I am teaching a lab course right now, so there’s cleanup and organizing that needs to happen to make sure that the space is ready to be shut down,” he said.

Brown said his Christmas plans have been previously altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing him from traveling for multiple years.

This year Brown is able to visit family again.

“I wind up seeing a lot of people. So I put the Thanksgiving break and the December break together,” Brown said. “It’s like multiple different communities that I’m trying to see in that break. But I generally do get to see all, between my mom’s side, dad’s side, friends and being home.”

Like Brown, SESP Prof. Cynthia Coburn said she tries to go back to the Bay Area as often as possible, but her ability to do so has been impacted by the pandemic. 

Coburn instructed a proseminar for NU graduate students this quarter in Evanston, but she has history in the San Francisco area as a former University of California, Berkeley professor as well as a former Stanford graduate student. 

“When I want to go with my sister but also a large circle of friends, both from when I taught at UC Berkeley and I was a graduate student at Stanford, I will be making my rounds with my people,” Coburn said about visiting California.

For legal studies Prof. Shana Bernstein, this upcoming holiday season will look a little different, as she is on leave this year. During her leave, Bernstein said she has spent time working on her writing while also developing a project on the history of environmental, consumer and worker health through the lens of strawberry production.

Bernstein said she is excited for the two weeks she will get to spend with her kids when they are off from school, as well as the chance to engage in their family tradition of reading a book aloud. To her, the tradition is a chance to learn and think together.

“I think I have more gratitude, probably too because of the pandemic, for what seemed like small things: time, health, having food, having a warm place to live,” Bernstein said. “The pandemic has definitely accelerated my awareness of those things.” 

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