Necessity is the mother of invention—the pandemic has given ample opportunities to prove the truth of this adage. At the end of May 2021, as the Covid-19 pandemic continued on a roller coaster of ups and downs both in the United States and Italy, the architecture Class of ‘23 and members of the graduate class of ‘21 embarked on a first in the 53-year history of the School's Rome Studies Program: a nine-week summer program in Rome in the shadow of a pandemic.
In the midst of extraordinary complications and ongoing constraints throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, faculty, staff and administrators at the School explored dozens of scenarios for the students who were unable to travel to Rome as planned. When the availability of vaccines and the easing of travel restrictions allowed the University to make the decision to allow Architecture students to travel to Rome, the School and the Rome Global Gateway (RGG) jumped into action. There was little more than a month to actuate the plans that had been discussed for months to get the students to Rome. RGG staff organized living and study spaces according to Italian public health requirements for room capacities and social distancing, as well as organized weekly surveillance testing at the Villa to ensure that Notre Dame’s Italian home was ready to receive students. School staff in South Bend worked with University partners at Anthony Travel on the enormous project of sending 60 students to Rome—originating from 30 different home airports—while organizing the necessary testing for each leg of each student’s travel in compliance with both U.S. and Italian travel regulations.
Students attended classes four days a week and used Fridays for day trips and Faculty Advised Travel. Faculty Advised Travel is a Covid-19-inspired adaptation to semester field trips in accordance with government restrictions on organized group travel. In addition to adapting their courses, faculty also adapted their field trip itineraries to work within three four-day weekend trips in three different cities with rotating groups. While the structure was complicated at first, students, faculty, and staff adapted quickly to traveling on three different and simultaneous trips every other weekend, for a total of nine separate field trips.