The Perfect Enemy | The power of our community: UND exhibit documents community’s experiences during COVID-19 pandemic - Grand Forks Herald
September 16, 2023

The power of our community: UND exhibit documents community’s experiences during COVID-19 pandemic – Grand Forks Herald

The power of our community: UND exhibit documents community’s experiences during COVID-19 pandemic  Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – Members of the community gathered Wednesday at the Empire Arts Center to view an exhibit titled “The Power of Our Community,” which documents the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Grand Forks.

Central to the exhibit is a series of interviews produced by Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald columnist and adjunct professor at UND. The interviews outline the pandemic experiences of more than 50 community members from all walks of life, including students, UND faculty, public figures and health care professionals

UND President Andrew Armacost said despite the negative memories many people associate with the height of the pandemic, it’s important to learn from all experiences to become better equipped for future challenges.

“While to some of you this may seem like you’re reliving a bad dream, it’s important to document the experiences of those who went through the pandemic,” said Armacost. “With the passage of time comes perspective. It helps us understand what lessons we’ve learned to help us through the next challenges we face, individually and as a community.”

Armacost said commissioning Haga to conduct the interviews for the exhibit was an easy decision.


“When I asked the campus if someone was interested in pursuing this project, Chuck stepped forward,” said Armacost. “It was his interest in history, and experience conducting interviews as a well-known journalist that fueled his drive to take on this challenge. He convinced me he was the right person for this job, and I quickly gave my approval.”

Sarah Heitkamp, UND art collections curator, and Zeineb Yousif, digital initiatives librarian at the Chester Fritz Library, assisted Haga in documenting and archiving UND’s response to the pandemic.

Haga said he wanted to draw from a wide range of community members when conducting his interviews.

“I began by identifying a good representative cross-section of people in the community,” said Haga. “I wanted to include people like a carpenter, a food service worker, a janitor, who in their own jobs had to make adjustments and deal with the pandemic. I was pleased, and frankly a little surprised, at how willing almost everyone was to take part.”

Haga said two themes that arose often when interviewing members of UND’s community were the importance of effective communication and taking a growth mindset from the pandemic’s challenges.

“Nearly everyone cited the importance of communication and transparency, and nearly everyone gave UND good marks for that,” said Haga. “While many students missed being on campus, several made a point of saying they were pleased with their ability to adapt and grow with the situation.”

As a student of history, Haga said the records compiled through this project will prove invaluable to future generations.

“I think with the oral history, accompanying photos and records of the times, all of this will go into the archives and serve people well for a long time,” said Haga. “Something that kept occurring to me as I was working on this was ‘what if we had something like this from the 1919 flu epidemic?’”


UND will maintain an archive of Haga’s interviews and other documents from the project on its “Scholarly Commons” webpage.

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.