COVID-19 Conversations

In a time of social distancing and school closures, The Riley Institute’s new video series brings Furman — and the world — into the homes of students through video chats with notable leaders.

The Riley Institute’s Center for Critical Issues “brings the world to Furman” by hosting a diverse roster of speakers on campus each year. While our events are on hold due to COVID-19, we’re bringing the world to the fingertips of our Advance Team, a select group of Furman students interested in government and public policy, through our new video series COVID-19 Conversations.

Each week, a few members of the Advance Team sit down for an intimate, virtual conversation with a past speaker to discuss the coronavirus’s impact on life’s many dimensions.

Recent Posts

Secretary Riley’s Education Policy Proposal for the Biden Administration

Dick Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education and former governor of South Carolina, has outlined his recommendations for expanding learning opportunities and technology access to children in the face of COVID-19. Those recommendations have been...

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How the Center for Community Services is Adapting to Meet Community Need in the Era of COVID-19

The Riley Institute’s Planning and Evaluation Capacity Building Initiative (PECBI) empowers nonprofit organizations to foster a culture of organizational learning around data and evaluation. As community needs grow due to the pandemic, we’re asking our PECBI partners...

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How Palmetto Shared Services Alliance is Adapting to Meet Community Need in the Era of COVID-19

The Riley Institute’s Planning and Evaluation Capacity Building Initiative (PECBI) empowers nonprofit organizations to foster a culture of organizational learning around data and evaluation. As community needs grow due to the pandemic, we’re asking our...

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Eric Spitler Zoom call

Episode One: FDIC Leader During 2008 Financial Crisis Analyzes COVID-19's Impact

Eric Spitler, former Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, shares his perspective on the differences between the Great Recession and the evolving financial implications of COVID-19 while students inquire about the virus’ impact on the Federal Reserve and the demand for universal basic income legislation.

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Episode Two: U.S. Ambassador Shares Lessons from Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak

It was just six years ago that the Ebola virus swept across Liberia, where Deborah Malac was actively serving as U.S. ambassador. In that time, Malac played an important role in coordinating the U.S. response to the epidemic in the West African country. Revisiting what she learned as a leader during the outbreak, Malac shares why she believes transparent communication remains important as ever in the fight against COVID-19.

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Deborah Malac Zoom call

Angela Maria Kelley zoom call

Episode Three: Angela Maria Kelley on Immigration

As the global community seeks to slow the spread of COVID-19, countries have imposed strict travel restrictions and shut down their borders. In the United States, the health crisis has complicated the nation’s long-standing immigration debate. Angela Maria Kelley, who currently serves as the senior strategic advisor for immigration at the nonprofit Open Society Foundations, is working to address these evolving immigration challenges firsthand.

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Episode Four: Rep. Neal Collins on South Carolina’s Response Efforts

As South Carolina moves toward reopening, legislators like Rep. Neal Collins are weighing concerns on both sides of an intensifying debate about public health and the economy.

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Neal Collins Zoom call

Jessica Taylor Zoom call

Episode Five: Jessica Taylor on American Federalism

Varying COVID-19 response efforts have illuminated the complex relationship between federal and state powers. Jessica Taylor, Senate and Governors Editor for The Cook Political Report, has been closely monitoring the actions of governors as they’ve emerged as prominent voices on the national political stage during the pandemic.

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Episode Six: Jonathan Kubakundimana on What the Pandemic Means for U.S. Prisons

As several U.S. correctional facilities have become COVID-19 hotspots, one Furman University alumnus is addressing the impact of the coronavirus on the prison population firsthand. Jonathan Kubakundimana recently sat down virtually with three members of the Riley Institute’s Advance Team.

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Jonathan Kubakundimana Zoom call

Danny Avula zoom call

Episode Seven: Dr. Danny Avula on How Social Determinants of Health Shape Our Understanding of the Pandemic

As the director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Departments in Virginia, Dr. Danny Avula has dedicated his work to understanding why certain communities are harder hit by COVID-19 than others. He sat down with three members of the Riley Institute's Advance Team to shed light on the social determinants of health.

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Episode Eight: Superintendent Russell Booker on the Challenges that Lie Ahead for Reopening Schools

When states began mandating stay-at-home orders during the early days of the pandemic, few organizations pivoted as quickly as schools did. Teachers and administrators across the country had to suddenly account for how they were going to provide remote instruction to thousands of students in a matter of days. After serving as the Superintendent of Spartanburg County School District Seven for the last decade, Booker has dedicated his time to meeting the new needs of students and coordinating a district-wide response to COVID-19 before retiring from his post on June 30.

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Russell Bpoker Zoom call

Basil Bacall

Episode Nine: Entrepreneur Basil Bacall on the Pandemic’s Impact on the Hospitality Industry

Every business sector has had to quickly adapt its operational model to meet both safety and financial concerns, but the hospitality industry has had to ponder one of the biggest questions of them all: How do you stay afloat when your business is dependent on getting people in the door? Basil Bacall, President and CEO of Elite Hospitality Group, is no stranger to the pivot. In his early days as an entrepreneur, Bacall repositioned a financially distressed asset into an award-winning, profitable hotel.

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Episode Ten: Bryan Stirling on How S.C. Prisons are Managing COVID-19

Managing a pandemic from inside a prison presents its fair share of complications. Earlier this month, Bryan Stirling sat down with members of the Advance Team to share his perspective on the challenges that are currently mounting inside the state's prisons.

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Bryan Stirling