Skip to main content

Panel of USD Arts & Sciences Faculty Discuss What We Can Learn from COVID-19

Boundless Interactions What 5 Disciplines can Teach Us About COVID-19 USD College of Arts & Sciences faculty members will discuss how their academic disciplines can help us understand COVID-19 in a virtual panel on Nov. 19.

VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota faculty members in the College of Arts & Sciences will discuss how their academic disciplines can help us understand COVID-19 and pandemics in general. The panel discussion will air on USD’s Facebook page on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. Prospective USD students, current students and the public are welcome to watch.

“Boundless Intersections: What 5 Disciplines Can Teach Us About COVID-19” includes faculty members in biology, anthropology, political science, communication studies and mathematics. Eric Jepsen, Ph.D., professor of political science, will moderate the discussion. Jepsen, who currently teaches a COVID and Politics course, will discuss the pandemic’s pressures on democracies around the world and the challenges COVID presents to governance. 

The panelists include the following.

Saige Kelmelis, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of anthropology. Kelmelis’s research examines various biocultural factors and interactions between humans and pathogens in the past through the skeletal and statistical analysis of cemetery populations. She will discuss how diseases are modeled, what human behaviors contribute to the spread of diseases, and the various biological and social ways that we have responded to disease in the past.

Jake Kerby, Ph.D., is the Schwartz Distinguished Faculty member and associate chair of biology. The focus of Kerby’s research is disease ecology, or the study of how diseases move through animal systems in nature. Kerby recently served as the head of an international task force focused on stopping the spread of a salamander pandemic from entering the United States. While the bulk of his work is on amphibians and reptiles, he is currently collaborating with researchers to investigate the potential for the spread of COVID from humans to our native bat populations in the U.S.

Jill Tyler, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of communications studies, teaches and studies topics related to health communication and interpersonal relationships. She will speak on the ways that scientific information is translated to general audiences and the problems these audiences experience when interpreting this information. Tyler will also address issues related to social isolation and loneliness, as well as her work to help caregivers by listening to the stories of nurses, doctors and other health professionals.

Dan Van Peursem, Ph.D., professor and chair of mathematical sciences, joined a group of researchers from USD and surrounding universities and hospitals to devise various models for the spread of COVID. Van Peursem, an expert in mathematical modeling, will discuss how his specialty helps health professionals and government officials anticipate future resource needs.

Watch this discussion stream on the USD Facebook page on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. 


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News