Dr. Chris Voparil, faculty in Union’s Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, was among the first donors to give to the new emergency fund established by Union’s International Alumni Association Board to assist Union students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Grants of up to $300 will be issued to students in need. Read Dr. Voparil’s reasons behind his generous contribution.
Q: Thank you, Dr. Voparil, for your substantial gift in support of Union’s Alumni Association COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund. Can you share what motivated you to make this generous contribution?
As we know, so many have been impacted directly and severely by the pandemic. Fortunately, I am, as yet, not one of them. I would be working from home anyway and, thankfully, have not lost my income. Imperfect as it may be, I am pleased that our government was able to pass a stimulus package to begin to address the enormous economic impact. After receiving a payment myself, I simply felt that there is no reason for it to go to me; it should help someone in need. The fund established by Union’s International Alumni Association Board is the perfect vehicle to get it to students who are being impacted.
Q: As faculty in Union’s Ph.D. program, you teach courses that bring into focus Union’s value of social justice. Did that play a role in your decision to give?
In the seminar I teach on Ethics and Social Justice, we were just reading about how in times of crisis it is natural to tighten our circle of moral concern to just ourselves and those closest to us. For understandable reasons, the first priority becomes ensuring our loved ones are safe. We see people hoarding supplies, personal protective equipment, even toilet paper! A social rather than individual approach to ethics demands that we also take active measures to extend care to strangers and people we don’t know. Even doctors and health care providers have reported that the pandemic has changed the practice of medicine from doing everything possible for the individual patient to having to conserve resources to take care of the whole community.
Q: Can you describe how your students are being impacted by the pandemic? How are the conversations changing within their studies?
It is hard to generalize, but for sure everyone is feeling the psychological strain of fear and anxiety, which reduces the intellectual bandwidth we have to devote to reading, thinking, and writing – all critical to the Ph.D. program. Amazingly, many students have been able not only to keep up with assignments but also to do some of their best work. Others have been rendered unable to study at all under the weight of emotional and financial impacts and caring for family members. At least one student likely contracted the virus but, without health insurance or savings, never sought medical attention. (The student is now OK.) Thinking about my students and all those Union students I don’t know motivated me as well.
Union’s Alumni Association COVID-19 Emergency Fund was established to support Union students in challenging financial or physical circumstances during the global coronavirus pandemic. To contribute, please give online and designate COVID-19 Emergency Fund or send a contribution to Union by mail to: Alumni Office/Union Institute & University/440 E McMillan St/ Cincinnati OH 45206. Questions? Contact Carolyn Krause at 513-487-1165 or firstname.lastname@example.org