Photos: Daily Academic Life at UVA in the COVID-19 Era

September 23, 2020 By Sanjay Suchak, Sanjay Suchak,

It has been just over two weeks since University of Virginia students began taking some in-person courses amid in the coronavirus pandemic, adhering to a long list of public health precautions during a semester like no other.

Months of preparation led up to that start, as University employees outfitted classrooms with clear plastic shields, installed signs promoting physical distancing and developed enhanced cleaning protocols and other precautions.

As courses began, University photographers Sanjay Suchak and Dan Addison went into classrooms to capture what learning looks like in this very unusual time.

Check out their photos.

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Students must wear masks in all public spaces, both indoors and outdoors. On the Lawn, students often gather in small, physically distant groups while wearing masks. As of Wednesday, such gatherings are restricted to five people or fewer.
Student sitting at a table under a tent working
The University has erected tents around Grounds with tables to give students more space to study and meet in the open air.
Professor teaching at the front of the class while the students are socially distanced
In School of Law professor Paul Mahoney's class, each seat is marked for physical distancing and Mahoney teaches behind a clear plastic shield, with a portion of the students attending in person and the remainder viewing the lecture synchronously online.
Professor teaching at the front of the class while the students are socially distanced
Similarly in smaller classrooms, spaces are marked and distanced, as in nursing professor Ashley Hurst’s class.
Gerald Warburg meets with a student at an outside table
Professors have had to get creative with their office hours. Professor of practice Gerald Warburg of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy meets with students under a tent atop the Batten School’s green roof.
Students working in a lab
Many lab classes are offered in person in some way, as they are difficult to teach online. Chemistry professor Laura Serbulea arranged her labs to ensure proper distancing. Students stay at their stations until called forward to use equipment.
Student using a pipet to place liquid into a test tube
Each student wears a disposable mask to ensure they do not bring experiment chemicals or contaminants out of the lab.
Students working in the scene shop
In drama professor Steven Warner’s scene shop, student tool training has begun in groups of three students at a time.
Marianne Kubik leading a class on stage about movement
Drama professor and artistic director Marianne Kubik’s theater movement class was relocated from a smaller classroom to the large stage in Culbreth Theatre, which still holds the set from a production cancelled in the spring.
Kubik teaching a class with her arms stretched out to her sides
Kubik teaches theater movement with new accommodations for physical distancing; students move alone instead of moving in tandem and close together.
Student socially distanced watching professor
In Batten professor Eileen Chou’s “Introduction to Civic Leadership” course in Newcomb Hall Theatre, spaces are roped off to ensure students sit at least six feet apart.
left: Student working on their laptop in a lecture hall.  right: Looking down on a student working in a socially distance chair
John Donne wrote, “No man is an island,” but in classrooms these days every student is one, though surrounded by fellow students.
Professor teaching at the front of the class while the students are socially distanced
Chemistry 402, the largest lecture hall on Grounds, is a strange sight with far fewer than its usual capacity of nearly 500 students.
Krystal Appiah and George Riser show some treasures to a class online
At the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, the reading room is available by appointment only and most educational sessions are conducted via videoconference. Here, Krystal Appiah and George Riser show some treasures to a class online.
Rachel Jeffers studies at a table in Clemons Library
Rachel Jeffers studies in Clemons Library, which, along with the Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library, is open to students, with study spaces marked off by signs and clear plastic dividers.
Students walking on a sidewalk lined with white columns
Despite all of the differences, life on Grounds goes on, and some familiar sights remain – such as students picnicking on the Lawn or walking to class, albeit in masks.

Editor's note: Some these photos were taken before UVA announced additional COVID-19 protocols and restrictions, which went into effect on Wednesday.

Media Contact

Sanjay Suchak

Photographer Office of University Communications