Mike Harris is a sociology professor at Missouri State, and, like many people, he came out of the COVID-19 pandemic with a lot of questions on his mind. The question he couldn’t shake, though, was why some countries did so well at suppressing coronavirus and others like the United States struggled mightily?
Not a simple question. And it was unlikely to yield a simple answer. Mike decided to tackle this research question by building an interdisciplinary team of MSU faculty and student researchers from public health, political science, economics, psychology and sociology. With the help of the MSU International Programs and Partnerships Office, he connected with a similar interdisciplinary team from a Missouri State partner university in South Korea – a country highly touted as effective in combating COVID‑19.
While the research is ongoing, initial findings have yielded qualitative and quantitative results that indicate cultural factors, government structure, public health capacity, and economic motivations played a significant role in explaining the disparate outcomes in South Korea and the United States.
The interdisciplinary and intercultural collaboration between the faculty and students has been strong and they have received recognition for helping both countries prepare for the next global health challenge.
Participating students are also learning valuable lessons that they’ll be able to take into their careers.
The research is being used to develop curriculum for an interdisciplinary class on Integrated Approaches to Global Crises. The curriculum will be shared with other universities as well.