Sonoma State part of project to document what life was like during the COVID-19 pandemic

July 15, 2020
COVID Community Diary Project

By Nate Galvan |

These are unprecedented times. Social-distancing, travel restrictions, economic struggle and uncertainty, national protests against racism and inequity — all in the face of an unwavering global pandemic. 

However, this moment allows for times of reflection, including for students at Sonoma State University. In an effort to capture these unique experiences, the Center for Community Engagement is partnering with the Sonoma County Library to collect writings, art and images related to life during the pandemic to be cataloged and preserved for future generations.  

The COVID Community Diary Project will be implemented in service-learning courses through participating classes this fall. The project is part of SSU’s commitment to community engagement and helping students draw connections between community service and their course content.

“The project exemplifies our goal to have these courses be a value to the community, university and our students,” said Merith Weisman, director of community engagement and strategic initiatives. “Historians will want to know what this period was like. The New York Times won't be enough, we need individual stories from students, people of color, seniors and everyone who is living through these unprecedented times.”

So far, there are more than 20 classes slated to incorporate the project into their syllabi next fall, Weisman said. One class, COMS 240, has already participated in the project this summer. Led by professor Emily Acosta Lewis, the course is for students who are planning to work in the field of public relations. Students usually work on a real-world public relations project doing a proposal for a client, but for this class students worked on strategies for recruiting faculty to participate in the project, Lewis said. 

Lewis said she had her students create a self-reflection to be contributed to the project. Some students did this via a one to two-page written reflection, while others made a video journal or diary entry. All of them were very personal to their experiences as students during this abnormal time, she said. 

“Everyone has a story to share about these times even if their stories seem mundane,” Lewis said. “In the ‘mundane,’ there are experiences, details, and memories that are unique to these trying times that I think will be interesting to those future generations who may study this time in history. Documenting the stories of those who cannot speak for themselves or wouldn't have access to get their story told otherwise is important.”

Lewis said one student’s video discussed their grandfather dying, not of COVID-19, but because of the pandemic they weren’t able to say goodbye nor were they able to get the closure of a funeral or celebration of life. Another discussed her symptoms to what she eventually found out was COVID-19 but only after realizing it matched those of a virus that was all over the news. 

“I think what's really wonderful about this project is that it can be implemented in any course and can be as in-depth as faculty want it to be,” Lewis said. “It's a great way to try out service-learning in a way that is impactful and meaningful without a lot of the additional work that is normally involved in preparing a service-learning course.”

For professors interested in incorporating the COVID Community Diary Project into their courses this fall, contact For more information on what the CCE is doing to create collaboration between the university and community, visit

Media Contact

Nathanael Galvan