Past Event

Leadership and Decision-Making During Pandemics

June 8, 2020 - June 12, 2020
12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
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Executive Education in the Social Sciences


Mon-Thurs: 12:00 - 2:00 PM Eastern Time    |    Friday: 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM Eastern Time

All fees from this workshop will go directly to Columbia student and faculty research on COVID-19

Registration for the full week is now closed. Single Session registration links can be found with session descriptions below.

COVID-19 is a low-probability high-consequence event disrupting the way we work and live. This virtual Executive Education course, designed to empower leaders of business, government, and non-profit organizations in these unprecedented times, will provide the critical perspectives and immediately-useful skills leaders need to succeed in managing high-risk situations such as COVID-19. The focus will be on the character of interventions required to stop outbreaks from becoming epidemics and pandemics, and on the redesign of institutional and corporate life as we recover from COVID-19. 

Each session will be led by world-renowned experts, including Wilmot G. James and Lawrence R. Stanberry of Columbia University, and feature speakers from the health, private/commercial and government sectors. The week will culminate in a powerful desktop pandemic response simulation exercise, centered around potential scenarios for the Fall of 2020 and incorporating case study elements. Download the course Program here.

Wilmot G. James, PhD, Visiting Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, and former Member of Parliament, South Africa

Lawrence R. Stanberry, MD, PhD, Associate Dean for International Programs and Director of The Programs in Global Health, Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons 

*See below daily course description and speakers information. 

All fees from this workshop will go directly to Columbia student and faculty research on COVID-19

Single Session Registration Fee: $250      |      Columbia Alumni: $200

Single Session registration links with session descriptions below.

Free registration is available for academics, journalists, and nonprofit leaders based on availability.

Please contact [email protected] to make your inquiry.

This course will be capped at 60 participants to ensure robust interaction between panelists and attendees of the workshop.

Course Program      |       Questions?  Contact [email protected]

Daily Topics and Featured Speakers

History and Dynamics of Modern Pandemics

What we can learn from a century of pandemics and why every one of them is a surprise.

Monday, June 8, 12:00 - 2:00 pm ET

Registraion for session 1 is now closed.

In the midst of COVID-19 there are many lessons to be learned from past epidemics and pandemics. Dr. Lawrence Stanberry will explore the history and dynamics of modern disease outbreaks such as SARS, HIV, Ebola and Zika with Drs. Stephen Morse and Madeleine Thomson.

The US Response to COVID-19

What the US did wrong, did right and what needs to be done when the menace comes around again.

Tuesday, June 9, 12:00 - 2:00 pm ET

Registration for session 2 will close Tuesday, June 9, at 10:45 am ET

Dr. Lawrence Stanberry and Dr. Beth Cameron of the Nuclear Threat Initiative will discuss the United States’ response to COVID-19 and the responsibility of the federal government during a pandemic with Drs. Wafaa El-Sadr, Irwin Redlener and Jeffrey Shaman from Columbia University. They will address topics such as resource, public health and medical supplies allocation, testing and tracing, non-pharmaceutical interventions and hospital ICU capacity.

Governance of Pandemics

What successful leaders do to persuade millions of human beings to support their health professionals and change their behavior to stare down and defeat COVID19.

Wednesday, June 10, 12:00 - 2:00 pm ET

Registration for session 3 will close Wed, June 10 at 10:45 am ET

This session will explore the governance of pandemics at the international, national, state, and local levels. Drs. Wilmot James and Matthew Connelly will be joined by Mayor of Seattle the Hon. Jenny Durkan and South Africa’s foreign minister the Hon. Naledi Pandor to identify successful response strategies to COVID-19.

Don't Snap Back to Old Ways: Building Innovation into Recovery

Don’t waste a crisis: Building new ways of working and living to create a safer future for our children.

Thursday, June 11, 12:00 - 2:00 pm ET

Registration for session 4 will close Thurs, June 11 at 10:45 am ET

Drs. Marc Grodman and Wilmot James from Columbia University will discuss how corporations can reorganize to respond effectively to COVID-19, and how they can successfully incorporate innovations moving forward into recovery. Dr. Ryan Morhard from the World Economic Forum, Chief Executive Stanley Bergman from Henry Schein, and Dr. Mukesh Chawla from the World Bank will share their experience and provide ongoing plans

Desktop Exercise: COVID in Fall 2020

Get ready for making hard decisions about peoples’ lives as the SARS-COV2 virus comes around again in the future.

Friday, June 12, 11:00 am - 3:00 pm ET

Participation in Session 5 is limited to full-week registrants only.

  • Jennifer Nuzzo, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Health Security

The week-long session will culminate in a powerful desktop pandemic response simulation exercise, led by epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo at Johns Hopkins University. The exercise will be centered around potential scenarios for the Fall of 2020. It will incorporate case study elements. During this exercise, participants will be able to discuss and debate real options and priorities in pandemic response, consolidating their learning and building take-away skills.

Leadership in Pandemics will provide you and a global cohort of your peers with a greater understanding of:

  • The history and dynamics of epidemics/pandemics and what it is that differentiates catastrophic situations from routine emergencies;
  • The role leadership plays in crafting and executing appropriate responses and preparing public, private and civic organizations in advance for a public health catastrophe;
  • The skills leaders need for working decisively in a compressed time-frame presented by an epidemic/pandemic, while maintaining a focus on managing and motivating teams;
  • The critical demands catastrophic events pose to response organizations from multiple jurisdictions, levels and spheres of government, regions and countries;
  • Strategies for resolving tensions and structuring effective collaborations between department of governments and between senior emergency professionals and political leaders within and between countries; and
  • How to embed innovative solutions to the current challenge COVID-19 poses in new ways of working together to prepare the world for the next round of high consequence events.

Upon registration for this course, participants will receive communication from ISERP detailing logistics for joining the virtual Zoom session meetings.

Course Program (download PDF)

Registration for the full course is now closed. 


Course Staff:

  • Matthew Connelly, Professor of History and Director, ISERP,
  • Gregory M. Eirich, Director of the Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences (QMSS) MA Program and Lecturer-in-Discipline, Department of Sociology
  • Harlowe Wang, Program Coordinator, ISERP
  • Lily Wendle, Columbia World Projects
  • Lewis Thompson, Student, School of General Studies​