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Inter-school cooperation prominent in COVID-19 fight

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Thousands of surgical masks donated to Arizona State University (ASU) contributed to protecting people from the novel coronavirus pandemic, thanks to a generous gift by Hainan University (HNU) in China, showcasing the unique partnership and deep friendship between the two institutions.


ASU staff display packages of surgical masks donated to the school by HNU in China. [Photo/ASU]

Observing the number of COVID-19 cases growing in the United States and in Arizona in particular, leaders at HNU wanted to do something to help their colleagues at ASU. The donation, an HNU official said, was a gesture of appreciation for the support ASU provided as the HNU-ASU Joint International Tourism College (HAITC) pivoted to an online teaching model when the pandemic swept across China and forced public school closures.

Since 2017, the two schools have jointly operated HAITC under authority granted by the Chinese Ministry of Education. In an ASU building on the Hainan campus, HAITC enrolls more than 800 students in one of three degree programs, two in tourism/recreation development and management with ASU's School of Community Resources and Development and one in public service and public policy with ASU’s School of Public Affairs. The campus is located in Haikou city in South China's island province of Hainan.

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, spearheaded the partnership with Hainan University and celebrated the gift with Wang Lin, dean of HAITC. Wang told Koppell that HNU President Luo Qingming was grateful to ASU and to President Michael Crow for his support.

Supplies distributed at ASU, throughout Arizona

The masks will be used to advance ASU's efforts to serve the community. Most of them have gone to ASU's Biodesign Institute, where scientists have been doing research and building much-needed testing capacity. The institute's Clinical Testing Laboratory has created the first saliva-based COVID-19 test in the state, and tests using saliva rather than nasal swabs have been underway in Arizona for several weeks.

Some masks went to support testing of members of the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah. And another set of masks went to the Human Services Campus, a consortium of 16 partner organizations in downtown Phoenix providing resources and services to those experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County.

"What does it mean to be a community? It means that one part helps the others. That we're all connected. This one donation visually demonstrates the power of connection — from China to the Human Services Campus," Koppell said. "This is what we mean when we say we're in the business of forging community solutions."

Donation to help those experiencing homelessness

Human Services Campus Executive Director Amy Schwabenlender said the masks have been a very welcome commodity during a time when COVID-19 cases are markedly increasing in Arizona.

"Generous donations, like the hundreds of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) masks from Hainan University, enable us to protect the individuals experiencing homelessness we serve as well as staff and volunteers providing that service and support," Schwabenlender said. "At a time when the virus is far from being under control, knowing that we have the tools and resources to keep as many people safe as possible offers a tremendous level of comfort."

A supply of masks also went to the ASU Community Collaborative administered by the Watts College's Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy.

"These masks will help us ensure that everyone is safe while becoming better equipped behavioral health professionals," said Natasha Mendoza, the center's director, adding that the masks will allow students to work together safely while practicing physical distancing.


Delivery bags filled with medical supplies donated to ASU from HNU in China await distribution. The donated masks are being supplied to multiple locations throughout Arizona. [Photo/ASU]