Nationwide, all aspects of higher education were forced to quickly adapt to the deep and widespread changes necessitated by mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. While the movement to work from home has impacted all of us differently, I’m proud of what we have collectively accomplished at American Public University System and in higher education as a whole. By making the decision to “social distance” and then “work remotely,” I believe we minimized the potential spread of the virus to all of us.
Change and challenge are two words that sometimes work well together and sometimes work against each other. We, as a collective team, have done well in that regard. Planning and executing the transition to home wasn’t easy, but we managed it. Our infrastructure maintained continuity and scalability as we work to support other organizations and introduce new resources such as a new scholarship for displaced students.
Our university advisors and staff are answering nearly every call, responding to emails, working with partners, and adapting policies to mirror the changing circumstances. Ultimately, they’re listening and responding to our students and the needs of our team members.
Some decisions like cancelling graduation were really tough. Each spring, I looked forward to meeting our graduates and their families face-to-face. While we have scheduled a virtual graduation, we have also invited all of this year’s graduates to attend the 2021 graduation a year from now.
We coordinated efforts from our admissions, advising, and finance teams as well as a first-week communication by faculty to students letting them know that we were aware that their circumstances might be different and we are prepared to support them. While there may be more challenges ahead, the people who comprise our university are meeting the challenges individually and together as a team.
Throughout the country, weddings were rescheduled, birthdays postponed, and graduations at all levels of education cancelled. Over the past few weeks, my calendar reminders have alerted me to weddings, graduations, and even the NCAA equestrian championship which was scheduled for this week. It’s a reminder of what’s been put on hold in hopes of keeping others safe. While our thoughts are with this year’s seniors in high school and college, until we develop a vaccine, this could impact our ability to assemble in large crowds over the summer and fall. We’ll have another group of high school and college seniors, athletes, and performers whose situation is not what they imagined. Challenges can be overcome in ways that we might not yet envision.
We all have family members and friends of all generations who are doing their part by staying quarantined at the risk of going stir-crazy. They’re adapting as best they can by learning the nuances of Skype, FaceTime and Zoom—in some cases—for the first time. Everyone is doing their part to stay connected from home and keep moving forward. The silver linings are always there, and people will continue to find them.