President's iPad Post: March 11
March 11, 2021
This week, one year ago, many of us were beginning to realize that a once-unknown-to-us coronavirus might complicate our lives in some way. Spring break was coming, travel advisories were popping up, and preliminary lists of symptoms began circulating.
But, that being said, we took solace in the fact that being distanced from the hustle and bustle of the nation’s metropolitan and travel centers might spare us from the inconvenience plaguing other parts of the country. Looking back, even my earliest messages on the topic sent on March 9 hinted little at the fact that what might be a new spring illness would mushroom into a global pandemic.
So, we went about our business as usual. That was, until March 12, when the COVID-19 tide turned in our state.
I will never forget how the events of that day and the ultimate decision to physically close USG campuses would symbolize the constant adaptation this pandemic would require in the months — and now year — following that decision. While attending an in-person conference in Atlanta (remember when we used to gather in-person for events and conferences?), I broke away briefly for an early-morning conference call with Chancellor Wrigley. At 8:30 a.m., he was sure our USG institutions could weather the storm, remain open, and continue in-person instruction and services. By 6 p.m., while I was attending an alumni event in Newnan, USG presidents learned during a conference call that the system was calling for all institutions to close for two weeks.
Proof that in less than 12 hours, challenges can evolve into the unexpected. Of course, those relating to the coronavirus continued to evolve during the ensuing 12 months. A temporary campus closure turned into the unimaginable. But, from the unimaginable has come a unified spirit of tenacity on our campus and fulfillment time and again of our collective call to be creative to the core.
Unprecedented. Transformational. Uncertain.
Words we have all used to describe our world as COVID-19 evolved from outbreak to pandemic.
Battle-tested. Innovative. Creative.
Words I used to open our Spring 2021 Faculty and Staff Welcome Week events in January. Words, that in my mind, still describe the incredible response so many among the CSU family demonstrated since March 13, 2020, when we and other USG institutions initiated immediate physical shutdowns of our campuses.
My sentiments as we mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic and its effects on our campus. Optimistic because so many are adhering to our face-covering guidelines? Optimistic because the prevalence of positive cases has been low on our campuses? Optimistic because a vaccine is slowly becoming available?
No, no and no.
I am optimistic because of how this pandemic — and how a united front of students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community — have and are fulfilling our strengths. This pandemic has challenged us to cultivate creativity, inspire collaboration, reimagine education and expand worlds. That challenge begins anew each and every day.
Nothing stifles creativity and innovation more than the adage: “we have never done it that way before.” Well, for the past year, everything we have done as a university has been anything but “the same old way.” We say Columbus State University is “creative to the core.” This pandemic has called each of us to live out that vision in unexpected ways.
We made thousands of Create Care calls to students to check on their well-being.
We distributed food, emergency grants and technology so students could continue their learning.
We equipped faculty and staff with technology and training to work, teach, research, and create remotely.
We formed a 60-person Return-to-Campus Task Force that led our planning efforts — and whose members continue to provide invaluable feedback to benefit operations, teaching, engagement and our future.
We distributed face masks and hand sanitizer, and canvased Main Campus and RiverPark with signage asking all Cougars and the Columbus community to join us in making wise choices.
It goes without saying that numerous innovations have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are adopting collaborative technology in ways you never would have before — technology that is and will remain commonplace in the 21st-century workforce. Faculty and staff alike are seeking new and more robust ways to engage not only current students, but future students and alumni. We are employing new ways to teach, to care for one another, and to remain connected with each other and the community around us.
Post-Pandemic Innovation Task Force forming
As an institution, we are exploring the best of this problem-solving. Our Executive
Leadership Team is already looking at how to catalog, evaluate and adopt the best
of this creativity as we move past the pandemic. We are asking ourselves how to make
this creativity truly part of our core. And, we are asking you to help us identify
and retain the best of the best too.
To that end, I am today announcing plans for a Post-Pandemic Innovation Task Force. Though the effects of this pandemic are far from over, it is time to think about what we have learned during this disruption, how we can apply those lessons learned, and what potential innovations are borne from it that can strengthen our institution for the future.
The post-pandemic higher education landscape will look very different than it did just a year ago. As we continuously strive to improve our academic programs, student services, and administrative functions — while delivering on our value proposition to students and this community — we must embrace innovations in technology, course instruction, student engagement, service excellence, community outreach and more. It is paramount, whatever the opportunities, that we realize our goal of challenging the seekers and creators among our student body to see possibles from fresh perspectives and making awe-inspiring collaborations that improve our lives and the lives of others — to be truly creative to the core!
These past 12 months have been challenging. Although we have all been in the same storm, our personal circumstances and experiences clearly place us each in different boats. But, as we continue faring this storm together, let us continue to create a CSU that is better, bolder and built to stand the test of time.
President Chris Markwood