October 1, 2020
A mid-semester message
Next week marks the mid-point in this historic fall semester of responding to the challenges of the pandemic. I appreciate the tremendous efforts of our students, faculty and staff in reaching this milestone. We have collectively demonstrated resilience, flexibility and patience.
Many of us started this semester cautiously optimistic that we could continue to deliver robust and innovative teaching and learning experiences with a mix of in-person, online and blended/hybrid courses. Thus far, we have managed to keep the delivery of our educational experience running as smoothly and safely as possible. Reaching this milestone is the result of our community coming together in extraordinary ways. Our vigilance in practicing prevention behaviors, willingness to adapt to changing student needs, and flexibility in adjusting to new ways of working have all contributed to preserving in-person instruction and campus operations.
I also recognize that reaching this milestone has been very taxing on our most important resource – our people. Many of us are feeling the weight of the months of juggling multiple priorities, new or changed expectations, financial pressures, concern for our health and the health of others, fear and uncertainty. The amount and pace of change have not been easy. Living, learning and working during a pandemic have challenged all of us.
The mid-point of the semester is traditionally a time of stress for students, faculty and staff. This year it is more important than ever to consider our well-being. Over the past several months, we have encouraged flexibility in how we teach and work, and have adjusted our normal structures and timelines. We continue to encourage supervisors to frequently check in with their employees and to be aware of resources and services that provide support during this uncertain time. Human Capital Services announced that virtual counseling sessions are available on Oct. 8 for faculty and staff. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an ongoing resource for employee support.
There are a number of university resources for financial assistance and mental health assistance available to students. I also encourage faculty members to find creative solutions that provide relief from the pressure of the semester for their students. In my pre-COVID teaching experience, I offered a day for students that we called Wonderful Wednesday or Terrific Tuesday. These surprise adjustments to the instructional day took us out of our regular routine and gave students a break from the classroom. We would change the meeting venue to an outdoor location or utilize an online assignment. The break from the usual rhythm of the semester was welcomed by students and me. Learning still progressed, and it was more effective because of the mental break both the student and I needed.
I remain optimistic that our students, faculty and staff will continue to be cautious and committed to mitigating the spread of the virus as part of our commitment to our communities. We also remain committed to caring for ourselves and those around us by showing compassion and grace. We are truly all in this together. The patience and flexibility we can show each other can go a long way in providing the care and support necessary to sustain us during these challenging times.
Stay safe and be well,
Provost and executive vice president