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Exploring Opportunities: Leadership Academy Attendees Discuss Post-Pandemic Return to Campus

AACTE’s 2021 virtual Leadership Academy Series launched this month with its first of three sessions, When We all Get Together Again: Returning to Campus with New Opportunities. This session was facilitated by John Kuykendall dean of the School of Education at the University of Indianapolis and John Henning dean of the School of Education at Monmouth University.

Kuykendall opened the conversation seeking thoughts and concerns about returning to campuses from attendees. “There are varying policies across the institutions and communities and states; no one is really clear about what should happen on your campus site and how to handle what could potentially happen,” said Kuykendall before requesting feedback from attendees.

The first topic centered on finding new opportunities in this new normal. “My belief is that what good leaders do is look for opportunities within the problem,” said Henning. He explained that although the new normal had many challenges, he believes that educator preparator programs can learn and grow into this space. Some of the solutions found within the group discussion were to train staff on technology, look at programs to determine where they could switch the instruction to online, and examine all their offered programs to see which ones could be transitioned to fully remote.

In moving to the second topic, Kuykandall asked attendees to examine how they plan to reopen safely. This question drove solutions to the challenges of physical space and office time available for staff. Kuykandall maintained that a flexible policy in uncertain times is beneficial to the health of those returning to campuses. “You have to be prepared as leaders to adjust and follow the policy at the same time, particularly for that faculty member’s safety and the students’ safety.”

Lastly, Henning led the discussion on returning to campuses and what challenges could arise, namely with masking policies. The main concern was the idea that students could refuse to wear the masks, causing not only a disruption to the learning but health concerns as well. Attendees agreed with the facilitators that there was no easy solution and policies should be handled with flexibility.

LA session 1 pollThe sessions were highly interactive, encouraging attendees to share their experiences and ideas surrounding the return to campuses in the post-pandemic era. “I think that’s the real power of today’s session, to hear your thoughts from all around the country, what things that you might do, and the multiple thinking and experiences of each one of us,” Henning said at the end of the session. To further facilitate the flow of conversation and brainstorming environment, attendees were separated into breakout groups temporarily. Additionally, polls were conducted to find a consensus on certain issues.

The AACTE Leadership Academy Series includes two additional sessions: Session two, When Thinking Wrong is Right: Purposeful Disruption of the Status Quo, takes place October 20. The third and final session, Reimagining the Future: A New Vision for Academic Leaders, is scheduled for January 2022. Registration to the first session grants access to the remaining two; however, If you missed the first session, there is still time to sign up for the next two. Spots are limited so register now.


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