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When We All Get Together Again: Creating New Opportunities Post-COVID

The coming academic year looks to be wholly different than the one just past. Campuses are busy reopening; professors are readying for in person instruction, and students are anticipating sharing space with their peers once again. But despite these upbeat developments, this year is very much like the last one in an important respect—uncertainty.   

It is hard to foresee what the coming year will bring for several reasons. First, our experience during the past year has changed expectations. For instance, students have different expectations as to how classes are conducted, how accessible they should be, and what constitutes doing school. Faculty and staff have differing expectations regarding their presence on campus, what is needed to make the campus safe, and what is the right balance between personal freedom and social responsibility.

Second, the numbers of COVID cases is on the rise again. Although many are vaccinated, the total number still remains relatively low, the variant is virulent, and the country is split on the use of masks. As a result, students and faculty may experience extended absences due to the virus, masking requirements may be reinstated, and campus policies may need to change again.  Leaders will most certainly be called upon to adjust in unexpected ways as we move forward. 

Third, the severity and response to COVID varies from community to community and from state to state. Thus, it is difficult to create and follow one set of recommendations that apply nationally. Further, the unprecedented nature of these times make it hard to refer to examples from the past. Consequently, our every decision calls for fresh judgements informed by creative thinking. In such an environment, even our everyday tasks require more time, more energy, and more creative imagination to accomplish.

The ever-changing expectations, the uncertainty, and the drain on our time and energy have created a special challenge for leaders. With so many unfamiliar and unpredictable variables in play, it is more difficult than ever to imagine the future. Yet even in the midst of all of this uncertainty, academic leaders must still craft a new vison that fits the times.  

That is the purpose of the first of three virtual Leadership Academy sessions to be held on August 11 at 2:00 p.m. ET. In this session, we intend to 1) identify problems occurring across the county, 2) foster information sharing among the participants, 3) discuss approaches to addressing the day-to-day challenges related to managing through the pandemic, and 4) identify new opportunities that have promise beyond the pandemic. Although we can’t guarantee that you will leave with all the answers, this session is designed to provide you with a greater understanding of current problems, strategies for tackling them, and a flexible vision for uncertain times. Hope to see you there!

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John Henning

Dean of the School of Education at Monmouth University (NJ)