Dear Friends and Alumni,
Finally, there is a light at the end of the long dark tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, we have a vaccine. Like you, our lives were upended in March 2020 when the reality of COVID-19 hit. Our amazing faculty transitioned to remote learning in a week, and we all became experts in Zoom. We sanitized, socially distanced, wore masks, tested for COVID-19, and we made it. We graduated the class of 2021 in two Commencement ceremonies and sent them on to better our world.
Before rushing on to plans for the fall, it seems the “learned” thing – and universities are supposed to do “learned” things – is to reflect on the pandemic. I realized anew the dedication, selflessness, and creativity of our faculty and staff. Determined to teach, to coach, to mentor – they found a way. We discovered that some meetings are more efficient over Zoom. We realized that giving employees some flexibility to work remotely improves productivity and allows for focused work. We determined what was essential and what tasks were “busyness.”
We learned that our students do not flourish in isolation. They need community. They need active learning, engagement, and the important, unplanned conversations with faculty and staff that are the hallmark of life on a university campus. Students grow in ways outside the classroom that cannot be replicated in a Zoom presentation. It is the humanizing, broadening, stretching that happens when one rubs shoulders with people who hold different beliefs, have a different culture, and offer a fresh perspective. They learn to converse, to agree, and to agree to disagree. In the end, they become teammates, suitemates, and lifelong friends. We cannot capture that on Zoom. And just as the students missed the classroom and each other, we, too, missed the students. For we learn from them just as they learn from us.
We discovered we can communicate and hold campus-wide meetings on Zoom, but even more, we learned how much we missed one another. We missed the conversations before and after the official meeting – when we find out how people are faring, what weighs heavy on their hearts, what joys have come their way. In short, we missed gathering not just for business but also for community – one of our core values.
Most sobering, we learned anew the fragility of life when we lost a master’s student to COVID-19. Of all our lessons, may we never forget the gift of life, the gift we are to one another. May our gracious God continue to lead us all to a healthy and safe future.
Sister Diane Steele, SCL, Ph.D., C’83