COVID’s impact on college campuses…
I have taught at the college level for 10 years (this year) which is a huge milestone for me professionally. Having taught at Purdue for 4 years and Ancilla for 6 years, I tremendously enjoy teaching at the college level and being on a college campus. There is something about college campuses that brings energy and liveliness. Not sure if it is the dynamics of a college campus or the youthful, student energy but there is something electric about being on campus.
COVID has really altered the dynamics of all educational systems, but especially on college campuses across the US. While many colleges are already completely online for the fall, many are operating with COVID restrictions, in person classes, new wellness centers or more robust health facilities, quarantine facilities, daily COVID checks, tons of medical tracking, etc. This has put an incredible strain on colleges and on students, staff and faculty. But like all educational institutions, you make do and move on.
College faculty must be prepared to teach in person and also online as each day brings the unknown. College students (just like in elementary, middle and high school students) come to classrooms that are COVID spaced, sanitized over and over again throughout the day and all are in mask for the day. I now carry a bottle of sanitizer with me, which is mine, for the whole semester.
Students are adaptive, resilient but stressed because of the unknown. The energy that normally fills a campus, is not really there anymore, and students work hard to follow the COVID requirements which limits their abilities to socialize, meet new students, attend club activities, etc. It truly limits the college experience but at least there is an on-campus college experiences which is more than what many students are facing with taking all their courses from home.
A new age or dawn for colleges as COVID pushes all collegiate systems structurally, financially, athletically, etc. The limited sports funding opportunities have already crushed many large colleges’ budgets (when you can’t fill stadiums, that financially takes a toll on campus budgets and sports programs). Even with all of these challenges on campuses, there is still opportunity. This is the time that if you are wanting to seek out a new degree, training, professional development, never has there been flexibility in online education and colleges are willing to be the most flexible they have ever been in order to gain student buy-in. Without student buy-in, no students, no generated revenue (generated by credit hours) college budgets get cramped very quickly.
I walk onto campus twice a week and hold my breath in getting through the day between 4 classes and working my other jobs between classes and responding to emails and phone calls. I never know if today will be our last on campus day together or not. Or what the future brings for campus, much that like of our local schools. The changes that occur, day by day, make for challenges and opportunities to operate, teach and navigate the collegiate system however, flexibility is key.
I tell my kids, we are taking it day by day and I tell my college students the same thing, each day. The unknown is hard, but we are fortunate to be working together in person, cautiously and carefully right now. We cannot control what happens or what is to come, but we can control how prepared we are and how we choose to respond. That defines and builds character. We are in this together.