It was one year ago, that COVID-19 turned our world upside down.
One area hit hard by the pandemic was education. School officials throughout the country started using the word “pivot” to describe how often they had to swiftly change their plans due to COVID-19. We asked Madison College President Dr. Jack E. Daniels III how the pandemic has impacted education.
We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of COVID-19. What do you remember most about those first weeks and preparing the college for the pandemic?
We began monitoring COVID-19 in early February. When we decided to close the campuses to the public on March 16, that was a difficult decision. It was not soon after we decided to go online for the remainder of the term. There had to be a lot of preparation for the quick turnaround and the faculty did an awesome job of accomplishing this feat. I remember the fluidity of the multiple issues from various orders, differences in how counties reacted, ensuring safety and health of individuals accessing our facilities, determining when we could return to full operations – these were all thoughts during the first few weeks. Additionally, what would summer and fall look like. The other preparation was about having facilities that were clean as well as developing protocols for entry and accessing the college and its services. Above all, it was about health and safety. We also kept asking our employees and students to be masked, observe good hygiene habits, and be honest through our screening processes.
Is the college stronger for going through COVID-19? In what ways?
COVID-19 was a confirmation that there could be changes – in “short order”. The old phrase “we can’t do that” became we can. That is evidenced by the sheer work faculty made in transforming their curriculum. We learned that we can teach remotely and can perform administrative tasks (e.g., accounting, budgeting) remotely. We know we can do many of our tasks remotely (especially administrative tasks) and we will continue. This will also add another dimension to hiring – both faculty and staff. We are stronger in knowing we can be flexible and adaptable to situations that disrupt our educational processes and how we serve our students and communities.
What changes has the college made as a result of the pandemic that you foresee being lasting changes?
Our hiring processes will change to become much more willing to have faculty and staff do their work remotely; Our communication has been outstanding – internally and externally and that will continue. We have analyzed a lot of the data during the past 12 months on student access and success and we will continue this analysis and related decision making ongoing.
Is there anything else related to the pandemic/college that you would like to share?
There’s a lot of focus on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. But we can’t lose sight of current social issues, punctuated by racism, that have arisen as well as the disparities that have become more pronounced and have negatively impacted people of color and females during the pandemic disproportionately – individuals’ and families’ health care, housing, economic condition and education. Also highlighted has been cultural differences and how they are evidenced or masked. This is a different recession than 10 years ago and we are seeing that difference hit communities of color and poverty hard.