As we wrap-up a very unusual semester, I have many people to thank.
First, I thank our faculty, who made a rapid shift to new ways of teaching and worked tirelessly to support students who were learning to adapt to online education at the same time.
I thank our staff – those on the front lines and those working remotely. You have maintained services and operations as seamlessly as possible.
To students, I thank you for persevering in challenging times and for maintaining your focus on your education and future.
I thank faculty, staff and students for supporting the needs of our communities with research, service, and donations of supplies.
I thank families who supported their students in challenging circumstances.
I am grateful to the many alumni and friends who contributed more than $270,000 in emergency funds for students.
I thank our governor, legislators and state agencies for guiding us in unprecedented times.
And I thank the health care community and all who are on the front lines helping us stay safe and providing essential services.
As I near the end of my second stint at SIU Carbondale, and as I contemplate my 45 years in higher education, I can say with confidence that the last few months have been among the most challenging and rewarding time of my career.
The decisions we faced, and the speed in which we had to make them, were difficult and complex. The sands were constantly shifting under us — and still are — but we have worked together to adapt while maintaining our focus on providing an outstanding education while protecting the safety of our community.
The reward has been in watching us come together to face the unknown, in seeing people solve new problems collaboratively and creatively, and witnessing acts of compassion and kindness to help our students and each other.
As we put the semester behind us and launch summer in online mode, we now look toward fall. We plan a return to on-campus classes, making adjustments that comply with social distancing and other safety requirements recommended by governmental and health agencies. The approach may vary based on the requirements of each course. Class sizes, mode of delivery, configurations and locations may change to ensure that social distancing is maintained. Face-to-face learning may be supplemented by alternative approaches. In short, our deans and faculty have a great opportunity to think differently as an academic community.
We are also looking at all aspects of campus life, including housing and dining, events and utilization of facilities.
Safety measures in addition to social distancing will include providing masks for all faculty, staff and students; enhanced cleaning protocols; limiting event size and more. We will continue to provide single rooms for all residence hall students.
There’s no doubt that fall 2020 will look much different from fall 2019, but the goal of providing a quality educational experience in a safe environment will be the same. Overall, we are targeting mid-June to have a plan in place.
We know that ultimately, the steps we take will need to comply with the state’s phased approach for returning to “normal,” whatever that will look like. Based upon what we know today, we are optimistic that our region will make the progress needed for a return to modified face-to-face classes in the fall.
There is work ahead, and the sands will continue to shift. But given all that we have accomplished in the face of adversity, I am confident that we will move forward to fulfill our mission.