Never in my 35 years in higher education have I seen or experienced anything close to the magnitude of sheer disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire campus was able to pivot to remote instruction and operations in a matter of days – it wasn’t easy, but everyone rose to the occasion to make it the best possible transition. At the very least it demonstrated to me that the campus can be nimble and flexible as I have talked about in the past. It took a lot of grit and grace to work through the myriad of details, big and small. The campus came through, bigtime! Thank you for that.
It turns out, that may have been the easy part.
Restoring our on-campus academic and operational functions is proving in many ways to be more challenging given the nature of the virus and our desire to protect our community of students, faculty, and staff – while still lacking a vaccine and recognizing the ongoing need to adjust our physical proximity to one another. I believe the best way to look at this is to move forward as though COVID-19 is here to stay and plan accordingly.
The other fact is that you are resilient. You have demonstrated your determination. You have helped your friends and colleagues adjust. You have learned how to use Teams and other virtual meeting tools. And, we all have learned to wear masks and wash our hands with vigor – and to stay home if we don’t need to go out. Now we’ll take those lessons learned and apply them for at least the foreseeable future to our new normal – a University of Arkansas that is prepared to pivot when necessary, creative in its approach to discovery, learning and living, and willing to make adjustments to schedules, practices and protocols all in support of the greater good at what we do best: educate students, advance discovery, and provide outreach to the world around us. Presented here is a plan for moving forward in this new reality to advance our missions as a public, flagship university.
Thank you for your service. Keep supporting one another and ask for help when you need it.
You have my profound gratitude,
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.