These are certainly challenging times. In my 25 years as a community college president I have dealt with some difficult situations but none that match what we face right now. It amazes me how in just about two weeks our professional and personal lives have changed dramatically. I am empathetic to the fact that while you are working hard to help our students complete the semester and move forward on their goals that you are also confronting personal challenges at home and in just living day to day with so much unknown about the future.
I also know that our students are extremely concerned about what comes next. They wonder how they will finish their courses, what will happen next and how this pandemic will impact their personal lives.
Here’s what I have seen so far. In just a week you all took up the challenge to make certain our students could finish and that we could continue to serve our communities. You adjusted almost overnight to a “new normal." Faculty moved at lightning like speed to convert courses to an online format. This is no easy task. Changing an instructional delivery model in the middle of a course is not easy. You are to be commended for your caring and concern for your students. But it is also true you did not do it alone. What truly amazed me was how others from many areas of Thomas Nelson came forward to help from IT, the library, student services, our police force, maintenance and grounds, the finance office and others all played a part in this transformation.
The safety of our students, faculty and staff was the baseline of our decisions. This is what led to having all that could convert to teleworking and the those who could not practicing social distancing. The creativity demonstrated by everyone was remarkable.
The decision to extend the spring break was made to give the faculty and others time to prepare for the change while staying within the rules and regulations for instructional delivery.
We restricted access to our campuses and moved all student services on line to further protect our students and employees as well as comply with state and federal requests. Again, it took real teamwork to make this happen. The result of this was all our services continued including advising, food pantry, library and bookstore albeit in a different model.
Going forward we will continue to work to see that neither our employees or our students suffer as a result of actions taken to deal with the pandemic. We will closely follow all federal, state and local guidelines and will keep you well informed.
Personally, I will miss the face to face interaction with students and all of you. I was just beginning to feel that I was getting to know you, the college and the community What an abrupt stop! It is disappointing for all of us and especially our students to have to cancel or postpone campus activities. I was looking forward to theatre programs and music groups and the many other events that lead to commencement.
I want you to know also that the cabinet members have worked diligently to provide you with a clear path and strong direction to attack the problem. The board has been kept informed and chairman Kuhns and I speak daily. You have the board's support and gratitude. You have responded by not only accepting the challenge but offering solutions and support. What I have witnessed is how a college community can come together as a team when the goal is student success. My sincere thanks for all you have done and will do as we deal with the impact of the pandemic on Thomas Nelson Community College.
I am honored to be working with all of you.