COVID-19 and Why We Love Working in Higher Ed

How this all feels.

March 11, 2020

It has been a long day. For many of you reading this, I imagine that you are having very long days as well.

COVID-19 is a black swan event, one of those low-probability/high-impact occurrences around which history revolves.

Life has dramatically sped up across the higher ed ecosystem. Decisions are being made in hours rather than weeks or months. Work is getting done in days that we previously thought was not possible.

As all of the COVID-19 planning, implementation, operationalization and iteration are occurring, I’ve had one overwhelming thought: I am very grateful to have made a career in higher ed.

COVID-19 is revealing that higher ed people are the best.

Here are some things that I’m seeing:

  • Colleges and universities are going out of their way to share the materials, guides, resources and lessons learned around COVID-19-related academic and institutional continuity.
  • There is an enormous amount of personal outreach and collegial exchanges occurring across institutions. People are getting in touch with colleagues at peer institutions, and everyone is helping one another out.
  • The amount of care and concern for each other that I’m witnessing on my campus, and that I hear about at other schools, is quite astounding. People seem to be watching out for each other.
  • COVID-19 has done more to cut through layers of academic organizational structure and bureaucracy than any reorg could ever accomplish. Across our campuses, people at every level are stepping up to the work that needs to be done, irrespective of title or place in the hierarchy.
  • From everything that I can see, the leadership at colleges and universities is making decisions based on what is best for their communities -- and not narrowly what is easiest for their schools. I see real leadership in proactively managing in a time of crisis coming from our universities.

Higher education is likely at the beginning of managing the impact of COVID-19. It is too early to learn lessons for the future, and we are likely making all sorts of mistakes.

My sense is that as all of us play our parts -- small or large -- in helping our institutions manage COVID-19, none of us would want to be doing anything else.

What is COVID-19 revealing about your institution?

What do you think COVID-19 might teach us about our higher ed ecosystem?



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