One year ago today, I sent a university message that announced we would be moving classes online. This was intended to be a temporary move until at least April 3, but it was soon learned that we would suspend in-person classes for the spring and summer semesters.
To quote one of my favorite songs, what a long, strange trip it’s been (Garcia, Weir, Lesh and Hunter) since then.
It’s been a difficult 365 days for everyone. We transitioned to remote platforms. Offices were vacated to accommodate telework. Our campus-cleaning schedule moved to a 24/7 format. Perhaps worst of all, we were physically and emotionally distanced from one another.
But we have persisted and moved forward. Our faculty developed new and creative ways to reach their students. Campus offices came up with innovative ideas to serve our faculty and students. Our student health, physical plant and campus safety offices brought forward new ways to keep our students, faculty and staff safe.
Best of all, I’ve seen so many ways that our campus is working to reach out to students wherever they are. I know that faculty have increased accessibility to accommodate the needs of their students. Our counselors and student affairs teams are working overtime to try to address the mental health needs of the student population. Our IT team has presented many creative solutions to address the issues related to internet connectivity and technology obstacles.
We aren’t out of the woods yet, but the picture moving forward together is much clearer than it was one year ago. We’re recruiting a new freshman class, launching several new retention initiatives and adding new degree programs that will attract new students now and into the future.
And we are operating more efficiently, too. UT Martin did not have to eliminate jobs or furlough employees during the past 12 months. We will continue to utilize the efficiency lessons learned over the past year as we move forward. And move forward we will.
So, thank you. Thank you for meeting obstacles with the same resolve that the institution has met all other challenging periods over our 121-year history.
I wouldn’t want to have made this 365-day journey with anyone else.