The novel coronavirus and its impact on our lives has created profoundly different ways of living and working for us over the last few weeks. As a historian, even I am willing to say this is unprecedented. We have never seen a pandemic of this scale that was responded to so vigorously. COVID-19 almost instantly went global because of our high degree of connectivity, which allowed it to travel the world with ease. Its spread has taken days and weeks, rather than the years and decades it took most previous diseases to make their way around the globe.
Also unprecedented is how the world has responded. Our biomedical community has collaborated in ways like never before, sharing research across countries, labs, and companies. Even as it seemed to do so too slowly, our political and economic systems responded more quickly and more vigorously than we have witnessed in any previous pandemic. Who could have imagined even a month ago that most of us would be working from home right now and that our children’s schools would be shut down?
MSU responded quickly, too. It was one of the first universities to go entirely remote (and the very first in the state). Literally within hours, our faculty took classes that were meeting in person and turned them into virtual learning spaces. Our instructional designers and IT staff dropped everything and focused on supporting our faculty and students in this colossal lift. Our advisors pivoted and got to work arranging opportunities for virtual and phone advising appointments. Our CAPS staff worked out how to continue to provide support to students when in-person counseling was no longer possible. Our Housing and Food Service staff worked to efficiently and safely get students home if they chose to leave, and to provide all normal services to those who wished or needed to stay on campus. Our Neighborhood staff moved their tutoring and academic skills workshops online. Likewise, support staff have very quickly adjusted to remote work by setting up home offices. And, we did all of this while balancing the pandemic’s effect on our families, homeschooling children, and helping the people who depend on us at home.
I am taking every chance I can to celebrate our colleagues in MSU’s Information Technology Services. ITS’s work has been nothing short of heroic. While most of us holed up at home, isolating ourselves from the virus and focusing on adapting our tasks to working remotely, many of our IT colleagues remained on campus to support our IT infrastructure and provide technical support and advice to many thousand faculty, staff, and administrators. We owe them great thanks.
As we have pivoted and adjusted, we have been guided by two values: our promise to help support our community’s health and wellness and our commitment to student success. Yesterday, we announced that we were offering a binary satisfactory/not satisfactory grade recording option for students. You can find more information on this option on MSU's remote working/teaching/learning website. It is our hope that the new grade recording option will help relieve some of the stress and worry that students are experiencing during this difficult time.
We have also been supporting our students who have financial need through emergency grants. Many colleges have shifted their fundraising to emergency aid, and our Office of Financial Aid has continued to distribute vital emergency aid to our students. If you feel inclined, you can help support MSU’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund.
Thank you all for your great work. I hope you and your families are healthy and safe. I look forward to seeing all of you – in person – sometime soon.