The end of the pandemic seems within sight for us. With vaccination rates in the state approaching 60% and new case rates continuing to plummet, there is growing optimism that the US and MSU might finally be emerging from the pandemic. Now, we need to imagine ourselves working, living, and learning together again on campus.
The next several months will be a transition for us when we establish the foundation for a new normal. It is tempting to imagine that the return to campus will come simply as a relief from the stresses and strains of the last fourteen months. But the pandemic will leave its mark on us for better and for worse, and we need to acknowledge the trauma that we experienced both individually and collectively. So, our return to campus will be a lot of work, both physically and emotionally, and I have been encouraging my colleagues to make time for themselves this summer to relax, recharge, and reconnect to one another.
Psychologists who study how people overcome the effects of traumatic events tell us that three factors seem critical in helping protect and nurture individuals: Confidence in authorities, a sense of belonging, and community solidarity. Knowing this, we have tried to cultivate all three of these factors in our work. These are also attributes that a university devoted to Student Success should try hard to cultivate. In this way, the pandemic and its aftermath can be an important catalyst for Student Success work.
Our colleagues who are leading the (Re)Orientation work are helping coordinate and draw attention to how and why we need to collaborate to prepare ourselves and a campus to be together again in the fall. The (Re)Orientation work reorients us to meet students’ and one another’s needs through multiple approaches, including but not limited to:
- A recognition that the needs for mental health services will probably increase in the coming year;
- Acknowledging the loss of people, places, and opportunities that our community has experienced;
- Building authentic connections among peers, instructors, advisors, administrators, and students;
- Utilizing identity conscious approaches;
- Increasing attention to helping students create peer connections;
- (Re)building our feelings of community and sense of belonging among our employees and students;
- Identifying and meeting our students’ essential needs around food, housing, and financial support;
- Equitable access to high impact practices such as education abroad, research, campus employment, internships; and
- Transparency and inclusion.
The (Re)Orientation work will continue throughout the summer and fall, and it is being led by Drs. Sarah Gretter, Amy Martin, Renata Opoczynski, and Genyne Royal. I encourage you to reach out to them with your ideas and learn how you can be involved in this work, and to attend one of the upcoming (Re)Orientation Town Halls where they will be gathering feedback from the campus community.
Thursday, June 10th, 2021 from 10:00am-12:00pm
https://msu.zoom.us/j/97639275656, Passcode: 278487
Wednesday, August 4th, 2021 from 1:00pm -3:00pm
https://msu.zoom.us/j/99158415809, Passcode: 17