How are you approaching 2021?
“I am approaching 2021 with a degree of optimism tampered by a high dose of concern and pragmatism. The optimism comes from the fact that we now have a vaccine. Moreover, it seems likely that additional vaccines will be approved before the start of summer. For the first time since this pandemic began, therefore, we can foresee the day when most people are protected from its devastating impact, allowing us to get back to some semblance of normalcy.”
You mentioned that your level of concern tampers your optimism for the upcoming year, why is that?
“My concern and pragmatism come from the fact that we have some difficult months ahead as health experts anticipate another post-holiday surge in infections. Therefore, the need for continued and even heightened vigilance is higher than ever before. Another area of concern is the mental well-being of students, faculty and staff due in part to the cancellation of spring break. Illinois State University is not alone in cancelling spring break and we, in fact, reversed our earlier decision to retain spring break on the recommendation of the government. I hope that the wellness days we have designated will be strictly observed and respected to provide the much-needed stress release.”
What about those reasons for optimism? What are some of the reasons you think things will be okay, what you as provost have to look forward to?
“I look forward to 2021 with optimism because of the resilience of the Redbird spirit, as well as the lineup of exciting events and milestones we expect this semester. In February, Academic Affairs will hold a major retreat. The planning and preparation for this event has involved approximately 150 people in 10 working group who have been meeting for much of the fall semester. The retreat will help the Division of Academic Affairs to identify priority areas and strategies to help ISU remain competitive and to thrive in the post-COVID-19 landscape...Also, in the spring semester, we look forward to finalizing and presenting to the university community ISU’s final report and proposal for an engineering program. Commencement is always special but this year it will be even more special because of the traumatic experiences of the past year.”
Even though the Spring 2021 semester is just underway, have you and your office started looking ahead even farther into the future with regards to academic planning, vaccine potential, etc.?
“We are deeply engaged in planning for the fall semester. My hope is that the vaccines will make enough positive impact on the pandemic to allow us to return to in-person instruction. We will, of course, closely monitor the situation and guidance from government and public health officials and respond accordingly.”