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During Pandemic, Higher Education Shows its Character

Peter Worstell, SageGlass Business Development – Higher Education

Apr. 21, 2020

Challenging times reveal character. They force you to show who you really are: what values you hold; how you help others. We know this. And it’s never been more clear.

Currently, the United States higher education community is comprised of more than 5,000 academic institutions serving roughly 20 million students. These institutions are vital to thousands of local communities and economies. It is critical that the higher education sector weather this Covid-19 storm, and it is on a mission to do so.

Higher Education Leaders Rise to the Occasion

Today’s higher education leaders are no strangers to adversity, and historically, institutions have a track record of rebounding well. They are battle-tested and resilient; it’s within their institutional character. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, institutions were — and still are — facing several serious problems: rising tuition costs, questions about the ROI of degrees, student recruitment and retention, managing resources, and aging facilities.

When faced with problems, higher education leaders find solutions. They have reacted to Covid-19 with speed and empathy. No one could have predicted the efficiency and effectiveness of their response. Here are a few examples of the creativity, resourcefulness, and generosity coming from our higher education community:

  • Oregon State University is collecting PPE for distribution to medical personnel, including masks, gloves and gowns. They have collected 200,000 gloves and 8,000 masks so far.
  • SUNY Stony Brook produced more than 17 gallons of hand sanitizer for distribution on the same day that WHO made its formulation public.
  • Duke University, University of North Carolina, Temple University, and many more have re-purposed facilities to produce masks or face-shields using 3D printers.
  • Michigan State University has repurposed a cafeteria oven typically used for testing new recipes to decontaminate masks.
  • Temple University worked with FEMA to convert Liacouras Center to be able to house 250 patients.
  • On several campuses, dorms are being used to house non-coronavirus patients.

What We Can All Learn from Higher Education’s Response

One thing is abundantly clear: higher education professionals are a close-knit team of very strong individuals who care immensely about their communities, faculty, staff, and students. This has always been true, but the current situation has brought their selflessness and determination to light in new ways.

The efforts of college campuses to contribute to the greater good during this pandemic promotes a contagious “all-in” culture for us all. And because of that, I believe higher education will have a head start to come out of this emergency stronger than ever. It has the people, the teamwork, and the clear desire to do so. It’s what I call the patriotic desire to win.

At SageGlass, we are proud to be part of many beloved higher education campuses. It’s a privilege to help create educational spaces that inspire learning, wellness, and productivity. We are cheering for and supporting our friends in higher education during this difficult time, when many facilities sit empty, and most classes are held virtually.

I recently sent an email to one of my favorite campus administrators to simply check in and see how he was doing. His response captured the moment well: Thank you. Be safe. We will get through this.