By Dr. Robert W. Pearigen
Like every college and university in the country and beyond, Millsaps College is facing the challenges of adapting to the restrictions brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Our students went on spring break in early March but were not able to return to campus, and have now shifted to remote instruction. Reports indicate that although things are certainly different, our faculty continue to deliver an exceptional educational experience and our students maintain their commitment to learning. Several students have said to me that being together in a virtual classroom is far better than learning alone.
Our faculty have gone above and beyond the call of duty to move to a virtual teaching platform, and I commend them for their continued dedication and creativity in finding ways to engage their students.
Consider the theatre professor who doesn’t view solitude or isolation as an obstacle to his teaching, but instead encourages students to use the present circumstances as a muse for their creativity, such as a spring “virtual dance production” currently posted to our social media pages.
Consider the chemistry professor who can still teach general and organic chemistry on a smart board, but meets the challenge of engaging students in laboratory experiments by filming a colleague running through the necessary processes and collecting the data, which allows students to still practice data analysis.
Our staff are working from home and supporting the needs of the students and the college during a highly stressful time. The bookstore staff who make sure student mail is forwarded to their homes, the IT staff who keep us all virtually connected and the student life staff who work tirelessly to keep a sense of community, albeit virtually—their work and the work of so many others is invaluable.
All of them—students, faculty and staff—are demonstrating the best of Millsaps on a daily basis. Their dedication to learning, teaching and sustaining is remarkable, and I am confident that Millsaps will emerge on the other side of this crisis stronger than ever.
I am also heartened by the work of our alumni across the country, many of them on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. Physicians, nurses, clergy, teachers, artists—all offering their talent and skills and many risking their health and safety during a time of tremendous need.
Yes, there are challenges for us now—challenges with regard to finances, enrollment and operations. But with those challenges come opportunities, and I am confident we will make the most of those before us and create new ones on our own.
Our seniors will earn their degrees and our incoming students will be greeted with open arms. Our faculty will return to the classrooms better equipped than ever, continuing the genuine and personal mentoring that has supported our students in the past and even more so during this present time. All of us will gather in the Bowl again and celebrate everything we love about Millsaps.