Bateman: Lessons from a year of COVID

This month marks a year of living through the Covid-19 pandemic.  It is a truly remarkable time in history and one that has provided many personal and professional lessons.  More time with family has been a blessing.  Making memories during this time together has been an important part of helping each other survive and thrive during a global pandemic.  For higher education, the lessons forged by the fire of the last twelve months cannot be understated.  This pandemic has changed our nation, higher education, and BPCC – forever.

Last March, I made the difficult decision along with my education colleagues to close our campus and move to online education.  Our strategy was to prepare for the worst while we hoped for the best.  Looking back now, I had hoped that this would be a temporary solution and that we would soon return to our bustling, vibrant campus.  As I worked with my Executive Team to manage the situation on a daily basis, it became clear that we needed to prepare our college community to learn and work remotely for an indefinite amount of time.

Our semi-permanent transition to remote learning and working was our biggest challenge and my proudest moment as the leader of Bossier Parish Community College.  The talent, commitment, and determination of our people to was on display like never before.  Faculty who never taught online worked with colleagues to make the transition.  Our Educational Technology and Computer Service teams worked with faculty and staff to provide the services and hardware necessary for our people to work remotely.  Our Student Services team worked countless hours to provide student services virtually.  During the pandemic, we stood up our Cavalier Care Center where students receive help with non-academic needs (like food insecurity, mental health counselling) and where we house our expanded laptop loan program to provide students with Chromebooks so they can stay on the path to completion.

I am proud of our Human Resources Department who worked with faculty and staff who faced difficult challenges as members of our college community suffered from Covid-19.  Our facilities staff is top notch and worked on campus upgrading our facilities and improving our infrastructure to make our campus safer for everyone to return.  

All of our efforts paid off.  I am proud to report that our completion and success rates for spring and fall 2020 are in line with our normal statistics for the same academic terms in non-Covid years.  During this crisis, I am proud that we worked with our students and kept a focus on their academic success and progress even in the face of overwhelming circumstances.  This is a testament to our people and their commitment to this College.

So, now that we are a year into this crisis what have we learned?  For higher education, we know that remote and online learning will always be a part of our education landscape.  For that reason, it is important that we stay the course and develop better online learning opportunities for our students.  We also know that we can help students virtually—reaching more students in a single day than we ever could before.  Leveraging technology to reach students where they are will be a lasting impact of the pandemic and will help us serve students in our rural communities in new ways.

Investing in our people is still vitally important in a post-Covid world.  Supporting our faculty to continue to grow in translating their teaching through distance education will be a constant for professional development moving forward.  As we move toward the new normal, it will be the ways that we’ve worked to take care of each other and the ways we’ve reached out and supported members of our College community that will have the most enduring impact.

With the vaccine and the declining number of Covid cases in north Louisiana, I can see a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel.  While this has been one of the most challenging times in my career, I am grateful for the lessons learned over the last year and I look forward to working with the professionals at BPCC as we grow enrollment, increase retention, and improve graduation rates.    

Dr. Rick Bateman | BPCC CHANCELLOR

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