Back in the early nineties, when I was the Dean of the College of Business at LSUS, I oversaw the installation of a large satellite dish on the south side of campus. The idea was to allow LSUS to host national speakers virtually, beaming them live via satellite technology to our campus and community. At the time it seemed like a revolutionary idea for a university of our size, and certainly one that put us on pace with the changing times. Alas, after years of use, the dish slowly faded into obsolescence as time and technology marched on.
In the midst of a global pandemic, almost three decades later, my plan to bring people virtually to our campus back then seems prescient. However, it would be disingenuous of me to even suggest that what we are experiencing now is anything close to what I had in mind back then. This pandemic has continued to challenge us in new and unexpected ways. It has forced our university community to adapt existing models, often with limited information and time. It has not been easy, and for now, the only thing we are certain of is that things will continue to evolve in the months ahead.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, we were fortunate that our expertise in online education helped us transition to remote learning in the spring and summer. As part of our academic offerings during the fall semester, virtual classes are once again widely available for students who are uncomfortable being on campus due to the risks associated with COVID-19. Just like in 1992, we are building out our campus infrastructure to meet students where they are, albeit with a slightly different configuration.
In August, we hosted our first virtual graduation, featuring acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson as our keynote speaker. Ms. Woodson delivered her address from upstate New York, as part of a larger commencement program that included individual addresses from LSUS leadership, and then beamed out to LSUS graduating seniors, their parents, extended families, and friends all over the world. Logistically, it presented quite a few challenges, but we are better for it, and we are once again gearing up for a virtual graduation in December.
In another virtual milestone, we hosted a Black Lives Matter Town Hall event this month, with a group of panelists from the region discussing the topics of Education and Healthcare. The event was broadcast live on Facebook, and we had to juggle Phase 2 protocols for the personnel involved in the program along with the logistical challenges of dynamically capturing and broadcasting this important event. In addition to its success as a vital social conversation, it gave us a template for hosting future conferences and Town Halls within our space, just as we are beginning to welcome the wider community back to our campus during Phase 3.
LSUS is a hub of this community, and in many ways the challenges we face on campus are the same ones faced all across our region. We know now that adaptability is the key to thriving in this time. Our community must move forward and we must do so in a thoughtful, strategic, and careful manner, to protect each other’s welfare as best we can.
Just as we did in the early nineties, we are once again preparing to bring the community and the world to LSUS. There will be a time when this pandemic will be a part of our collective history, and how we adapt now will directly influence the types of stories we tell. Perhaps one day another generation of LSUS leadership will look back at this time and find lessons in what we are doing now. I wish them well.
Dr. Larry Clark | Chancellor Louisiana State University – Shreveport