Earlier this summer I hoped that I wouldn’t have to write another column about COVID-19. I was thankful for the opportunity to push words such as “unprecedented” and “resilience” to the back of my vocabulary queue for a while. The pandemic, it seems, had other plans. We are already well into another challenging semester, one that is sure to cause us to reshape our plans and pivot at least some of our operations as we progress into the fall. As grim of a prospect as this is, I believe that it is vital that we keep planning for a time when we don’t have to concern ourselves with masks, social distancing, and changes to the way we learn, work, and play on campus.
Looking ahead, we at LSUS plan to continue our march into the future, reshaping our campus to meet the needs of the 21st century student. Our new President, Dr. William F. Tate IV, asked the chancellors of all the LSU campuses to provide him with a list of goals for our campuses for the coming years. While those of us in organizational leadership have to always be forward-looking, it’s sometimes easy to put medium and long-term goals to the side in order to deal with current challenges and issues such as… well, a pandemic. I’ll share just a couple of LSUS’s long-term goals with you, hopefully as a way for you to think about the long-term goals of your organization, one that is hopefully less burdened by the demands of a pervasive event such as COVID-19.
We must continue to improve diversity on campus and strengthen ties with minority and underserved communities in the Northwest Louisiana region, making LSUS a regional hub for community-based events and programming. I believe that it is important for LSUS to not only outwardly reflect our region, but to represent it in the best and most balanced way. LSUS must provide opportunities for students, faculty, and staff of all representative groups in Northwest Louisiana if we want to maintain our status as Shreveport’s public regional university. We have many initiatives being run through our office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement, celebrating and educating the populace on important matters facing minority or marginalized community members. Future campus assets such as the Community Counseling Clinic- which will offer community access to mental health services- give us a chance to reach members of our city and lift them up in a way that we have not done before.
In that same vein, we plan to increase applied research (with a focus on undergraduate participation) across campus and disciplines, leveraging new campus entities such as the Cyber Collaboratory, the Human Performance Lab, and the forthcoming Business Intelligence Lab to do so. We recognize that if we don’t give our students hands-on opportunities that match the environments where they will work later in life, then we are not properly equipping them to succeed. Technology has opened new pathways for research across multiple fields, particularly in STEM related subjects, and as educators, we must continue to evolve to take full advantage of those new options.
These novel campus spaces will provide chances for public enrichment as well. For example, people from the region will be welcome to utilize the Human Performance Lab and take full advantage of assessments such as VO2 max measurement, temperature tolerance, body composition, Vicon motion analysis, electroencephalography, and beyond. This will benefit groups such as trainers, local gyms, running clubs, and athletic groups, and provide occupational testing for critical community personnel such as firefighters, police officers, military personnel, and HAZMAT workers.
As we look ahead, I ask you to think about and list out some long-term goals for your organization. Have they changed because of the pandemic? Should they? Are you still laying the groundwork for these goals? Do you have the right team in place to execute them? How are you positioned to adjust to the challenges of local, regional, and global changes driven by technology, climate, and demographics? At LSUS, we constantly have to ask ourselves these questions, and to be frank, sometimes the answers only lead to more questions. But the goal above all goals is an enduring commitment to do so honestly, and with a willingness to adapt as needed. I wish you well.
Dr. Larry Clark | Chancellor Louisiana State University – Shreveport