A-State has almost made it through one full semester dealing with COVID-19 and Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse emphasized just how proud he was of everyone on campus in making this semester successful.
Damphousse said it started all the way back in January when the Emergency Operations Center sent out its first email regarding COVID-19. Then the Return to Learn plan was created and staff members spent the summer getting campus ready.
“I’ve been very impressed with how well faculty, staff and students responded to this new normal,” Damphousse said. “If you could’ve seen what I saw in July and August we had staff members all over the place. The staff did an incredible job getting the campus physically ready for us to return.”
There were even discussions on how big the social distancing dot markers on the floor should be and what color they should be. Originally planned to be yellow, the red dots with a paw print in the middle are familiar sights all around campus.
Rooms never used for instruction were morphed into socially distant classrooms with the right technology to make sure professors and students were able to teach and learn.
Damphousse said adjusting to the new style of teaching both online and in person was hard enough for him while just teaching one class and commented how many professors teach multiple classes.
“Our faculty members worked really hard in the summer to prepare to teach in the fall,” Damphousse said. “You can plan in the abstract how it’s going to work, but you don’t know how it’s going to work until you start teaching. The faculty members’ burden was tremendous and I think kind of unseen. I don’t think people realize how hard our faculty work.”
The Chancellor noted how many students signed up for in person classes that were moved to an online setting and how even the in person classroom setup was so different and foreign for students this semester.
The credit, no-credit option for students has also been approved for the fall semester.
Damphousse said he is very sympathetic with how hard students have had to work adjusting to the new normal. This applies both inside and outside of the classroom. Even when students might not necessarily have to wear masks outside by themselves, they’re wearing them.
“I see students walking across the sidewalk here everyday all by themselves wearing masks,” Damphousse said. “They’re wearing them everywhere. The compliance from our students, early on we were uncertain how students would comply, has been remarkable.”
Damphousse emphasized while he seems like the face of the EOC because he sends out the emails, the A-State community should really point to the EOC as a whole and the incredible work they have done to get people back on campus successfully.
The Chancellor went on to say that while credit should go to the EOC, credit also needs to be given to everyone who followed the plan.
“I hope our students and our faculty and staff think we did the right thing this fall, that they thought we did the best we could,” Damphousse said. “It’s one thing to create a plan, but the plan is useless if no one is following it. In the summer our faculty and staff followed it very closely. When our students returned, they followed it very closely as well.”
Arkansas State still faces challenges ahead as the coronavirus situation is ever evolving, but one semester on, it seems like A-State’s population adapts to the new normal more and more everyday.
“I’ve been in higher education since 1980 as a student, as an employee, with a couple breaks here and there. And I’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s a compliment to the entire campus that we did this.”