Guest Blog Post: Bridging the Pandemic Divide: A Focus on Transparent, Empathetic Student Communication

Dr. Richard Rhodes, Chancellor, Austin Neighborhood Faculty District

At this turning level in schooling, there’s a robust risk that COVID-19 tales might oversaturate our subject, creating a possible that our eyes glaze over every time we watch or examine how another person has handled the pandemic. As an alternative of writing one other submit that follows that system, we requested Austin Neighborhood Faculty District Chancellor, Dr. Richard Rhodes, to share why he feels it’s vital to remain vigilant to the distinctiveness every of us is experiencing on this unprecedented time.


The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has turned our world the wrong way up. The methods we train, study and work all look completely different. What is going on now’s exceptional. The panorama of upper schooling is remodeling, and it’s on us to proceed rising. 

COVID-19 introduced challenges we have now by no means seen. How we work by means of these challenges shapes whether or not we succeed or fail. We are able to use them as classes and instruments for enacting significant and transformational change. The material of what we do will all the time stay our cornerstone. We’re right here to assist college students and their success. How we do that’s what is new.

So how does that coincide with our COVID-19 protocol? At ACC, we labored diligently to maintain empathy and transparency front-and-center all through our decision-making course of. Creating and nurturing an actual tradition of collaboration, connection, and caring turned extra essential than ever to enhance communications and work as a workforce. This was the one method we had been going to succeed. Some decisions had been simple to greenlight, reminiscent of making a video to assist educate our college students on observe CDC pointers in the event that they needed to come on campus. Many decisions took way more introspection to make sure we had been setting our college students up for fulfillment. If we had been going to do that proper, we wanted to do it as a school. We shaped committees composed of members from departments districtwide to share insights, concepts, and suggestions — from college and scholar affairs employees to enterprise and operations and advertising and marketing.

A primary instance of this was selecting to undertake a cross/no cross mannequin the place college students may go for that choice even after seeing what their grade was. One other instance was using CARES Act funds to buy hundreds of laptops and iPads for college students who don’t have units for distant studying. Offering this expertise eliminates obstacles and permits them to proceed their schooling whether or not they’re studying on-line or in-person. We even added hotspots on campus for drive-up Wifi entry.

Our scholar assist employees reached out to college students frequently, calling them to debate their issues and find out about any obstacles of their method. These strategies had been profitable. These calls allowed us to proceed shaping and informing a course of which might permit our college students to reach the face of such distinctive circumstances.

Our college additionally stepped as much as meet this problem head-on. Whether or not getting skilled on new expertise or discovering artistic means to adapt their curriculum, our professors remodeled the classroom in order that college students may proceed to study. I recall one professor particularly who took his auto-tech class from campus to house. This professor recruited his spouse to movie him whereas he demonstrated lab work on a automotive in his personal storage. Our college students may observe alongside at their very own properties — they usually by no means missed a beat. That’s the form of engagement college students thrive on.

All of this effort, pushed by a human want to know and assist, resulted within the form of success we may by no means have imagined. Within the fall of 2020, the Nationwide Scholar Clearinghouse (which aids college students in being recruited for switch after finishing their group school coursework) was reporting a 9.four% lower, year-over-year. ACC really noticed a zero.5% enhance—within the midst of a pandemic, no much less.

Whereas so many elements, even many which began effectively earlier than the pandemic, play a task in these figures, I’m satisfied that our open, direct communication with our college students aided their capability to stay on-track. This communicative technique was very important to conserving college students secure, wholesome, and engaged of their schooling.

As is all the time the case in schooling—we’re not accomplished. We’re watching and noting what we study. Our purpose is to seize the whole lot so we will decide which parts are profitable and proceed to make use of them as we transfer into the long run. On the coronary heart of that knowledge stays the distinctive people we serve — our college students. I problem you and your colleagues to maintain tuned-in, as effectively—and recognize that you’ve accomplished so for me immediately.

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