The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has caused major disruptions in higher education, from significant economic impact to social impact of faculty, staff, and students. On the latest episode of Solutions for Higher Education, Southern Utah University President Scott L Wyatt discusses some of the implications of COVID-19 on higher education and how SUU is working to find solutions.
“On this podcast, we've spent this semester talking about disruptions and changes in higher education, enrollment projections and all of these kinds of things that are happening,” said Wyatt. “And of all of the disruptions, nothing equals the one no one expected… a global pandemic.”
During the University’s spring break in March 2020, the administration made the decision to shift from face-to-face to fully remote delivery of classes. The use of technology has allowed the University to not only stay in business, but conduct business as near to “normal” as possible.
“This generation that has been sometimes accused of being overly socially engaged on technology and not socially enough engaged face-to-face,” said Wyatt. “However, it is the most well-equipped generation of all time to be able to handle a pandemic like this.”
When the University asked students about the new delivery mode and the experience they have had after leaving for spring break, the majority of students were doing fine. Only a third of students surveyed said their experience was worse.
“What we've learned is several things relative to students, and one is that everyone is different,” said Wyatt. “Some people are thriving in this environment. They love being home and having a little more flexibility. And then we have some students that are struggling to get out of bed because they are so depressed by all of this.”
“It reminds me that of all the things that we're trying to teach, the character is probably the supreme,” said Wyatt. “We're trying to help people develop grit, the ability to face change, to adjust their lives. Because the students that leave here are going to see multiple, significant changes throughout their careers, they're going to have many different jobs, the job that they end up doing may not have been invented yet, but they're going to have a lot of disruptions. And perhaps this is helping them realize that they can weather storms.”
President Wyatt notes that one of the biggest lessons learned from this pandemic is that people are capable of doing things that they didn’t know they were capable of.
“We have more personal strength than we thought we had,” said Wyatt. “I love looking at all of my colleagues and seeing in each one of them a strength I don't have. There isn't strong and weak necessarily, it's ‘we all have different strengths.’ It’s just beyond our strengths, when we're put into environments that we're not conditioned for, we're not ready for, then it's really difficult. And we choose to do our very best and to realize we're living through history.”
“By focusing a little bit on the fact that we're living through history, we're seeing things that we've never experienced before, we're doing our best to help take care of those around us as best as we can, and our belief is that there will be a shift as a result of this. It will leave us changed, both as individuals and as a higher education community nationwide.”
“To think that every single teacher in America is teaching remotely right now and that every single student is learning remotely right now, we will not come out of this… unchanged.“
Hosted by Steve Meredith, Solutions for Higher Education is a podcast featuring Scott L Wyatt, the president of Southern Utah University.
Steven Meredith Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management for Graduate and Online Programs
Specializing in graduate programs, online education, and innovative higher education