MCC Marks a Year of Going Remote, Staying Resilient and Keeping Healthy Amid Pandemic
March 22, 2021
by Katherine P. Douglas, Ed.D., interim president of Monroe Community College.
A year ago, a dangerous coronavirus upended life on college campuses, including at Monroe Community College. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, MCC pivoted to remote learning and increased support services online for students. Faculty, staff and administrators switched to teleworking. Campuses fell quiet. For a majority of the MCC community, March 18, 2020, was the last time they set foot on campus that semester.
As we pause to reflect on one of the most challenging years on record, the COVID anniversary is not exactly cause for celebration. Our nation is still battling the virus that has taken over half a million lives, eliminated jobs and deepened the hunger crisis. What we endured, the sacrifices we made, the courage and hope we displayed in the face of COVID—these moments of 2020 likewise will be etched in our minds forever. We will never forget students’ resilience and outright determination combined with the extraordinary dedication of faculty and staff that kept MCC moving forward with our teaching and learning mission.
As we navigated new challenges posed by the pandemic in the months that followed March 18, I often used the expression, “We are building this plane as we’re flying it.” We were literally writing MCC’s playbook for pandemic success on the fly. Over time and together, we got better and smarter in handling the pandemic.
We removed hurdles to remote learning. Throughout 2020, MCC Foundation awarded $177,000 in emergency funds through Dreamkeepers—twice what we have ever awarded—to eligible students to assist with expenses related to housing, food, transportation and child care. Additionally, over 400 students with the highest needs received laptops so that they could continue their studies and ultimately graduate. The large-scale distribution of laptops on campus was the first of its kind in the college’s history, thanks to the generosity of our alumni and community partners and their dedication to our students.
In May, 80 MCC members worked feverishly on a plan for restarting the campus in the fall with some semblance of normal life while keeping the community as safe as possible. MCC’s plan relied on expert analysis and insights. SUNY approved it in July, citing it as best practice and a model for other community colleges.
During the fall semester, coronavirus testing stations were set up on campus. We continued furthering our mission of excellence in teaching and learning with very low positivity rate (0.21%) because of our students’ and on-campus employees’ strong compliance.
Although we were apart from each other for much of 2020, the MCC community came together in extraordinary, virtual ways to celebrate stellar achievements, including a vocal concert featuring ensembles created by and for students. Borrowing a phrase from MCC’s artistic director, the show must go on(line)!
The pandemic changed the world and each of us. The culmination of crises unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes—coronavirus, economic turmoil and a reckoning with long-standing racial injustices—further strained the mental, emotional and physical health for so many.
The MCC community has been through so much.
As the virus enters its second year, join me in taking a deep breath and recognizing, “We made it!” We stayed healthy and safe and so did our students. So please give yourself permission to do something akin to a pandemic present just for you! Laughter is a precious gift in this uncertain time.