In the third of a series of summer forums, deans John English of the College of Engineering, Margaret McCabe of the School of Law, Brian Primack of the College of Education and Health Professions, and Matt Waller of the Sam M. Walton College of Business took questions Thursday about the reopening of campus in the fall.
About 350 students, faculty and staff participated in the forum.
Interim Provost Charles Robinson moderated the conversation, and Terry Martin, senior vice provost for academic affairs, also offered insights into the plans being developed to maximize safety on campus. After short introductory remarks, the deans took questions from viewers.
A final summer forum will be streamed at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, with Chancellor Joe Steinmetz and Vice Chancellor Yvette Murphy-Erby and members of the COVID-19 Response Team. Registration for the final summer forum will begin on Monday; look for the news article in Monday morning’s Arkansas News email. Space is limited.
AGILITY AND FLEXIBILITY
As the challenges change, sometimes on a daily basis, the deans stressed two broad strategies.
The first, as Dean John English put it, is recognizing that none of the deans or administrators has the answer to every question. So the university has adopted guiding principles to follow when those new and unexpected challenges arise. Those principles call for using guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health to consider best practices for mitigating risk and keeping safety paramount.
The second follows on the first: Keep flexibility and agility at the forefront of moving forward.
“Do what’s right,” English said, speaking to faculty and staff listening to the forum. “Do what’s safe. Support the students expeditiously and stay in control of the circumstance.”
In response to questions about how the campus will deal with the issues raised nationwide over the summer related to racial justice, Dean Margaret McCabe talked about actions that the School of Law has undertaken.
She said the school began engaging in conversations with students, particularly the Black Law Students Association but then also bringing in other student groups.
McCabe said that the law school is creating an anti-racism task force, participating in training provided by campus and actively working toward an environment in which students have the ability to talk about their experiences and share them in an open and supportive atmosphere.
She said they’re also striving to achieve an important concept championed by Provost Robinson: that students need to have a critical mass of peers to support one another in the community.
Dean Brian Primack used the analogy in biology of a muscle that is strained. Sometimes the strain breaks the muscle down. Sometimes, when a muscle is strained it gets stronger. Having watched the work by faculty and staff this summer to prepare for the fall, he said, he thought the university fit into the latter description.
As with other colleges, he said, the College of Education and Health Professions has its share of challenges. The students in that college train in environments like hospitals and schools, two of the fields hardest hit by the pandemic. On the other hand, he said, professors and staff in those same fields are leading the way in solving health issues related to COVID-19 and offering the pedagogical plans and technology for teaching in an evolving world.
“These folks are used to thinking about severe health issues but also approaching them from a humanistic standpoint,” he said. “We need nurturing and caring. That’s what nurses and counselors and occupational therapists do.”
On the practical side, though, some things will change. In the past, for instance, nursing students often did their clinical work in nursing homes. For safety’s sake, that had to change. Now they will be working in hospital settings to help overstretched medical staff when safely possible. But they’ll also be working in new ways that will serve them well in the future, Primack said, including interacting with patients through telemedicine options and conducting contact tracing for the campus community.
As with the nursing students, business students stand to become better business leaders, Dean Matt Waller said, if they learn how to collaborate with one another in this demanding period.
Waller said he frequently spends time on calls with other business school deans, sharing information.
Businesses will never be the same, he said. They’re going to be operating more remotely because they’ve already seen that they can do it. Students who learn to collaborate across physical distance are developing skills that have already come into demand. The region’s companies, for instance, have increased the number of internships they offer.
“We have among the best businesses in the nation and that continues to help us,” he said.
Face-to-face meetings will still happen. “On campus, students will collaborate in smaller groups,” Waller said. “We have to practice the safety protocols. Both will be good to learn because business communication is one of the things we have to master.”
The two previous forums covered a variety of similar questions with the first dean’s forum concentrating on safety measures being taken and the second looking at how the University Libraries and Honors College would operate. Read more at:
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3% of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.