Finding Purpose During A Pandemic

A couple of years ago I sat in a room at Dalton State with my colleagues, and we linked virtually to a nationwide tabletop drill designed to prepare us for a pandemic.

We had procedures in place, contingency plans and communication plans. We discussed what we needed to address to keep members of our Roadrunner family safe and make sure there would be no interruption in education for our students.

What I have discovered in the last month, however, is that no amount of planning can fully prepare us for what we are currently facing. Like so many other colleges and universities across the country and the world, Dalton State had to adapt quickly to ensure we provide the best experience we can – remotely.

Our students did not plan to shift to remote learning midway through the semester. Our faculty, many of whom have limited experience teaching online, did not plan to move to remote learning with a week’s notice. But we are doing it.

Many of us are having to quickly learn new technology in order to do our jobs or finish the courses we started. We are learning how to move forward with our lives and our work while practicing socially distancing ourselves. This social distancing is a tremendous challenge for many of us who crave human interactions and hugs more than we ever realized.

Completing an education under these circumstances is a challenge for many of our students at Dalton State. Our students often have multiple responsibilities in addition to classwork. Most of our students contribute to their household income, are parents and/or employees with rent or mortgages and other bills to pay every month. I am certain some have lost these jobs that pay the bills or have decreased hours and paychecks. And many are supervising the distance learning of school-aged children and entertaining preschoolers while working and completing their own courses. Similarly, many of our faculty and staff are juggling their own remote working with caring for family members while sharing bandwidth and workspaces.

We continue to push ahead through the challenges and the serious threat of this pandemic, and now, devastating storm damages. Why? We believe in the transformative power of higher education and in the critical need for educated members of society who form healthy family relationships, serve as productive employees and volunteers and engage civically in their communities.

At Dalton State, whether we are on campus or working from our living rooms, we are preparing students to become the next generation of leaders and employees in our community. We believe in educating our population to make our community, state and world a better place.

Many of the healthcare workers in Northwest Georgia on the front lines of this virus are graduates of Dalton State. We are confident in their abilities as nurses, respiratory therapists and other related professions. We know we and our loved ones will receive the best care. And we continue to graduate more healthcare professionals every semester.

Even if we must be apart, we are working to help ensure students are able to complete the semester and move forward with their career goals and graduation plans.

We are ensuring students have access to the services they need and would have if we were together on campus. For example, the library is offering all services virtually. Students may ask questions, access materials (most libraries these days offer most resources digitally already), and even participate remotely in fun activities such as book discussions. Our Career Services office moved forward with their planned Career Week activities via video chat software including topics such as managing social media, creating a resume and preparing for those important elevator speeches so they can provide a quick synopsis of their background and experience. Our tutoring center has been operating remotely with video tutoring services as well. We are offering our students tips for how to get organized and be successful in online courses. Technical support and admissions and financial aid processing are still occurring via phone and email. A few students remain with us in our residence hall and have access to our dining services. We also continue to serve students who were previously making use of our food pantry, the Birdfeeder. 

Even in the face of the threat of a virus that has taken the lives of so many already in such a short time, we feel this is how we should be spending our days. I look forward to the day when our campus is filled again with students and employees. Until then, stay safe, stay home and wash your hands. If you want to help a student during this difficult time, consider a gift to our Student Emergency Fund by clicking on “Dean of Students Office” under the “Campus Life” header on our website,