Lessons learned and brighter days ahead

Physical Plant Director Jonathan Welden gives President Tracy D. Hall and governance and student leaders a tour of the safety installations at the Union Avenue campus.
Physical Plant Director Jonathan Welden
gives President Tracy D. Hall and governance
and student leaders a tour of the safety
installations at the Union Avenue Campus.
Dr. Hall and college leaders also toured
the Macon Cove Campus safety installations.

We all have our words and phrases to describe these most unusual past 14 months.  Challenging. Disruptive. Unpredictable. These are just a few. Unprecedented is the word that comes to mind for me. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This means our return to full on-campus operations August 2 is not only eminent, but also necessary. Our students need us on campus and we will be there for them.

Virtual efficiency

Returning to full on-campus operations does not mean we lose the lessons we learned during the pandemic. When we began this journey over a year ago, we faced the daunting task of moving all of our classes and operations online in a matter of days. It was not easy, but facing this challenge head-on has been rich with rewards. For example, virtual meetings kept us connected and productive. Going forward, instead of driving from campus to campus for meetings, we will encourage work groups on different campuses to continue to meet virtually. This will decrease the need for duplicate offices and parking spaces on multiple campuses. We also will encourage virtual meetings with students to provide convenient access to our wrap-around support services. This could benefit those students who work during the day and cannot leave their workplace to travel to campus.

Our foray into the virtual world was heroic and we will continue to have an elevated presence there. This fall we will offer about 40 percent of our classes online in some format to meet the increased demand for virtual learning. 

Safety first

Our return this fall not only will be purposeful and mission-critical, but also carefully crafted. Our highest priority is the health and welfare of students, employees and visitors to our locations. We will continue to follow guidelines set forth by the Shelby County Health Department, the State of Tennessee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  All three agencies have recommended that masks are no longer necessary for vaccinated individuals and have lifted the mandate that everyone wear them. Therefore, on Southwest campuses, masks are no longer required. We continue to recommend them out of an abundance of caution. 

In addition, health assessments and body temperature screenings are no longer required for campus access. However, we will continue to practice social distancing. Our facilities and class capacities have been structured to promote as much social distancing as possible. Some class sizes may be smaller and hybrid classes will be offered. Sneeze guards have been placed in areas where students and visitors are served to lessen the risk of infectious disease transmission. We will continue to retrofit work areas throughout the summer in preparation for the fall.

Through perseverance, agility and working together, we achieved great things over the past year. I can think of no finer example than our pandemic response. After seeing how the entire Southwest family pulled together to serve our students and one another, there are other words that come to mind to describe these past 14 months. Phenomenal. Heroic. Pivotal. These are just a few of the many superlatives I could use to describe your performance.

At Southwest, we are doing all we can to be ready for what’s next, ready to help our students and employees achieve their dreams. Thank you for your agility, ingenuity and grit during this crisis. I could not be prouder and more honored to work alongside you for the greater good.

Stay safe, be well and have a fantastic summer!

Missed the Looking to the Future Town Hall. Click the graphic to watch it on-demand.

Missed the Looking to the Future Town Hall? Click the graphic to watch it on-demand.