Students and staff will need to re-adjust as everyone returns

Photo courtesy Gavilan College
Students gather in the student union at Gavilan College.

By Jan Janes

Dr. Kathleen Rose

The college gates, north and south, are open, as Gavilan College steps through a plan to resume normal operations while following the guidelines of local, regional, state and federal agencies.

The Gavilan College Emergency Operations Center prepared a “Return to Campus Guide” issued campus-wide.

Superintendent/President Dr. Kathleen Rose reflected on the events since March 2020, when the college abruptly transitioned to online instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So, we’re back,” said Dr. Rose, pleased to be back in the office after months away. “In saying that, we never really left. Our staff provided services in extraordinary ways. And that was the theme for the year.”

Being at home during the past 15 plus months has been a test of endurance, she said. It’s been a new way to operate and achieve outcomes for a college of almost 10,000 students and 450 employees. Recognizing that you can continue and maintain relationships no matter where you are, and go at it, work at it in a different way.

“I don’t necessarily feel it’s my favorite way, leading from my little home office,” she said. “Compared to leading from campus, where I can walk and see people, see their body language, what they’re feeling and what they’re trying to express. You lose that, so much, when you’re on Zoom.”

Rose said she believes strongly that higher education overall, and community college specifically, is about the socialization to students and each other in a campus environment. Students have the opportunity, the environment to explore their own curiosity and inquisitive minds. There are surely limitations to that on Zoom.

“Now we are coming back to the physical space where we can interact with each other and be able to talk to one another, see expressions in real time,” she said. “That will take some adjustment as well. We will need to think about what lessons we have learned while working remotely, and how we can apply them to the new face of higher education in the future.”

Rose spent a lot of time during the pandemic reading “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” which she said she really enjoyed.

“There’s this article that I think is really important, talking about The Collapse of the Dream Machine.” (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 14, 2021, volume 67, issue 18). “This article asks, ‘Will higher education meet that same bar when we come back? What will be different about it?’ Because now we know we are able to function in a remote environment. Some have succeeded tremendously, and others have failed dramatically. What does that mean?”

She wondered if educators and students have that same level of faith in the transformative ability to provide that level of pathway and educational attainment leading to jobs and opportunities? Or is there a reset that is going to be happening in higher ed that we need to pay attention to first?

“I think that will happen. I think we will have to pay attention to what has moved us differently, what has changed us, how we do cognitive processing, how we look at learning,” she said. “The whole aspect of action-oriented learning has changed. I think we’re going to, all of us, pay attention to that.”

She also wondered what goes on in terms of mindfulness capacity when students and staff are all together again.

“For me, that has been a big part of coming back,” she said. “As soon as I was vaccinated I started coming back routinely. The actions of getting up, having my morning meditation, reading, journaling, getting in the car, driving here, working here, driving back, created a sense of homeostasis that I wasn’t experiencing at home. There, everything blurred, my work days were 20 hours, emails would come in at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I felt compelled to answer right away.”

As the start of the semester nears, she said she’s looking forward to everyone exploring returning to campus, and what that means. How can we celebrate that, based on what we have learned?

During the summer, Gavilan College will move through planned stages of reopening. Up until June 14, campus access was limited and most services and classes were online. Beginning June 15 and running through Aug. 23, campus access was expanded, and safety protocols are in place. Management employees returned full time to on-campus work July 1, and professional staff returns in staggered work shifts.

Beginning Aug. 2, Student Services will offer on-campus appointments Tuesdays through Thursdays. Beginning Aug. 23, all professional support staff will return full time to on-campus work.

Fall 2021 classes also begin Aug. 23, with an expanded on-campus choice of classes. Students eager to return can check out the Fall 2021 class schedule and register now.

Janet Janes is a professor in the Communication department at Gavilan College.

Freelance Author