With the fall semester in full swing on college campuses across the nation, we take a look at the past 18 months since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the world — as we crawl back to some sense of normalcy — through the “blog eyes” of our CVHEC southern regional coordinator, Stan A. Carrizosa Sr., retired College of the Sequoias superintendent/president. Stan reflects on the ups and downs, lessons learned and the opportunities to be had from this era. This new CVHEC blog, “What the CV-HEC is Happening,” will feature members of our team, board of directors, partners and guests occasionally presenting insights into the world of higher education.
Making our Mark on History: Looking Back on a
Pandemic Year in Valley Higher Education
By Stan A. Carrizosa Sr.
Retired Superintendent/President, College of the Sequoias
CVHEC Southern Regional Coordinator
2020 was a year like no other!
Like so many during the pandemic lockdown I found myself in a heightened state of introspection, securing my health and safety, adapting to new forms of communication, trying to recreate routines for the simplest of things like sleeping, eating and exercising … and of course binging on classic movies. An all-time favorite that popped up one day is “Apollo 13” which is the historical account of the infamous mission to the moon that went terribly wrong!
I began to see the pandemic and its impact on community colleges through the eyes of the astronauts on Apollo 13. Like NASA we were at the height of our success, riding a strong economy, new funded state mandates to address historic trends in low student achievement, and unprecedented growth in partnerships and collaboration.
Then with one quick stir of the oxygen tanks an explosion derails our lunar module and sends us into crisis-response mode as we fight for our lives:
- We turned our entire institution on a dime and transitioned to fully remote education and online classes and services.
- We scrambled to make technology, training, equipment and support available to students and staff.
- We changed our modes of communication, outreach and follow-up to comply with health and safety mandates that required us all to remain physically isolated from each other.
- We endured significant periods of panic, uncertainty, and confusion as we waited for the “return flight plan” from headquarters to come before running out of oxygen.
Looking back now on those flashes of hopelessness we are reminded of the power of the human spirit and our tremendous resiliency. With vaccines gaining significant momentum we are now feeling the sense of relief that our “heat shield” has survived the intense impact of re-entry and we’ve landed safely in the ocean and preparing to return to mission control.
We know that when we must, we can mobilize very quickly. When we are not marred in regulation, bureaucracy and political power struggles we can get things done and achieve incredible feats just because they are best to serve students and staff.
We have learned many things that will help us going forward as we enter a new “normal” that in many respects, we will never be the same as we were pre-pandemic. It is exciting to be part of shaping this new future that now must address challenges like increasing statewide access to quality internet/broadband, continuing use of remote communication modalities for things like counselor/advisor appointments, small-group office hours, extended learning opportunities, tutorials and just about any other engagement that we previously limited to face-to-face experiences.
Finally, we have learned much about providing higher quality instruction. We’ve learned how to enhance virtual learning and build a sense of community among online classes. We better understand the individual needs of learners and how to differentiate instruction to meet these needs. We know how to cultivate virtual study groups and build relationships among students in a virtual setting.
This fall semester offers us the most exciting opportunity in a generation, to be the leaders who will shape a new course for higher education in California community colleges. Many recount the Apollo 13 mission as an historic failure where others consider it NASA’s finest hour.
I tend to agree with latter and as we look to the future of community colleges, remember beneath all the red tape, mandates, equity plans and pathways, in California community colleges we are doing our own little share of God’s work, and there is no purpose more destined to succeed!