Getting students back on campus and keeping staff and students safe has required an innovative approach.
Erica Ruliffson Schultz ’95
Field Operations at Confluent
Responding to the coronavirus pandemic and getting students back on campus has required entrepreneurial thinking, Dartmouth College Provost Joseph Helble said Tuesday during a fireside chat as part of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum.
“This is one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced,” Helble said. To meet that challenge, the Dartmouth community has relied on innovative and outside-the-box thinking. That has allowed the college to get roughly two-thirds of students back on campus, while having very few positive COVID cases. Solutions have ranged from frequent testing to tents spread around campus where students and faculty can gather outdoors when needed.
Helble highlighted the need for compassion and flexibility as people do their best to handle their individual challenges during the pandemic. Some students are caring for children or parents, or managing their own health risks during the pandemic, so the college has tried to provide flexibility in the ways it supports student learning during the 2020-2021 school year.
Helble spoke with Erica Schultz, ’95, Dartmouth Trustee and President of Field Operations at Confluent, who also emphasized the importance of empathy during the pandemic.
“As a leader, it’s been a moment for just checking in,” with those you work with, she said. “Great leaders right now are demonstrating a lot of empathy and I hope that’s something we carry forward.”
With the landscape of all education, including higher ed, likely to be changed permanently by the switch to remote learning, one attendee asked Helble whether Dartmouth will partner with other colleges or universities to share resources, including faculty.
“This is a moment where we all need to be more open to exploring those kinds of partnerships,” Helble said. “It’s the right moment to be asking those questions.”
Despite the pandemic, Helble shared that the West End campus construction project is “on schedule, on track, on budget,” still slated to open next year. The project will bring The Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship, the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, the Tuck School of Engineering and the Department of Computer Science together in a physical hub for innovation. While the buildings are beautiful, the opportunities for collaboration that they represent are what is breathtaking, Helble said.
“To give students free access to those learning and collaborative opportunities is truly exciting,” he said.
Helble urged alumni to stay engaged with the Dartmouth community. Many new graduates are entering a job market where recruiting has been curtailed and the immediate economic future is uncertain. Now more than ever, the Dartmouth community can come together to support its members.
“The connections that our community make so powerfully in person can be replicated online,” he said. “One of the things that sets Dartmouth apart is the strength of the alumni community.”