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Virus reveals character

By Dr. Dan Lufkin

It is strange to think that just a few short weeks ago, most of us had never heard the term “social distancing.” Yet here we are, together navigating the uncharted and murky waters of a global pandemic, trying to live our normal lives while everything around us is completely abnormal. Almost every aspect of our society has been impacted by COVID-19. Life at Camp Community College is no exception.

Like many organizations, we have had to adapt quickly to the current situation. Because Camp is one of the state’s smaller colleges, we have the agility to do so quite effectively. With only a few days’ notice, our unbelievable faculty and staff were able to transition almost all of our courses to an online learning environment. Students, who were on spring break when the decision was made to teach remotely, only missed two days of instruction. Improvements to technology infrastructure were also made, most significantly the expansion of the college’s wi-fi network, which now extends across the entire student parking lot on the Franklin campus and the Workforce Development Center. This will allow students without high-speed internet access at home to sit in the parking lot and complete course work without having to come into the building. Work to provide the same improvement on our Suffolk campus and Center at Smithfield will be completed soon.

Student care has been one of our highest priorities. A college-wide call campaign is ongoing, where several members of our faculty and staff are personally reaching out to each and every one of our enrolled students to make sure they are safe and aware of the resources available to them. Admissions staffers are working diligently to make sure new and returning students are properly enrolled for the summer and fall sessions. The financial aid department continues to ensure students have the funding needed to cover the cost of their education. Of course, our core mission is to help students who are on track to receive a certificate or diploma cross the finish line at the end of the spring semester. Because of the exceptional teamwork between our dedicated faculty, staff and students, we fully expect to declare that mission has been accomplished in a few short weeks.

While the vast majority of our college community has been instructed to work remotely from their homes, a core group of staff and administrators have been reporting to their offices every day. Because of the exemplary work being done by our building and grounds crew, those who are on campus are comfortable knowing their work spaces are clean and safe. When students and faculty do return, they will do so in a learning environment that has been very well cared for in their absence.

It is often said that difficult circumstances don’t build character, they reveal it. I am pleased to report to the community we serve that this coronavirus has revealed the true character of our Camp family. The creativity and collaboration between our faculty and staff has risen to a level commensurate with that of the challenges placed before them. Our students have remained committed to academic excellence and seeing their mission through to completion. We have learned together that, even in the most challenging of times, we are capable of adapting to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.

I have no doubt that once this epidemic has passed and life returns to normal, we will reflect on this period of time with pride, knowing that the best versions of ourselves rose to the challenge. This applies not just to Camp Community College, but to all of us who call Western Tidewater home. We watch daily as our business, government and faith community leaders answer the call to serve. I am inspired by their courage and determination. We look forward to working alongside all of you to help our community recover when the time comes. And I remain confident that when we do all recover, this entire community will be stronger and better than ever.

DR. DAN LUFKIN is president of Camp Community College. He can be reached at dlufkin.pdc.edu.