Mr. Rogers, the beloved children’s television icon, once told his audience that in trying times to “look for the helpers.” The advice is wonderful for young people, yet can also remind us who are a bit older that we are surrounded by many people who are doing everything in their power to help, especially during trying times.
Thank you to campus leadership, faculty, staff and students for being those helpers during this time of crisis.
We are living through a timeframe that will be discussed and studied for generations as the preeminent historical event of the early 21st Century. And wherever we turn, we see the people of our state helping as they can. We are most grateful for the aid and positivity that we see our campus communities and state providing during these days, weeks and months.
Gov. Doug Burgum and his team have consistently provided a solid foundation of leadership from which this crisis response effort may move forward. The Department of Health under Director Mylynn Tufte has been exceptionally hard-working to ensure that every effort is being made to limit the spread of this highly infectious viral disease, to conduct contact tracing to further prevent that spread, and to test as many cases as they possibly can.
Likewise, interagency and inter-campus collaboration have been moving forward at a heightened pace. In crisis response it remains vital to plan for the worst-case scenario so that if that scenario comes to pass, the state and our system of higher education aren’t caught off-guard.
This was why in early March we began to take efforts that would anticipate problems to the North Dakota University System’s 11 public colleges and universities – everything from how to protect our students, staff and faculty from becoming infected to how quickly we could move instruction online. Now, that planning has taken a new turn: working with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to help our hospitals prepare.
Through all this, our students, our staff and our faculty have been amazing. They not only transitioned a record number of courses from face-to-face to online in less than a week, they’re collaborating with the Department of Public Instruction to offer guidance on how to make that work for K-12. Many essential staff are helping to keep the institutions maintained and running so that in the event that our institutions are utilized to handle surge capacity, or for when things finally come back to normal, our campuses will be ready.
We hear stories regularly about how our students and our staff and faculty are doing everything in their power to help when they can, from nursing students volunteering early in this effort to many individuals making themselves available for the Governor’s Workforce Coordination Center for whatever task may need doing.
For all of them we express our deepest gratitude and respect. It cannot be overstated – we are all in this together, and it will take an all-hands approach to beat this pandemic. From maintaining proper social distancing to limiting nonessential activities, to those still working to ensure our students are educated and to those who are offering themselves as volunteers for the state: Thank you.
You are the helpers that are aiding us in keeping the NDUS and state protected, safe and educated through some of the most trying times in the modern era. Our top priority remains the wellbeing of our people, and to do so we will be as accommodating and flexible as possible. As we have done so far we will continue to be as responsive to this changing situation and the changing needs of our people and our campus communities.
We are all in this together.
Nick Hacker, State Board of Higher Education Chair
Mark R. Hagerott, Ph.D., North Dakota University System Chancellor