March 13, 2020
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
As we start our spring break, this is a time of unprecedented change in higher education as many of the nation’s colleges and universities – including Hobart and William Smith – are about to embark on a massive natural experiment by providing almost all of their curriculum using remote learning methods. How, faculty and students are asking themselves, can we possibly translate our experiential learning that is so dependent on human interaction – laboratories, field experiments, research projects, art classes, performances and flipped classrooms – into a remote model?
The answer, of course, is imperfectly. Nothing can replace the real-time, residential, liberal arts learning experience. But our faculty are going to do their best. At a faculty meeting held this week dedicated to the subject, I was struck by the passion of our professors for their research and pedagogy; the heartfelt empathy they have for our students; and of course, an overriding concern for the ways in which COVID-19 is changing the fabric of our society. It was inspiring.
My admiration for the faculty is matched fully by my respect for the dedication of our staff, as well as our Sodexo teammates. The spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a swiftly moving situation, one that is requiring us to make decisions and then revise them with a great deal of speed. Their ability to respond to each shift in direction (particularly in the Center for Global Education!) has required flexibility, focus and resiliency, qualities they all have in abundance.
My heart goes out to our students, most especially to our seniors whose final semester on the shores of Seneca Lake is being disrupted. Although they understand the necessity of the actions the Colleges have taken, it’s nonetheless disappointing to find your learning situation transformed, your social interactions curtailed and your athletics seasons canceled.
At moments like these, it is easy to let fear and worry get the better of us, but I am convinced that our faculty, staff and students are up to the challenges that face us. To our alumni, alumnae, parents and other friends of the Colleges, I thank you for your support and guidance during this time. Your many notes of encouragement have meant the world to all of us on campus. We must preserve our humanity and the connections that bind us even as we are forced to separate from each other physically. The distance we impose now must not erase the community we have all built together.
For answers to questions you may have about this situation, I urge you to review the Colleges’ COVID-19 webpage, which we update regularly. And as always, if you’d like to share your thoughts or concerns, or ask me a question directly, please email me at email@example.com. I respond to every message personally and look forward to engaging with you.
Joyce P. Jacobsen