The impact of COVID on Kishwaukee College and what’s next

The pandemic has significantly impacted our communities and citizens. People have lost their lives and their livelihoods. The stress we are experiencing is profound and traumatic.
Like all of higher education, Kishwaukee College has felt the impact of the COVID-19 virus. As a collective college community, we have responded to the pandemic by moving the majority of our instruction and support services online this fall, and are planning the same for spring. We have taken a number of precautionary steps to ensure our students, faculty, and staff on campus are safe. The number of new and innovative technologies we have implemented to serve our students remotely is impressive. We have created a short-term training program in contact tracing, with the first class now underway. This spring, the college will be offering a few classes in math and science on campus to help support learners needing face-to-face instruction to be successful.
The question now is, what comes next? We are all anxious to see what a vaccine will mean for us, and we are hopeful we can resume to “normal” sometime in 2021. What will our community college and higher education look like in the new “normal,” and what will our students and communities want and need from us?
As devastating as the pandemic is, it is giving us a chance to pause, examine, and plan for what we will look like in the future. We are paying close attention to the needs of our business community. I have been participating in the Career and Technical Education program advisory committee meetings, and it energizes me to hear how we can work together to strengthen our local businesses and communities. We are discussing how to provide additional internship and on-the-job training programs, ensuring our students have the skills they need on the job, day one.
As our economy rebounds, the demand for short-term education and training will be greater, so individuals can get back into the workplace quickly. We have significantly increased the number of short-term and continuing education programs offered, being responsive to the requests and needs of our local businesses, communities and residents.
Internally, we are having conversations on how we continue to move our College Equity Plan forward and create an educational environment to meet the unique needs of all our learners. Supporting their needs, and helping them improve their lives through higher education, will have a long-term impact by strengthening our communities. Our learners look differently now than they did even a few years ago, and we are studying how to best serve them going forward.
A community college exists to serve the residents and businesses of the district; we improve lives by providing a quality, affordable education. During my almost five years leading Kishwaukee College, we have continued to evolve, striving to be a leader in innovative education in our local communities. A number of challenges have been before us as an institution and an industry, and change has been a constant. It has not been easy, but we recognize that we cannot survive, and achieve our mission, without doing things differently.
As I walk around campus, for now it is incredibly quiet. But I can feel the excitement and anticipation of what comes next.
Dr. Laurie S. Borowicz is president of Kishwaukee College


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