As we grow closer to the start of the new school year, it is so exciting to see college campuses begin to roll out their plans to bring students, faculty and staff back together in person. For many of us, our college years were tremendously formative in paving our life path, with defining experiences occurring both inside and outside of the classroom. While the Covid-19 vaccine’s efficacy and availability are allowing for a relatively safe return, we would be remiss if we did not reflect upon the past year’s distanced-learning experience and ask ourselves what aspects are worth keeping.
I grew up in an academic environment as my father was a graduate professor at a liberal arts institution in Portland, Oregon. He was an excellent teacher and an even better writer and speaker, but his audience size was dictated by the number of seats in the classroom or lecture hall. The way I see it, colleges and universities hold an opportunity post-pandemic to widen the availability of content globally while fostering conversation and debate locally. To do this successfully, institutions will need to braid both digital and physical worlds together by utilizing collaborative and personal technology. This may be coming from the ‘marketer’ in me, but I believe content will become king on campus just as it is in the business world.
As we put this issue of Puzzle together, I reminisced upon my days at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) and contemplated the challenges we faced with our physical spaces. I fear that as we re-emerge from our pandemic caves, we will attempt to control all aspects of the university experience in hopes of creating the safest environment. But I urge us all to allow for a bit of unpredictability, as some of the best learning, friendships and opportunities seem to be born from it.