Learning Matters: July Rising

Chancellor Carrell

As July begins with a rise in heat, humidity, COVID-19 cases and social consciousness about racism, we also begin a month that has historically been the “time out” in higher education. During the academic year, I typically keep a “July list” - non-urgent items that would be nice to think about when there is some open space on the schedule.

July 2020 is different. This month is not only about figuring out physical distancing on campus, choosing course modalities, or even balancing the budget. This July, the stress is rising. Our complex context calls us to put intense effort into thinking and feeling, action and rest, self-care and other-care, agency and reality, existential meaning and physical safety, the past and the future, endurance and invention, our students and ourselves, and more. My run-on sentence of dissonance-producing dilemmas is not exhaustive, but it is surely exhausting.

As a campus community, who will we be as we emerge from July and continue our collective evolution into the fall and beyond? Right now, nearly all are struggling and yet our experiences vary. Some are drained by the direct personal experiences of systemic racism. Some are enduring financial hardship, loneliness, relationship turmoil, health impacts, grief, anxiety, and/or more. If this list was a multiple choice response, a few might even need an “all of the above” option. Surely the one shared experience is ambiguity. When will a vaccine be ready? When will racial justice and equity prevail? What action can I take that will make a difference? What does the future hold, for me, the campus, higher education and the country?

And of course, it’s not just our campus community but rather the whole of higher education that must look back and look forward, realizing, reckoning and moving toward action in a new era – perhaps in completely new shapes. This July, I’m not writing with solutions, but rather with confidence that we can evolve constructively and with self-disclosure about how I’m seeking to build resilience and insight:

  • I’m grounding down into core purpose, guided by a bright light -- our role as educators in this society in which our next stage of learning matters so very much.
  • I’m listening in every way I can, reading and viewing more broadly than ever.
  • I’m balancing the intensity of The Work with rest, consciously compartmentalizing for short periods to build reserves and resilience.
  • I’m seeking generative conversations as the source for imaginative and ambitious actions. For me, it is what will be born from our dialogue that is the greatest cause for confidence about the future.

This innovative learning enterprise we call UMR is worthy and needed, and you are each an essential part of this community. So, as the temperature and societal stress continue to rise this month, I wish you not only the trending sentiment of health and safety, but also, accelerated growth and deep nourishment for whatever lies ahead.

Read more of Chancellor's Blog -Learning Matters, linked here