On Tuesday, August 17, we held our 2021 Fall Kick-Off Party outdoors at West Campus. This event was created to welcome faculty and staff back to campus and kick off the new academic year. I would like to thank every person that planned and coordinated this fun event. I also wish to thank our Board of Trustees for their support and attendance, as well as every employee who attended, both in person and online.
It was wonderful to be back in person to kick off the new year. During some brief remarks at the event, I pointed out that the year we just completed was a difficult one. Many of us have friends and family who were touched by COVID-19. We had a moment of silence to commemorate that impact and loss.
We all entered this pandemic in pretty much the same way about 18 months ago, but we then saw the effects of COVID-19 impact different groups in different ways. We witnessed shocking and unacceptable disparities in health and economic outcomes. The pandemic has highlighted numerous equity issues in our society. Unlike the way we all entered this “pandemic reality,” individuals will not emerge from COVID-19 in the same way or on the same timetable. For this reason, it is important for us to continue with our “People First” approach to the pandemic, affording one another grace and understanding as we move through this next phase.
As I shared during the Fall Kick-Off, this pandemic has permanently changed LCC. But it has not changed us into a “virtual” institution or a completely online college. Place is and will continue to be an important part of our identity as a college. Community is built into our name: “Lansing” is our first name, and “community” is our middle name. That sounds corny, but it’s absolutely true. We are a regional anchor institution, and it matters that we’re located in Lansing, Michigan. Mid-Michigan relies heavily on us and it will always be our mission to be present in this community and respond to its teaching, learning and community development hopes and needs.
Dr. Esam Mohammad, an Associate VP at Butler Community College in Kansas, made this point eloquently Community College Daily. He writes:
“A crucial byproduct of the noble mission of the community college is its role as an anchor of social and economic stability for its supporting community, the geopolitical unit (often a county or group of counties designated as such by state statute) which sponsors the institution and whose tax base provides a certain percentage of the operational revenues of the college.”
Our role as an anchor institution comes with an important responsibility to be present and help our community reconnect with their teaching and learning goals. That is why my vision for the coming year is for us to reconnect with the community we serve. We are all familiar with the Michigan Reconnect program, one of the many state-wide strategies to help students recover. But I am thinking of “reconnect” with a lower-case ‘r.’ The Cambridge Dictionary defines reconnect as “to join or be joined with something else again after becoming separated.” The sad reality is that this pandemic has separated many students and community members from our important mission here at LCC.
In the time since we resumed face-to-face student services on campus, I have had the pleasure of helping many students and families find their way to the StarZone on the Downtown Campus. I have seen many of my colleagues doing the same thing: it’s one of the things community college people do as part of their day on campus. Today, I helped a family get to where they needed to go. During the short walk, they asked who I was and seemed legitimately surprised that the college president was walking them to their destination. Without being corny, I proudly told them: “this is the most important thing I will do all day.” By walking this student and his family over to the StarZone, I was doing my part to help them reconnect with their goals and future. The colleagues who greeting him at the counter were doing the same.
You may recall that a year ago during our 2020 Virtual Fall Kick-Off, I talked about this very time now and said this is the time we need to be strong. I also stressed the need for us to be ready to help the region recover. The need for us to stay safe and healthy so we are prepared to do what’s needed to help folks reconnect with our work. This pandemic is not over, but the time for us to reconnect is now.