Driven by purpose and conviction
By President Joyce McConnell, Colorado State University
Published Aug. 21, 2020
Photo: John Eisele / Colorado State University
Like many of you, I have read plenty about how COVID-19 has impacted our behavior.
I recently came across an article in The Atlantic about how our brains are challenged by the uncertainties inherent in reopening our society and economy. The writer, a professor of psychology who studies the science of decision-making, warns that the human brain just isn’t built to make the decisions we are all being asked to make these days: Go out in public or stay home? With a mask or without? Travel – and, if so, by plane, train, or car – or just stay put?
The article, centered on the complexities of moral reasoning and risk assessment, certainly resonated with me. I’ve hesitated at the door on the way to the grocery store, checking that I have both mask and hand sanitizer.
Yet, such hesitancy is demonstrably not the story of Colorado State University right now. Instead, the through line of our narrative is decisiveness driven by purpose, by commitment, and by the conviction that we not only can make our world better but we must, now more than ever.
I see this decisiveness and clarity of purpose in our researchers, who didn’t miss a beat when the pandemic hit; they pivoted to respond, putting their expertise and creativity to work while the world was still reeling.
I see a determination to act driving the CSU faculty and staff who are focused on outreach and engagement across the state. In assessing the implications of COVID-19, including increased food insecurity, they have ramped up their efforts and laid a clear path for others to join them.
I see the refusal to be paralyzed by uncertainty powerfully embodied by the faculty, instructors, and graduate students who have headed back into the classroom. They have rethought their courses to meet this moment, incorporating strategies for both online and in-person teaching that will engage and excite students. And many of them have worked all summer to help build up CSU’s already-robust teaching and learning infrastructure.
Of course, now, as always, I see our students and our alumni leading the way, inspiring us all with their energy, their resilience, their wisdom, and their compassion for our world.
Indeed, what I’ve heard from students these past few months has reassured me that CSU will never lose its way, even in the face of a global health crisis. Some students have asked if we can reallocate financial aid they are no longer using to other students. Some have begged us to make sure we have public health precautions in place on campus to safeguard vulnerable classmates. (We do!) Returning students have offered to contact new students over the summer to welcome them to the CSU family. Others have come together to urge us to remain steadfast in our commitment to equity and inclusion during these challenging times. (We will!)
We know some parents and students still are naturally hesitant about the start of fall semester and how we’ll all navigate this unusual time. And we hope the university’s own decisiveness will help them find comfort and confidence in returning to campus.
The challenging times clearly are not over; as they continue, we will all struggle to make decisions. That’s understandable. I assure you all, however, that CSU will continue to overcome that struggle, inspired by our land-grant promise to our community and our world.
Joyce McConnell, J.D., is president of Colorado State University, flagship of the CSU System and the state’s land-grant university.