By Annah Johnson
Provost Brian Knetl welcomed faculty to the first virtual iteration of Learning Day, but the events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol could not go without comment.
“Just when I thought I would be able to minimize my use of the word unprecedented, we’ve seen events unfold over the last 24 hours that make that word as relevant today as it was 10 months ago,” Knetl said. “We saw our democracy contested, challenged, and tested in an unprecedented way.”
Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink asked to address the faculty in light of the violence at the Capitol. He reflected upon his experience in Oklahoma City as a teacher when he felt the blast from the downtown bombing in 1995. The act of domestic terrorism was an unfamiliar feeling, as many can relate, it was easy to think things like this do not happen here in America. Pink said he read comments from leaders around the world and shared in their shock at the lack of leadership that was on full display.
“We cannot let this paralyze us,” Pink said. “We are the ones who stand in this place of education. But as we stand in this place of education it means that we stand for our students, we stand for each other, we stand for this community, and we do not let these type of things paralyze us… One of the main things that help us as a country in moving forward is the education that we need to provide for our campus and for our community.”
Knetl returned to the podium and asked the faculty to mirror the grit of Congress by pushing forward to continue on. Learning Day was extended with an extra hour to hold space for further conversation and reflection on events from the Capitol.
The pandemic changed the way our college functioned, and will directly impact how it functions during the winter semester as most classes are offered online or in a hybrid format.
Educators across the country have begun to grapple with the apparent learning loss as a side effect of the pandemic. Knetl explained that the aftermath of the pandemic will not be lost on GRCC in the years to come as students make the transition to college with learning setbacks.
“Our work starting now and moving forward has to be attentive to addressing all of those needs,” Knetl said.
Learning Day for faculty includes tips for online instruction, sensitivity training, educational development, and culturally responsive information to better prepare educators for teaching students during uncertain times.
“I also want to make sure that we are attentive to ourselves and to our own wellbeing,” Knetl said. While educators and staff at GRCC are often direct support for students, the educators themselves often offer that care at their own expense. Sessions to help faculty participate in self-care were prioritized for Learning day.
Echoing the message of Pink during his morning address on Jan. 6, Knetl announced that GRCC will be redirecting focus onto certificate, pathway, and degree completion.
“Refocus, re-explore, and redefine completion on our campus,” Knetl said, promoting a coordinated campus effort to make this a priority.
Knetl announced that two staff members will be moving on from GRCC. Dean of Institutional Research Donna Kragt will be retiring, and Amy Mansfield accepted a new position at Davenport University as the Dean of Donald W. Main College of Business and Technology.
The College Action Project 3.3 team created an Amazon wishlist of food that can be purchased in bulk for the food pantry in an effort to stock the shelves as students come back to campus.