I very rarely talk in my blog about current events but will make an exception this month. The COVID-19 global pandemic impacts each of us. First, I want to share my hope for a quick recovery for those who have contracted the virus. And I would like to express my sincere sympathies to all who are directly impacted by having lost a loved one to this disease.
Given that this pandemic has forced people to adapt quickly in many different ways, I thought I would reflect on adapting. I am blessed to work in a role and in an environment that is conducive to adapting and allowing me to work from home as our classes have moved entirely online. I know that there are others who do not have it as lucky with their jobs.
At Saint Vincent, I commend the leadership through helping our institution to transition during this challenging time. Specifically, the leadership of Fr. Paul Taylor, our new president, has been exemplary as he has had to quickly make some tough decisions that impact our organization. Vice President John Smetanka has also exhibited solid leadership with his regular communication to both faculty and students. I have seen effective leadership firsthand through the support and engagement of my school’s dean, Dr. Gary Quinlivan, and I am sure that the other school deans are working with their faculty in the same ways.
The adaptability of faculty and students has been excellent. Faculty have engaged in fruitful virtual discussions by sharing useful techniques that have been helpful to them in online instruction. The students have also adapted well. In my classes, my students have been fantastic with participating in virtual class sessions and rolling with all of the changes in our schedule and assignments that we needed to make. The spirit of community, which is crucial to Saint Vincent’s culture, has survived and thrived, even if we are not physically present with each other.
My blog for last month was about the goodness of people and, while we could identify some instances in which people may have acted questionably in our current situation (such as those who have bought out and hoarded hand sanitizer and the like, as one of my readers from last month pointed out), we have also seen a lot of good and positive behaviors and people working together. These could include delivering food to at-risk individuals, providing empathy and support via social media to those in despair and (perhaps paradoxically) joining together through the practice of physical distancing. Through it all, we have also seen a tremendous amount of adaptability in ourselves, in our friends and neighbors, in our organizations and in society.
On a personal side, I have enjoyed my online classes and meetings. Even more, I have especially enjoyed spending more time with my family. This experience of having my wife and me work from home, I believe, will be formative to my two-year-old, and I am blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with them both.
This pandemic has hit us during a time when many people around the world are observing Lent. To me, Lent is about reflection and growth. In a way, it’s interesting that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided many of us with opportunities to do so in this period of isolation. During this time, I have been reflecting on how much I’ve been blessed. Specifically, I’ve had a lot of great opportunities throughout my career. One of my most personally rewarding, which occurred recently, was the opportunity to travel to Poland with a group of students and faculty over spring break. Being, in part, of Polish heritage, it was special to me to be invited to present at a university in Warsaw (you can access the presentation on heroic leadership here). I am thankful that we were all able to make it there and back safely and healthily.
I have also been reflecting on ways in which I might use this time to improve myself whether physically through exercising more, intellectually through pursuing additional certifications online related to my field (and doing a ton of writing!), emotionally through spending time with my family and spiritually through finding new ways to pray as my faith community foregoes face-to-face meetings.
I hope that you’ve also found time to reflect and to grow during this very challenging period of Lent. I wish you and your families continued safety and health. I always love to hear from you, so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Facebook and LinkedIn. Feel free to comment below as well.
Dr. Mike Urick