Finding community during COVID-19

Jody Pfohl PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

In its 178-year history, difficult times have often brought out the best in the Clarke University community. From the uncertainty, isolation and anxiety emerged a community more resilient than ever.

Here are a few lessons learned:

• One of our community’s defining characteristics throughout the pandemic has been the ability to remain active and connected, even while not physically together. Our students have participated in more than 200 student engagement and activity opportunities, many of them were virtual. In addition to the tens of thousands of hours of virtual meetings conducted by employees, we also have seen a 100% participation rate in our virtual board of trustees meetings to date.

• While our community figured out ways to stay connected, we welcomed new Clarkies into the fold. Since March 1, 2020, we have hired 37 new employees and conducted more than 200 virtual admissions visits for prospective students.

• As COVID-19 changed how we educated, communicated and worked, our employees made these changes as seamless as possible. Faculty and staff carried out duties that were often beyond the scope of their job descriptions. Members of our faculty faced the monumental task of switching their course delivery mid-semester, and they did so with minimal hang-ups. Every department altered its day-to-day work and reimagined their areas to safely accommodate students.

• Rather than viewing this pandemic as an obstacle, Clarke has used it as an opportunity to learn and continue the mission laid out by Mary Frances Clarke more than 175 years ago. For example, despite meeting 100% online, instructor of business management B’Ann Dittmar’s Leadership class completed a project that positively impacted the Dubuque community while allowing participants to gain hands-on education.

Students were tasked with creating online fundraisers for organizations of their choosing. Through these fundraising efforts, they raised nearly $1,400 and experienced making a direct impact in the community.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is not in the rearview mirror, we have learned important lessons about the true meaning of community. It doesn’t necessarily have to be experienced in-person; it is a group of people sharing a common goal, wherever they are.