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The Communicator

Dean's Message

A fall focused on students amidst change.

If you’re curious about how students, faculty and staff in the Bellisario College have fared through this most unusual of semesters, this is The Communicator for you. You’ll see and hear a variety of perspectives on “life behind the mask” (and in front of a Zoom screen) in recent months.

We went into the semester having to live with day-to-day uncertainty. But we resolved, well before classes began on Aug. 24, that we would keep a laser-sharp focus on our top priority: Giving our students the highest-quality possible experience. That meant reinforcing healthy behaviors, exercising flexibility, modeling resilience, and encouraging our students to make the most of the moment.

We did it. Many of our classes were either in-person — safely distanced — or a hybrid format that involved some online instruction. On Nov. 20, all of those courses joined the classes that were already online so that students could return home and finish.

Meanwhile, we had to make decisions about every other activity that would normally take place in the fall. For instance: Our annual “Comm Careers in the Capital” job fair? Virtual. Our Student Organization Fair? That was a hybrid event. Our award-winning "Centre County Report" newscast and other student-produced media? Also a combination of remote and in-person activity.

And our annual Donor Recognition Dinner? We went all the way back to the (digital) drawing board for that event and designed an entirely new experience for our benefactors and students. I am happy to report that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. And, speaking of benefactors: I have been extremely gratified to see so many step forward to help our students, especially those who have been under great financial stress. These gifts delivered relief and hope, a powerful combination.

It’s great to know — thanks to the development of a vaccine — that we’re not stuck in this mode forever. We are moving forward with our media center plans and with other exciting programs for the Bellisario College. And we can now start deciding what we’ve been doing that we may actually want to continue!

We’ve learned a lot over the past nine months, and we plan to adapt what has worked well into our post-pandemic reality. For instance, an alumni-student mentoring program, launched in the spring, can be retooled and continued. Some of the outreach that we provided virtually can also continue in some format, providing flexibility and bigger impact.

As we leave behind 2020, no doubt there is much we hope never to relive. But we are determined to take the value of this experience to become a smarter, more resilient, more impactful community. And we will.

Thank you for your support!

Marie Hardin signature