University of Southern Indiana

State of the U: Perseverance

President RochonNot long ago, I learned of a woman named Mary whose husband was in a care facility. COVID-19 rules and health safety concerns kept the two apart, and she could only see him if she stood outside his window. Their hands pressed against the glass, Mary’s unwavering desire to touch her husband, look deep into his eyes and be with him grew stronger each day.

The care facility administrators, although sympathetic, were nonnegotiable about in-person visits. This did not deter Mary. Seeking a solution, she noticed a job opening at the facility, applied and was hired as a dishwasher. Mary’s perseverance to be near her husband and finding honorable work to make it happen is what allowed them to be successfully reunited.

This love story—Mary’s desire to make a way where no way existed—is echoed in USI’s own incredible love story of resilience and perseverance to be reunited as a community. During the pandemic, we too forged a path where none existed. We too performed honorable work at all levels, from the staff who cleaned and disinfected the campus to prepare for our return, to Public Safety who patrolled the campus day and night to keep it secure, to the grounds crew who maintained the landscape so it would be as beautiful upon our return as when we left, to the faculty who transformed their classes into online learning environments and supported our students daily, to the students who resiliently sought academic enrichment and intellectual engagement remotely, to the administrators who Zoomed tirelessly to sustain our campus community.

Mary found her way to her husband’s side by opening herself to opportunity. Flexibility guided her, as it has this institution. It was crucial to our ability to support students and ensure their academic progress as we redefine the 2020-2021 academic year. We reshaped our courses to maximize the offerings in which education can be pursued, with health and safety top of mind, and remained true to the tenor of our mission—quality education. This flexibility, with the aim of inclusivity, enables all students access to education at USI regardless of their technological resources.

COVID-19 delivered a blow to life and education as we knew it. As a nation, we have lost 190,000* lives—a disproportionate number from our population’s most vulnerable segments. Like some of you, I too lost a loved one to this illness. This gave me incredible pause and made me appreciate what it means to be a member of a family, a member of a community, a member of a nation that cares about the other.

Like Mary, USI never abandoned its desire. We too selflessly rose to the occasion to aid our community and fulfill our mission. The word appreciation does not convey how deeply I admire and respect the students, staff, faculty, administrators, Board of Trustees and elected officials whose work supports and sustains this University. We are what I call “a one community bucket.” We are not divided by class or credentials; we are a whole that relies on each other to survive, prosper and serve.

The pandemic shook but it did not break higher education at USI. Instead, it inspired and engaged us to look at new means of achieving success. A success that is interdependent on each other—not only at this institution, but across the nation and globe. Without a web of connectivity, our successes will never be as impactful as they could be. We cannot do this alone. We need to uplift each other. Our failure to recognize this universal fact would be our greatest undoing. Please join us on this transformative journey.

*Number of U.S. deaths as of September 5, 2020.

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