Administration reflects on COVID semester, looks forward to more progress

Image courtesy of ERAU Prescott.

By Alexa Dunn, Correspondent

As we all know, this has been no typical semester. Every student has been impacted by the school’s new guidelines or procedures regarding COVID-19, in small and large ways. Things like using different doors to enter and exit a building, or not having guests over in the dorms may seem small now, but to the people we were last year, it would be a world of difference.

On the Prescott campus, we have been very lucky that the amount of COVID-19 cases on campus remained relatively small. While we worried at the beginning of the year that we would get sent home, we never did, and so we’ve come out on the other side of what is being dubbed the first COVID semester of school. Now, we must consider doing it a second time, and seeing what we can do better.

This success is largely attributed to the guidelines that were put in place by the hard work of the administration, and the efforts of the campus community to follow and uphold those guidelines. Dr. Tim Holt, Dean of the College of Aviation, remarked that “Wellness checks, classroom set-ups, testing, newer technology, and the work that the Wellness Center and Facilities did truly enabled us to maintain the high standards people expect.” It is a reminder that while this may now seem normal, we should all be incredibly proud of our hard work and effort to keep each other safe.

A huge part of this motivation to practice these guidelines was not only to be able to remain in classes with the accredited and high-quality faculty on campus, according to Dr. Holt. Another reason boils right down to the aviation culture of the school: “We have procedures and checklists for a reason, and the safety culture we’ve developed shows even during the time of COVID.” The procedures and guidelines come down to the core values of the campus, and it is these values that we strive to uphold.

As we move forward, we should hope for more improvements like we saw this semester, with rapid testing slowly being introduced and testing no longer requiring quarantine, allowing students to keep up with classes more easily and for flight students to jump right back into getting their hours. However, there are also things that need to be improved upon still, like the amount of student engagement.

Dr. Ron Madler, Dean of the College of Engineering, told me that he was “Very concerned about how the 1st time students would do … I hope that we can continue to improve the student experience this spring and then really have a focus on the 2nd year students next fall.” As a freshman, it can be harder to learn with less interaction, especially when you’re used to the purely face-to-face experience of high school. 

The COVID semester was also challenging to our faculty as well – many of them were not wholly prepared to switch to different modes of teaching, or to handle the logistics of virtual learning. Dr. Madler commented that “They [the faculty] are pretty exhausted. Thankfully, many of them are teaching the same classes in the spring – so they can spend time improving the course.” It is important to remember that everybody was impacted by the challenges of COVID, and that we’re all in this together to get through it.

Next semester will certainly bring more challenges. Amid rising cases nationwide, we will have to come back in January and do it all again. Going forward, we must use the lessons we learned, the feedback we received, and strive to improve ourselves and to make the next semester an even better one – while still remaining healthy and safe.