College presidents weigh in on lessons learned during pandemic

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In a Wednesday virtual forum, the Chamber Alliance of the Mohawk Valley hosted area college presidents who weighed in with lessons learned and forward goals attributed to managing college student populations through the coronavirus pandemic.

Participating were Utica College President, Dr. Laura Casamento; Hamilton College President, David Wippman; Herkimer College President, Dr. Cathleen McColgin and SUNY Polytechnic Institute President, Dr. Tod Laursen.

Among common ground sentiments expressed by the group was pride in how their respective campus communities came together to solve issues.

“It’s been wonderful to say we’re all in this together,” Casamento said, adding that in 2020, emergency management plans at the UC campus grew to include routine testing capabilities for the virus and the use of ultraviolet lighting to disinfect air in gathering areas on campus.

Last year led to the Herkimer College campus to learn new and creative ways to make students comfortable with remote and hybrid learning practices, said McColgin.

She said that this year, as in-percent student recruitment efforts return to a more traditional experience, the campus learned ways to provide engagement experiences while still maintaining COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Campus engagement, McColgin said, helps students make the choice to study at a particular institution.

In a forward look, Wippman anticipates the virus to one day become a part of routine daily life — similar to the idea of getting a flu shot — and so there may always be a need to think on best practices to manage the virus when it comes to the safety of large gatherings of students.

“It’s going to be with us for a while,” Laursen agreed, adding that managing the way students feel comfortable learning — whether it is in person, remote or hybrid — will continue to be essential.

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