May 2020 newsletter
Explore the ways students and faculty at our colleges are finding teachable and actionable moments amid COVID-19, and find reassurances from our colleges on transcripts and testing. Then learn about the impact of COVID-19 on climate change from University of St. Thomas professor and expert John Abraham.
Sometimes two things can be true: Yes, COVID-19 is a destructive force, one that has already caused huge losses. And at the same time, the pandemic has been a catalyst for positive responses. The same is seen at private colleges: COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with class schedules and more, but there are also ways it is triggering students and faculty to take on new work that aims to address the public good.
Consider covideconomics.org, a new website that provides an equity lens on COVID-19 economic relief policies. Aware of how the initial responses to the pandemic could be felt differently in different communities, Bruce Corrie, associate vice president of university relations and professor of economics at Concordia University, St. Paul, didn’t plan to publish an academic paper. He chose instead to create a resource that lifts up relevant pieces of research and analysis for a broad audience. Topics include the accessibility of micro businesses to the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program and the high unemployment rates in minority communities. He’s already seeing the site have an impact, given questions coming from policymakers and the media — and visitors from more than 25 countries.
“My footprint is small, but it has been effective,” Corrie said. “It is both research and action combined – and that’s being quite fruitful. The focus on equity is critical now, as we work to rebuild a broken economy.”
So many other responses from faculty and students are emerging, offering relief and resources. Consider the project that grew out of the concerns of one professor at the University of St. Thomas. Mark Osler, a professor at the School of Law, wrote an opinion column in the Star Tribune in March that called on officials to take action to reduce catastrophic illness and death in prison and jail facilities as COVID-19 spreads. His call for reducing prison populations was heard, including by the state’s commissioner for corrections. Faculty from all the local law schools grew involved as legislation moved forward to allow for more conditional medical releases. And since the law passed, students from the law schools have been staffing a helpline for inmates and helping them write their applications.
“Too often we divide ourselves between academic work and what people call real work. It’s the same thing. Here, I’m able to write something about policy and it generates action and collaboration,” Osler said, as quoted in the University of St. Thomas Newsroom article.
Responses are coming from students too, and through work with partners. Take the example of just one student at St. Catherine University majoring in apparel design; her search for an internship led her to join an existing effort and sew masks for health care settings that pass the test of being personal protective equipment.
Students are processing — and seeking to help — in many ways. Take the students in Greg Hewett’s poetry workshop course at Carleton College; he noted how the shutdown and isolation have continued to surface in their writing. “This time it is a little rawer; there are more personal poems than usual,” he said. Students in the class decided to publish a chapbook of their work, selling it and raising funds for Northfield Community Action Center’s food shelf. The spring campus event that usually raises funds for the food shelf had to be moved online, given COVID-19; Empty Bowls involves student-made bowls, great soup — and a crowd of people who could no longer meet. The online shift was a spark: students began to see opportunities to raise funds through other online means, too.
Along with impacting community needs and students’ lives, the pandemic is also entering their courses. Sinda Nichols, director of the Center for Community and Civic Engagement at Carleton, noted examples from different disciplines. “Bringing students experiences into the classroom is one way to deepen engagement,” Nichols said. “There are real opportunities to bring the content to life; that’s always true but especially true right now.”
“This is a time for research institutions and liberal arts colleges to show their public purpose and public face,” Nichols said. “But we have to talk about it carefully, given so many basic needs are going unmet.”
By John Manning
High school students have faced a lot of changes and challenges this spring. When it comes to concerns about how colleges are going to react, from going to pass-fail grading to changes in testing for IB and AP courses, the message from Minnesota private colleges is to not worry.
Excerpted with permission from the University of St. Thomas. View original article.
As billions of people’s behaviors change around the globe in response to the spread of COVID-19, many are noting changes in the environment, as well, from satellite images documenting less air pollution, to clearer water in the canals of Venice.
We spoke with School of Engineering professor and climate change expert John Abraham for some perspective on the overall impact of COVID-19’s impact on climate change, and what lessons can be drawn going forward.
How do you view the impacts of COVID-19 on the overall issue of climate change?
Not much is positive, at least on the climate and environment front. Certainly the loss of economic activity has resulted in a lot less air pollution … However this is short term and we really cannot totally shut down economies as a way to solve the pollution problem.
However, one positive aspect is that this virus has told us that if we work together, and if we listen to science, we can solve really challenging problems. The social distancing we’ve done and medical research will bring us out of this mess. We have listened to the experts and they have given us great advice. We could argue that this could be replicated in climate/environmental issues: We can listen to the experts and follow their guidance. If we do we can actually make the problem much less severe.
While shutting down economies isn’t a long-term fix, do you see or hear about any specific behaviors (more remote working, less international travel, etc.) that you could envision more fundamentally shifting in the long term that could be a positive in regard to climate change?
Great question and excellent observation. I expect that with remote working, people are finding ways to be productive that avoid commuting to work on a daily basis or traveling long distances for conferences and business meetings. While right now, we are probably all sick of being at home, scientists hope that when the virus subsides, people adjust to a hybrid model that involves some working from home and some working in person. If, for instance, a large percentage of people end up continuing to work from home even a couple of days a week, it would greatly reduce transportation emissions. It would also greatly reduce stress on our roads and bridges and maintenance costs. So yes, there may be some long-lasting behaviors that we change because of our experience over the past month or so. A result would be lowered greenhouse gas emissions as well as other airborne pollution that hurts our health.
Are there things people can and should be thinking about for how they can maintain more sustainable behaviors and help in a collective battle against climate change?
There are really two things people need to know. First, the problem is real and present. We’ve known about global warming for a long time and we are starting to see the impacts (stronger storms, more heat waves, fires, rising sea levels, etc.). Rational people are no longer denying the reality of global warming.
But equally important is that there is something we can do about it. We can reduce our emissions by changes to our behaviors and with current green energy technology. By using more low-cost wind and solar power, by insulating our house and businesses, by reducing unnecessary travel, and by encouraging low-emission industries, we can bend the curve of climate change. The only thing we have lacked is the will.
I hope that COVID-19 has shown us that when we act together, great things can happen. Since I also work on infectious diseases in the developing world, I have followed the coronavirus since early January. Scientists knew this was going to hit the USA and would be a huge burden. But what we did not expect is that people in the USA and around the world would take social distancing so seriously. Frankly, what saved us was not new science, but rather common sense. Who would have thought our fellow citizens would have taken action to stop this looming disease?
In the exact same way, who expects our fellow citizens to take action against climate change? I have been skeptical for years about our will to handle the climate crisis, but now I (and my scientific colleagues) have a new sense of hope. The world has shown that when we need to act, we can.
Are there any other thoughts about the relationship between COVID-19 and climate change that have been on your mind amidst all this?
It will be interesting to see how the steep economic downturn affects the development and installation of green energy solutions around the world. We don’t yet know if the investment in green energy will take a big hit.
By Jordan Osterman
Our member institutions rank first in Minnesota and nationally for the share of first-time, full-time Pell Grant recipients completing a bachelor’s degree in four years. For this analysis the Council compared the rate for our institutions to Minnesota’s public sectors as well as to statewide averages for both public and private institutions nationwide. Pell grants help low-income students pay for college; more than one in four students at Minnesota Private Colleges receive them.
CSB junior earns prestigious 2020 Truman Scholar award
Valerie Doze, a College of Saint Benedict junior from Grand Forks, North Dakota, was one of 62 students who were named 2020 Truman Scholars.
St. Olaf senior, alumna awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship to St. Olaf College student Bashir Ali ’20 and to alumna Gretchen Burke ’18.
Concordia College student awarded Goldwater Scholarship
Kenny David, a Concordia College junior, received a Goldwater Scholarship. David is planning to pursue neuroscience as a career and has worked on multiple sclerosis and autism spectrum disorder research.
Macalester senior awarded prestigious Watson Fellowship
Macalester College graduating senior Michael Khuth has been awarded a Watson Fellowship to pursue an original project that explores queer photography in China, South Africa, Brazil and elsewhere.
Saint John’s Ben Bartch drafted by Jacksonville
Oregon native is the 10th Saint John’s University football player selected in the NFL Draft and the first since 1974.
HLC gives Concordia St. Paul’s Ed.D. in kinesiology program recommendation for approval
The Higher Learning Commission review team has given its recommendation for the approval for Concordia University, St. Paul to add a doctorate in education in kinesiology.
St. Scholastica expands St. Cloud presence
A $1 million expansion of The College of St. Scholastica's presence in the St. Cloud area is under way, and it will strengthen the region's nursing workforce.
Pipers can access career counseling online
Hamline University Career Development Center continues to offer personal job search assistance to graduating seniors and recent graduates online.
Augsburg announces undergraduate tuition freeze and new programming
Augsburg University launches Augsburg Bold, including an undergrad tuition freeze and new programming for incoming students.
Bethel adds four affordable online concentrations to MBA program
By adding concentrations in expanding fields through the MITx MicroMasters programs, Bethel University is broadening its strong MBA program and adding more affordable choices for students.
Saint Mary's debuts vlog series
Check out Saint Mary's University of Minnesota's YouTube Channel for a growing number of vlogs, narrated by students sharing useful tips about taking online courses.
Summer issue of parent newsletter now available
A new issue of The Bridge: Parent News, our college planning e-newsletter for parents of a middle or high school student, is now online. Please consider sharing this useful resource — or sign up yourself.
Presidents testify at the Minnesota higher education hearings
Last month, Gustavus Adolphus College President Becky Bergman testified at the Minnesota House Higher Education Committee and University of St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan at the Minnesota Senate Higher Education Committee hearing to help legislators understand the impact COVID-19 is having on private higher education institutions.
Congratulatory messages for the Class of 2020 from the Governor and Lt. Governor
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan recently recorded video messages for the graduating class of 2020 to offer congratulations and words of encouragement.
The Higher Education Act and the pandemic
Inside Higher Ed, April 15, 2020
With school year in disarray, teens and young adults feel lost. Here's how to help
Minnesota Public Radio, April 19, 2020
Supporting college students through a public health crisis: Lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey
Higher Education Today, April 20, 2020
Counselors make a difference
Inside Higher Ed, May 11, 2020
Gov. Walz signs order to help students studying for critical sectors in workforce
Duluth News Tribune, May 13, 2020