Some Thoughts for New Chairs in the Year of COVID-19, 2020
By: John Papapolymerou, Michigan State University
Dear fellow ECE Chairs,
Welcome to this issue of the ECEDHA Source and to the new academic year. In light of the events of the past 6 months that have shaken our world and have affected all of us, I have been looking for inspiration and guidance and Martin Luther King Jr’s famous words came to mind: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” For some of you this is your first or second semester as Chair of the department and you may find it more difficult than usual navigating through your new role. ECEDHA and the new Chairs workgroup are here to help and provide any support you may need based on our collective experience.
More than ever before as Chairs you will now need to be transparent, honest, empathetic, and decisive all while conveying hope to your faculty, staff, students and alumni and send a strong message that together you can get through this crisis. Leading by example is essential to ensure buy-in as most universities have imposed specific guidelines and restrictions to address the COVID-19 related health risks. For the most part, universities have shifted course offerings to purely online or hybrid. This change in course delivery has most likely consumed large amounts of time and effort for you, your faculty and the various department committees, all while maintaining a high-quality educational experience for all your students. The latter has proven to be an even more difficult task, as students of various backgrounds experience a variety of challenges and now more than ever need our full support. ECEDHA has put special groups together to assist in this transition not only for regular lecture-based courses but also for lab offerings tapping into the expertise of faculty with related backgrounds, as well as providers of online educational tools. I strongly encourage you to reach out to get any assistance you may need.
As you navigate through this unchartered territory, you will need to be a leader who can, above all, stay the course, be a great listener, engage others to work together, motivate them, thank them for their service and show empathy as times continue to be very challenging especially for our most vulnerable populations. At the same time you will need to be realistic, as there will be more things that you cannot control, stay true to your values and the goals you want your department to reach. You will definitely need to set aside some time every week for an activity you enjoy outside the workplace (and stick to it!). The higher education landscape is changing rapidly, our world is changing rapidly and none of us anticipated or was truly prepared for this. Collectively, we can stand together, support each other and uphold the fundamental human values of health, justice, equality and a chance for a better future for all. Please feel free to reach out and I hope to “see” everyone at the virtual new chairs meeting on October 1.