What a difference a year makes. Last spring semester, when classes began at Coconino Community College, students were busily passing through the halls of our campuses on their way to classes. Their attention was on their studies and on achieving their educational goals.
Then, just before Spring Break, the world started to take notice of the virus that was making its way across the globe – COVID-19. The world went on lockdown to try to halt the spread of the virus. Safety measures were put into place at CCC. Our halls and classrooms grew quiet. Faculty and staff, dedicated to delivering a quality, affordable education to students, worked long hours to offer classes online and through Zoom videoconferencing to keep the machinery of education moving so students could keep working toward their goals. Events were canceled, or they were held “virtually” in the digital world. A new kind of normal developed. Some of our students decided to wait until they could rejoin their fellow students and faculty in the classroom. Many of our students adapted to taking classes virtually, even if that was not what they preferred.
This spring, as classes begin, our halls and classrooms are still mostly quiet. All classes, except for ones that absolutely require an in-person component, continue to be online and through Zoom. Big events like the Commencement and Nurses Pinning ceremonies will again be virtual this May. Our signature fundraising event for the CCC Foundation, Palette to Palate, which supports the Fine Arts Department at CCC, will reimagine itself as a virtual event this April.
What a difference a year has made. The stress of the pandemic and world and national events have created a tumultuous time in all our lives. For me, during this time of unrest, it became important to see how our community college places such a great value on people from all different backgrounds and with diverse points of view. Our new five-year Strategic Plan, “Students First Vision 2025: Planning for the Future,” includes a Diversity Statement created by the members of our Diversity Committee at CCC. It reads:
“Coconino Community College recognizes and respects diversity and the value it brings to our communities. We appreciate and welcome cultures, identities, beliefs, experiences and all that makes us unique. CCC champions and takes action to build an inclusive work and learning environment. We are allies and advocates, navigating a respectful dialogue about our shared humanity.”
To me, that is valuing people.
I am also heartened that the Diversity Committee, with considerable input from the Native American Club at CCC, crafted a Land Use Acknowledgement Statement to be included in collegewide ceremonies and celebrations. Each semester at CCC, about 20 percent of our students are Native American. The Land Use Acknowledgement Statement reads:
“We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the sacred land on which this educational institution resides. The Zuni, Apache, Yavapai, Hualapai, Havasupai, Paiute, Diné, Hopi and many other Arizona tribal nations recognize the land that surrounds a sacred mountain, the San Francisco Peaks, as a significant spiritual place. This sacred land is enriched with indigenous history and culture that lives on to this day. We as a community with our CCC family and friends, are very fortunate to live, work, and share this unique location.”
To me, that is valuing people.
A vaccine for the virus is currently being delivered to people throughout the world, including those of us who live in Coconino County. The vaccine brings us all hope that we may be in for a different type of normal a year from now, perhaps earlier. All I know is the difference a year can make.
Soon, spring will give way to summer, which will give way to fall and the start of another academic year. It’s never too early to start planning and preparing for that new academic year. There are federal financial aid forms to fill out, and, currently, the CCC Foundation is accepting applications for scholarships to help qualified students afford their educational goals. The Foundation has been working hard in creating partnerships with new donors, businesses and organizations to increase the ability to assist students. For more information about the CCC Foundation, visit coconino.edu/foundation.
I wish all of us a healthy and safe start to the spring semester, and I am hopeful the wait will soon be over so that I get to see and hear students roaming our campus halls and filling our classrooms again. Please take a look at an amazing video here, https://youtu.be/KrhnzVsnRaY, created by Larry Hendricks, senior manager of Marketing and Public Relations at the college, to share in our thoughts about “What a Difference a Year Makes,” and know that CCC is here for you in 2021. Onward! FBN
By Colleen Smith
Colleen Smith is the president of Coconino Community College.