Opinion: Wayne State University works toward return to campus

Keith Whitfield

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted much our lives. Although the world of higher education has been disrupted as well, one thing has not changed.  Universities are open for business and remain poised to offer students a high-quality education that will put them onto a path of upward social and economic mobility for the rest of their lives.

Of course, the pandemic has forced us to alter how we deliver education in the name of safety. At Wayne State University, we went to an all-remote instruction model as soon as it became clear that the pandemic was spiraling out of control in mid-March, just as many of our sister universities did. That is where we remain at this juncture. It’s worked well for us. Faculty are fully engaged and students are continuing their studies and maintaining the momentum they’ll need to complete their degrees.

Wayne State University went to an all-remote instruction model in mid-March.

Still, it’s not an ideal situation. We’re in the business of educating students in classrooms, labs, studios, internships and other academic settings. Being on campus and interacting with a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and viewpoints is an education in its own right and something that our students remember and cherish all of their lives. We are working toward a return to campus. 

In the fall, we will offer a mix of in-person, remote and online classes. What proportion of which will be determined by July 15. By then, we should have more information about the progression of the virus, and a determination of which classes would best be held on campus vs done remotely. In the end our decision will be based on science and a full commitment to protecting the health and safety of our campus community.

Despite the understandable trepidation you may feel about returning to campus — or even continuing your college education — now is not the time to disrupt your progress toward earning a degree. In fact, at a time when travel is curtailed and unemployment is high, now is a great time to work toward a degree and position yourself for future opportunities.

Whether you are graduating high school, already enrolled in an undergraduate program, or in the workforce and considering bolstering your credentials with a graduate degree, now is the time. Our economy needs a constant new influx of talent, intelligence, critical thinking and innovation, all virtues of our Wayne State graduates. Michigan is depending on us to turn out workforce-ready graduates who can begin immediately making an impact on the economic, social and cultural fortunes of our state. The need for an educated new talent base is more important now than at any other moment in our lifetimes. 

This pandemic has thrown us a huge curveball, and has forced us all to rethink our lives in almost every way. But throughout this challenging time, one thing remains certain: A college degree is still the surest path to a life of upward mobility, prosperity and good health. 

Keith Whitfield is provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Wayne State University.