About Manchester

Weekly Update - December 3


From: President <President@manchester.edu>
Sent: Thursday, December 3, 2020 2:04 PM
To: All Colleagues <AllColleagues@manchester.edu>
Subject: Weekly update - Dec. 3

Dear Colleagues,

I participated this morning in a roundtable organized by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Tom Schuman, the Chamber’s senior vice president of communications and operations, moderated a panel discussion including Beverley Pitts, chair of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE); Deborah Curtis, president of Indiana State University; Dennis Bland, president of the Center for Leadership Development in Indianapolis and a member of the CHE board; and myself.

The conversation ranged from how the pandemic has shaped and stressed higher education this year to the long-term opportunities and challenges we see.

We all agreed that the pandemic has accelerated change in higher education. Many institutions are rethinking the possibility of doing things that were on “can’t do” or “won’t do” lists. Schools and faculty that have said they couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver programs online have done just that. Worries about declining traditional undergraduate enrollments – appearing on the horizon – have hit some institutions much earlier than expected. Institutions that anticipated they might have several years to address financial stresses needed to make cuts immediately.

We also agreed that the pandemic would pass, but that things won’t go back to the way they were pre-pandemic. The issues we were facing in higher education before the pandemic are still present and, in some cases, more pressing.

A thread that ran through our discussion was the importance of collaboration and adaptation. One participant said that we shouldn’t assume that finishing high school equates to being ready for college, even for academically capable students. Another added that we shouldn’t assume that finishing college means being ready for the workforce. In both cases, high schools, colleges, employers and others need to partner in equipping students to excel on each step along the way.

We also talked about the fragility of higher education during this time. Some institutions are really struggling to keep their heads above water. I shared with them what I shared yesterday during Conversations with Cabinet: We are well positioned to weather the storm and we have work to do (my update next week will focus on how we’ve been managing through the uncertainties of the pandemic and how we are positioning ourselves for the next five years).

It was a good conversation and I came away energized. I could sense the rainbow that comes after a hard rain. The pandemic will pass and we will enjoy hallway conversations, smiles without masks, handshakes, coffee shared across small tables, meetings in person and all that follows.

At the meeting yesterday, I also said that I’m keenly aware that COVID-19 is increasingly hitting us close to home. A month ago, I could count on one hand the number of people I knew by name who had contracted the coronavirus. Today I can’t keep track because the number has grown so quickly. We are in a time when we need to be especially vigilant about our health and the health of those around us. We need to stand together as a caring community. I write often about patience, grace, gratitude and compassion, and they are certainly the best gifts we can give each other this season.

Thank you for all you do here at Manchester. I am deeply, deeply grateful.


Dave McFadden
Manchester University