Florida universities go where they’re needed

By Sydney Kitson, from newscyclecloud.  com

Florida continues to face disruption and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we face the coming days with anxiety, I strongly believe that there is much occurring around our state by which we can be encouraged, reassured, and uplifted.

As chair of the Florida Board of Governors, I am particularly heartened by the leadership shown by our 12 state universities to respond quickly and with compassion to the needs of their students and surrounding communities. Throughout the past month, universities have worked tirelessly to keep students, faculty, and staff safe and to adapt classes for remote instruction so that faculty can continue to teach and students can continue to learn.

To complete spring semester, all courses were converted to distance learning modalities and, for their safety, students were strongly encouraged to leave on-campus residence halls if they were able to do so. Each university developed a plan to provide a refund or credit to students for residence hall and/or food service contracts for the unused contractual period. Importantly, university counselors and advisors are working with individual students on specific hardships caused by the disruption, whether they are academic, financial or emotional.

For example, New College of Florida biochemistry professor Katherine Walstrom inspired her students to research COVID-19 for their year-end grant proposals. The remainder of the semester will consist of virtual in-class discussions as students gain experience reading relevant journal articles and devise new experiments to do in the field, building on previous research.

State universities are also reaching out to their surrounding communities and are volunteering faculty and staff expertise in medicine and health care delivery and research, business and management, hospitality, and other critical fields.

For example, New College’s assistant professor of epidemiology, Kristopher Fennie, gave insight in the coronavirus era by answering important questions about the pandemic and its impact, as well as how he is educating his students about what is happening.

In addition to maintaining academic continuity, the health and safety of our students remain the highest priority. Our universities remain critical sources of knowledge, innovation, and expertise for the state and are eagerly “leaning in” to support the fight against the deadly COVID-19 virus.

I want to thank the citizens of this great state for leaning in as well. Together, we can get through this and emerge even stronger. Stay safe, everyone.

Sydney Kitson is chair of the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida. He is also CEO of Kitson & Partners, a Florida-based real estate company specializing in master-planned communities, including Babcock Ranch, and commercial properties.

Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 700 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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