A Retrospective on the Future of… Post Pandemic

Erica Barreiro, CNM's new Academic Fellow for the Future of Work + Learning, will be writing guest columns throughout the year to help spark discussion at CNM about how we prepare for the future of...
April 16, 2020

When faced with such dramatic shifts in a short span of time, when what we “know” one day changes the next, it is hard to imagine what a post-pandemic future holds for ourselves, our work, our families, and our communities. As I read about projected impacts of coronavirus on business models, work, health care and educational systems, our economy, global and national politics, and more, it is clear that our society and our lives will be fundamentally altered.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video one of our history faculty, Brandon Morgan, put together about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and its impacts in New Mexico. As any good history teacher does, Brandon skillfully made connections between the past and the present, and then ended by guiding us to think about our future with the following:

“What lasting changes do we want to create as we move forward? How will we rise to meet our moment? And how will future generations look back at us? Each of us has the capacity to make the decisions that will address these questions: what [will be] our answers?”

As I witness the multiple ways in which our college, our faculty, staff, and students, have responded to this pandemic, I am again reminded of the many reasons I am so proud to work at CNM. As we continue to operate in crisis mode, we won’t always get it “right,” but there are so many working so hard inside every department and at every level of our organization to help us not just survive this moment, but to also begin building the lasting change we want to create beyond this moment. 

Erica Barreiro

How will we rise to meet our moment?

In just under two weeks our CNM faculty rallied to move more than 1,800 face-to-face courses to some form of remote delivery in order to keep the almost 14,500 students in these courses on track in their educational and career goals. Our faculty and school staff have engaged in heroic efforts to make sure we do everything we can to move our students to this semester’s finish line. Our distance learning staff not only provided critical support for this effort, but also developed emergency preparedness guides for students and faculty unfamiliar with the remote teaching modality and hosted virtual labs to support faculty and students.

CNM Ingenuity also transitioned several noncredit courses and contract trainings online and remotely and, with ABQid and CNM’s Small Business Development Center, has increased support for small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, the FUSE Makerspace is part of a multi-organizational collaborative to create and monitor a website designed to recruit New Mexico suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, makers, and testing centers in the fight against COVID-19 and has recently re-opened its physical space to prototype and make objects for hospitals.

When we shifted to modified operations, our facilities staff did a deep cleaning of all campus spaces and continued to work to keep them clean as students and faculty had to access them. And, as the rest of us made transitions to remote school and work, ITS stepped up to identify and deploy a technology device check-out plan for employees and a computer-loaner program for students. They also set up free wireless access in our parking lots for those who do not have access in their home environments and have provided invaluable technical support to our community during this transition with daily live remote sessions.

Our Student Experience Team is busy making personal phone calls to check in with our students and to remind our community that we are still “here” even if we can’t be here “in person.” Students Services managed to provide continuity of all services remotely, and also offered a daily virtual student support group. Outreach has developed video step-by-step video tutorials on the application process, is hosting WebEx events for high school counselors and community organizations. MCO is keeping us connected with timely communication updates, a faculty and staff community Facebook page, and a web form that allows anyone to submit information about resources in the community that can help CNM students or employees. And the result of a multi-department collaboration is a pilot of a new process for community creation of content and a new page to house it called CNM Cares.

Human Resources quickly put together training and resources around working and supervising remotely, and along with payroll helped executive leadership understand who among our employees were going to be most significantly impacted by our modified operations and how we could best support them. And finally, our executive team, led by our new President (who probably didn’t have time to celebrate her 3-month work anniversary date) has been working tirelessly to figure out where we are today, how do we adapt, and where do we think we need to shift to be ready for tomorrow.  

There are countless other examples of how our CNM community has risen to meet this moment and more will emerge as we call for “all hands-on deck” to help our community respond to post-pandemic impacts.  The crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has not only accelerated the impending disruption to higher education, but it will also usher in the greatest economic disruption since World War II.  Those hardest hit by all of this are those who already had the least access and fewest resources—many, the students we are dedicated to serving. The challenges associated with surviving the crisis of work, learning, and living during this pandemic and adapting to a “new normal” post-pandemic will be in orders of magnitude much bigger than what we are used to dealing with. These challenges will require unprecedented agility and extraordinary degrees of creativity, collaboration, and inclusivity.

As we end our first semester of this new decade, a semester in which our lives were fundamentally altered, I invite you to think creatively, collaboratively, and inclusively about how we can use this moment in history to create the lasting changes that will move our college and our community forward.

Part 2 to this guest column will be published in two weeks. If you want to share your ideas on what changes we might create at CNM as we move forward from COVID-19, please email me at: evolkers@cnm.edu