Returning to campus: A planned approach

In this week’s town hall on transitioning back to campus, we were fortunate to visit with over a dozen Aggies who shared their thinking about the future. We have a unique opportunity: between now and August, we can use the tools we developed over the past year to create a better university, with more engaging spaces for teaching, learning, research, creativity, outreach and overall scholarship, and more flexible workplaces. Here are some take away messages from the town hall.

Get vaccinated. COVID-19 is a nasty disease that can have unpredictable and devastating effects on human health. Vaccination against this disease is key to a successful return to campus and to a more “normal” life. The Aggie Health and Wellness Center is making the vaccination process as easy as possible, and you can register for your vaccine today with the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) online or by phone at 1-855-600-3453 (see town hall, 13:30 minutes).

Classrooms have been, and will continue to be, very safe. We developed simple classroom protocols based on advice from the NMDOH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in collaboration with the Higher Education Department. The guidance from these agencies evolves as conditions change, and our practices will continue to be based on their best advice (see town hall, 1:07:22).

We have learned how to extend this safety to other activities and spaces. A vibrant campus life is key to the college experience, and we are getting there. This was Greek Week on campus, and tomorrow is The Big Event, an annual day of service and gratitude for NMSU students. We are becoming adept at organizing activities outside and for smaller groups, and engaging online is allowing us to reach off-campus students (see town hall, 1:11:56 minutes).

Acknowledge the difficulties in returning to campus. After spending more than a year trying to avoid people, re-engaging with others seems risky. People have concerns not just for their health, but for that of elderly parents or family members with underlying conditions. Employees can get help dealing with anxiety at NMSU’s Employee Assistance Program (see town hall, 22:10 minutes).

We can create better and more productive workspaces. One of the most exciting opportunities before us is the chance to re-envision how we work. We learned that sharing a purpose, rather than a physical space, is more important in achieving great results. Teams, groups, units and departments can re-imagine how they will effectively meet their mission from remote locations and by collaborating across time and space (see town hall, 27:15 minutes).

Planning and adaptability are key. Change will continue, and we need to be flexible to deal with that change. Knowing how to adapt becomes clearer if we follow basic principles. Ours are the following:

  • We will carry out the mission of New Mexico State University,
  • We will prioritize the safety and health of our students and employees, and
  • We will always look to internal and external expertise and constituents for guidance (see town hall, 1:08:54 minutes to 1:11:30).

In the words of the ever-optimistic Dean Cooper, “Let’s have fun with it (see town hall, 1:11:15)!

I hope you will join me for two upcoming events:

Feedback is always welcomed at

Be Bold. Be Kind. Be Safe.

Go Aggies!

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