Dr. Hall Takes Part in Panel Discussion

LUBBOCK - Wayland Baptist University President Dr. Bobby Hall participated in a panel discussion on Tuesday about the state of higher education in dealing with COVID-19. Sponsored by the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and Carpet Tech, Hall and administrators from Lubbock Christian University, Texas Tech and South Plains College fielded questions about the state of higher education as students return to campus this fall.

Hall, alongside Dr. Scott McDowell, President of LCU, Dr. Robin Satterwhite, President of South Plains College, and Texas Tech Chief Financial Officer Noel Sloan, answered questions about their institutions responses to COVID-19. Each educational institution is preparing for having students on campus in much the same way. They are requiring students, faculty and staff to wear masks in campus buildings and to practice social distancing. Classroom settings have been modified to accommodate guidelines and to make gathering places as safe as possible.

The real takeaway came when answering the question of whether or not the changes made to deal with the pandemic will be permanent. All agreed that some of what has been done has been positive steps forward for higher education.

"I think there's a silver lining in this," Hall said. "I believe that what COVID-19 has done is basically accelerate the change that was going to happen in higher education anyway. It forced us to do what would have taken years in a matter of months, and in some cases a matter of weeks."

Hall looked at this time in history as being a transitional moment.

"It is probably the defining moment in our lifetime," he said. "This is a special time to be in the position of trying to educate others for the future."

The other panelists agreed that some changes will probably remain. Sloan said Tech has received a lot of positive feedback for allowing students to choose times to move into campus housing throughout a two-week period instead of everyone doing it in one weekend. Satterwhite said the additional focus on online and hybrid classes is forcing faculty to be more creative and get the most out of available technology to make classes more engaging. McDowell pointed to the overall process as being a benefit, and that navigating the crisis has taught a valuable lesson.

"There will be a lot of lessons learned," McDowell said. "But we have learned that we are capable of more than we thought we were."

All the panelists agreed, however, that a return to normal is welcomed and eagerly anticipated.

"Wayland is a very relational place," Hall said. "As we come back to class, it makes us appreciate those relationships even more because we have been away from people. We talk about the Wayland family all the time. It's good to have the family back together."