When I began my HR career in higher education, it was invigorating to be part of such a noble cause, and it was a great feeling to know that it was a very stable industry in times when technology started to shift the landscape of all work. Who knew that 20 years later, education would face its own crisis resulting from a pandemic larger than anything we have ever seen or experienced forever changing the landscape of education (and work) at all levels.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet arrived in the United States from France in 1830, and founded Fontbonne University in 1923. Their mission upon arrival was to serve the dear neighbor without distinction and today remains a primary purpose of the Sisters. Fontbonne has obviously taken many of the same steps that other schools and organizations have taken – new cleaning protocols, social distancing in classrooms, and blended classes.
In keeping with the theme of the Sisters, Fontbonne enlisted the help of the entire community by developing a “Dear Neighbor Pledge” that was disseminated to faculty, staff and students for review and acknowledgement. As we all know, it is believed that we can slow the spread of the virus by practicing safety protocols that are easy to implement and require little extra time or money. The pledge provides a framework of expectations as well as steps to take for non-compliance. Fontbonne and its leadership team believe that we must all be part of the solution. It appears that the community embraced the pledge, and is evidence that we are here for each other.
Biggest lesson learned over the past six months is that flexibility is key! Like many other organizations, we moved people to remote work, we moved to online classes during the beginning of the pandemic, and we developed new policies and procedures. Changes in guidelines have made us aware that you must be vigilant and adaptable. While we have returned to work on campus, we have also enhanced the availability of remote options to both employees and students further exhibiting our pledge to all to provide the best and safest workplace possible.
Director of Human Resources, Fontbonne University