Opinion

Employees met crisis head-on

If an organization was going to choose a year to recognize the contributions employees are making, this is the year.  COVID-19 has challenged us all to find new ways to do things and change, and adjust, and change again when necessary. 

“Pivot” has become the word I most associate with how Northern Maine Community College employees have responded.  Pivot — it’s a term used in basketball.  It describes planting one foot firmly while trying different directions with the other foot. You are tied down with limited options, but you keep looking for a better angle to shoot, pass, etc.  

Pivot is now the term we use to best describe how we respond to the changing circumstances associated with the virus.  Those who can move and change and adapt to the situation have been the most successful in moving forward during this stress-filled time. 

NMCC is blessed with employees who, in a time of crisis and challenge, have stepped up. Our employees know how to pivot.  At a time when it would have been more comfortable to lay low, hunker down and wait for things to pass, they stepped up.  

Consider these caring, determined and bold actions.

A colleague put aside his planned and well-deserved sabbatical in order to stay here with students and deal with the unforeseen challenges COVID-19 might present to the College.  

Moving courses online is one challenge, but moving courses which require face-to-face and lab instruction online and finding methods to deliver it is another. NM faculty creatively adjusted and moved classes to an online format and modified labs with video instruction to complement the lectures online.  

Responding to students whenever they need the help, and not just when time is scheduled, is their standard.  Our staff and faculty recognize the pressure this virus has put on young students and those with families. Their empathy and commitment to ease student anxiety while dealing with their own stress has been impressive.  It has brought out the best in our staff and the results are obvious.  

The services students need have changed in the past year. These include online advising, access to the food pantry, facilitating access to emergency funds so they can continue to support themselves and their families. Staff has been attentive to concerns and has connected students to the medical and emotional support required. 

This year, despite the pandemic, we renovated Reed Commons to the tune of $4 million. This created not only a wonderful place for the campus community to eat but added a kitchen that can be used to instruct people about healthy cooking. Our teaching kitchen will be opened to all once the pandemic has passed. 

To improve and expand our program, we renovated and built water treatment labs in Presque Isle and Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. No small feat if you consider the coordination of this project during a pandemic. 

This year the NMCC Foundation has awarded more scholarship dollars to students than ever before.  The foundation also supported students who needed educational technology and students who needed food. 

  And in the midst of all this activity, the NMCC employees said “Yes, we can host a vaccination clinic on our campus. We can prepare the space for the Northern Light A.R. Gould folks to offer their service to the citizens of the local communities.”

Nursing students and faculty are stepping up to help administer vaccines. By keeping the parking lots clear and supporting the IT and security needs for the clinics, more than 12,000 vaccinations will be provided from campus as of this month.  

It’s hard to describe how proud I am of everyone who works at NMCC. To a person, they care about their students, their colleagues, and the community. They embody what a community college is designed to do. The Aroostook County work ethic is alive and well at NMCC.  

  So, what is next? In speaking with a faculty member this week and discussing the challenges with COVID-19, he said, “My mother had a saying: ‘Un mal pour un bien’ –out of something bad will come something good.”  

We are learning from this historic experience and we will find something good.

  I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the NMCC employees.  If we look at all that has been accomplished during this pandemic, I can’t wait to see what happens when this is over.  

Thank you all for your outstanding work in these extraordinary times. You are appreciated.

Timothy Crowley is the president of Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle.

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