You never really know how strong a family is until it’s tested. I can tell you after this week, the Vandal Family is strong, and I have never been more proud to be a Vandal.
On Wednesday, our governor ordered all non-essential personnel to stay at home for the next 21 days. The order caps a tumultuous three weeks where our university community prepared to deliver distance learning, prepared the campus for the eventual arrival of the COVID-19 virus and prepared ourselves and our families for the fight. Our faculty, staff, students and alumni responded and delivered.
Our faculty members are delivering every course online. Our essential staff members are providing food and shelter and otherwise taking care of those students who had nowhere else to go. Other staff have been preparing to deliver their services to our community from home. Our students have worked through the changes and adjusted to the new normal, and our alumni have been incredibly supportive of university decisions and are helping our students during this uncertain period. It is a testimony to our commitment to each other and to the institution.
Despite all of the upheaval, the Moscow campus is quiet – we experienced a 63% drop in campus-based Wi-Fi usage compared to a normal week. Our virtual space, however, is bustling. More than 170 classes and meetings were taking place at any given time using the university’s videoconferencing software – six times our average. Some of those are one-on-one discussions, and others are 100-level lecture hall classes that allow 100 or more participants to engage.
Classes are being taught on schedule, just in a new way. Meetings are taking place. Video conferencing, video lectures, conference calls, even email and snail mail, are all tools we are using to deliver on our mission.
I am also proud that Vandals are at the forefront of helping the state of Idaho battle COVID-19. Project ECHO, our telehealth education program, hosted a successful virtual session this week for over 700 medical professionals throughout the state. Participants learned details about the virus, its transmission and how to respond to an outbreak in their community. University Distinguished Professor Holly Wichman, director of our Institute for Modeling Collaboration and Innovation, is coordinating a team of modelers from across Idaho to help the state predict the spread of the virus so resources can be deployed proactively and strategically.
Our staff also brought a decommissioned, stand-alone dorm on the edge of campus – the old Targhee Hall – back to life, providing 32 beds for use by our local hospital should they need it.
For those looking for a way to help our fellow Vandals who may be suffering from this emergency, we’ve launched a fundraising drive to support our Vandal Food Pantry, Project ECHO and the Bruce and Kathy Pitman Fund for Student Emergencies. We have a long history of Vandals helping Vandals in times of need.
These next few weeks will be among the most difficult we have faced, but I am confident we are up to the challenge. If you are worried about someone, please file a VandalCARE report so they can get the help they need. Let’s continue to be kind and supportive, and work together. In the interim,