President's Message

President's Message: A Thank You to the Widener Community

By Julie E. Wollman
Close up of Pride statue on campus

Dear Widener community,

As I reflect on the unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation we are experiencing, it is difficult to believe that just two weeks ago, our vibrant campuses were buzzing with their usual activities. The upheaval Coronavirus has brought to our learning community would have been difficult to imagine in early March.

And yet, in the face of tremendous adversity, our Widener community has stepped up to meet this challenge with courage, determination, and brilliant problem-solving. Our culture of collaboration has never shined brighter, allowing us to continue our most important work – educating students in a caring and supportive intellectual environment and putting them on the inside track to success.
 

President Wollman works at home with her dog
President Julie E. Wollman works from home with her new puppy, Humphrey.

Aware of the need to prioritize the health and safety of our campus community, Widener was among the first universities to announce a move to electronic instruction for all. Our Information Technology and Teaching and Learning Technology staff members worked quickly with our dedicated faculty to launch a well-conceived plan. In just a week, all of our full- and part-time professors prepared to transition to digital instruction, so that learning could continue and students would progress toward their degrees and their dreams.

More than 1,400 students followed instructions for moving out of residence halls to promote health and safety and we have continued to provide space for fewer than 20 students on our main campus and about 20 on the Delaware Law campus, who have no other housing options currently.

At every turn, despite the unknowns and need for rapid change, the Widener family has demonstrated resilience, grace, and agility.

Most recently, state governments are limiting personnel on our campuses to only “life-sustaining” staff who are assisting students who must remain. Still, we continue to teach and fulfill our mission. Although this new virtual learning environment may seem strange at first, it has been reassuring and exhilarating to see classes resume. Already I am hearing many success stories. Some of our most seasoned, veteran professors are excited by their new abilities to teach electronically, and students have enjoyed participating in class from comfortable personal spaces while engaging extensively in discussion and interaction with classmates and professors. We are all learning from this experience together, and we are constantly monitoring for trouble spots, and answering calls for help as soon as they arise. Challenges are inevitable as we learn to maneuver virtually, but overall the results of our first few days of online teaching have been excellent and even enlightening.
 
Above all, I want to thank every member of the Widener community for your role in making it possible to continue pursuing our mission: educating students and giving them the tools to succeed.

Main Campus

I am grateful for the staff who organized and deployed our digital tools to facilitate online learning, for professors who eagerly accepted the challenge of moving their courses online, and for students who are  excited to continue learning.

I am grateful for the employees who have worked tirelessly to keep our campuses clean and safe, and for those who are constantly finding ways to keep the university’s business moving forward remotely, and to ensure all faculty, staff, and student workers are paid, in such unpredictable times.
 
These last weeks have been challenging, and at times disorienting for everyone, both professionally and personally. Our leadership and crisis management teams continue to monitor the situation, and refine Widener’s response, and I am committed to remaining in regular and frequent communication with all of you. Your well-being is paramount in all of our decisions.
 
As I review our progress, I am astounded and deeply moved by the enormity of what we have already accomplished together. These accomplishments have required an extraordinary level of commitment, creative problem solving, and faith in our university and in each other.

The words seem wholly insufficient, but they are the best I can offer right now: thank you.

Julie

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