We just finished our third week of the fall semester at Minnesota State College Southeast. Normally that wouldn’t be newsworthy, but this fall, it feels like quite an accomplishment! Although we had students on campus during the summer, making sure we could run an effective fall term was daunting, and I am very proud of the work our faculty and staff have done to make it possible.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about what fall semester looks like at MSC Southeast. While things aren’t exactly like they were a year ago, our students believe in the promise of education to help them have the lives they want. Our goal remains the same, to fulfill that promise.

Our fall term is a mix of in-person classes, distance learning, and hybrid formats that fall somewhere in-between. This mix is driven by our focus on meeting the needs of our students. So, if you want world-class online education, we’ve had that for years, and this year we have even more. If you need to spend time on campus because you learn better that way, we have opportunities for you, including mixed delivery of online and in-person we call HyFlex. And if you must have hands-on technical education to become skilled at your craft, our labs are open with social distancing, enhanced cleaning, and mask requirements in place.

Our strategy has been to reduce the number of people on campus so we can keep campus safe for those who need to be on campus. Everyone who comes to campus must pass a COVID-19 Self-Assessment screening and earn a green “ticket” which helps us keep everyone as safe as possible. In some classes, groups of students are working in the same small, socially distanced unit for the semester to limit interaction. While we have may some new practices and requirements, our goal remains the same: to help you move forward in your life.

MSC Southeast believes in our culture of caring strongly and we are living that belief this fall. Not only have we changed our delivery of some courses, we are creating as much flexibility as we can in these unpredictable times. I’ve witnessed our faculty accommodating individuals who needed to be absent unexpectedly, and I’ve seen faculty and staff providing support to students in many ways, from allowing flexible due dates on assignments to offering office hours via Zoom.

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On a more tangible level, before the semester began, our campuses held a food drive to make sure our pantries are stocked for our students who face food insecurity yet have the courage to pursue college anyway. We call this way of working with students #MSCSoutheastCares, and our goal remains the same: to live out that mission, no matter the circumstances.

So, I’m looking forward to Week 4 and beyond. It is a privilege to be allowed to help students achieve the goals and dreams they have for themselves and their families. One of the very special things about a technical and community college is how deeply rooted we are in the communities we serve. The people who are with us on campus, online, or on video conference aren’t just students — they are our friends and neighbors.

The success of our students, our college, and our communities are all interconnected. That is why no matter how much the circumstances change, at Minnesota State College Southeast our goal remains the same: keeping our promise to improve lives through education.