TCC rising to the challenge of assisting students, community during pandemic

May 18, 2020

Special to the Tallahassee Democrat

 

Jim MurdaughTallahassee Community College is playing a vital role with our community partners as we work together to assess the needs, the response and the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more than a half-century, TCC has been a demand-driven institution that offers a high-quality, low-cost post-secondary education for the residents of Leon, Gadsden and Wakulla counties, as well as those from throughout the state, the nation and abroad. A half-million students have attended TCC since it first opened  and more than half our students are the first in their families to attend college.

As the pandemic forced us to shift to remote learning, we heard from students who wanted more regularly scheduled online classes in order to directly interact with faculty and their peers. TCC responded with Summer LIVE, which offers interactive classes where students engage in a real-time instructional environment. The courses are designed to provide the benefits of face-to-face classes without requiring students to leave their homes.

Now, with students requesting a return to face-to-face classes in the “new normal,” TCC is responding again. The college is planning to safely and responsibly resume in-person on-campus classes for the fall semester, in compliance with all public health and social distancing guidelines.

To that end, I’ve convened a work group of students, faculty, staff and community members to ensure that the return to on-campus classes will be measured and thoughtful.

Meanwhile, TCC continues to be “open for business.” As we have always done, the college will work with our community partners to shape the future of TCC and meet the needs of the service district. We will continue to offer vital pathways toward the completion of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, as well as job-training programs for students who are not pursuing a degree.

TCC, which has trained an estimated 160,000 people who now work here in our region, offers more than 70 workforce-focused programs that are intended to put people into jobs. We recently launched a TCC2WORK initiative to provide students with a definite pathway into the workforce — and also put them into in-demand career fields.

The college has also heard the challenge, which has grown stronger during the pandemic, to enhance its commitment to health-care education. TCC has responded by increasing the capacity of our nursing program and focusing on the expansion of all our health-care offerings. Nearly 10% of all TCC alumni continue to be employed in medical and surgical hospitals.

TCC will continue to listen to our community. We have donated personal protection equipment and ventilators to area hospitals and first responders, organized food distribution events on our campuses, produced reusable 3D printable face masks for first responders and more. For example, we are currently assisting an area dentist who reached out for assistance in securing hygienists for the reopening of his office. Meanwhile, the TCC Foundation has been providing computers, gift cards and emergency grants to students.

Working with our community partners, the college will respond and react to the unique challenges and economic uncertainty posed by this invisible threat. We will rise from this pandemic stronger and wiser — because we will recover together.

The future we collectively build for TCC will be created on the foundation of community needs, as it has been for the past 54 years.

Jim Murdaugh is the president of Tallahassee Community College. He is a graduate of Leadership Florida Executive Class VII and the prestigious Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 2017, he was selected by the Association of College Unions International as International President of the Year in recognition of his efforts in building a strong and active campus community. He currently serves as chair of the Florida College System’s Council of Presidents.

To view the opinion piece, visit https://www.tallahassee.com/story/opinion/2020/05/18/tallahsasee-community-college-rising-challenge-coronavirus/5214874002/