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Looking Back

Like a lot of people, we’re trying to make sense of the year we’ve just been through, both personally and professionally. Because we’re communicators, we naturally turned to the written word to help process the ups and downs, identify the hidden gifts, and capture some of what it was like for posterity.

You might think that, because we work regularly with institutions facing all kinds of crises, we’d be more ready than most for the upheaval that came along with COVID-19. Sure, some of this felt familiar and fit the scenarios we so often draft, but we’ve never before had the same crisis hit every one of our client partners, team members, and families and friends at the exact same moment. There were plenty of 15-hour days spent bouncing from Zoom calls with clients to FaceTime calls with family as we all tried to figure out what the virus meant for all of us.

As we moved into the late spring and early summer, it felt like we shifted from a crisis footing to a siege footing. It was clear we were in this for the long haul and would be working without a net, so it was important to help our clients establish solid communications processes and procedures as we faced the reality of at least two COVID-impacted semesters and the need to replicate and tweak their plans based on our learnings this spring.

We held our breath in late summer and early fall as many of our clients began welcoming some students back to their campuses while offering online options, and others went fully remote and waited for the enrollment fallout. There were some bumps, and lots of early morning and late night Zoom calls, but we’re proud to say that the institutions we work with have done well protecting community health while enabling students to continue their progress toward their degrees.

And now we’ve reached the end of 2020, but certainly not the end of COVID-impacted higher education. As we reflect on the last nine months, there are many moments for which we are thankful.

We are grateful to have come through this year pretty much intact, and while we’re far too superstitious to say we’re out of the woods, we’re thankful for the fact that our team, their families, and our business are healthy and thriving. We are also profoundly aware of our many privileges that make that possible and that not all organizations fared as well.

We know how lucky we are to do this work with a team of gifted people. Ali, Cristal, Kristine and Kylie make magic happen for our clients every day, and during these strange times, they redoubled their efforts to help institutions put their best foot forward with their audiences. The fact that they did this work while navigating the needs of their own families is inspiring but utterly unsurprising.

We are cognizant every day of the enormous vote of confidence our clients give us when they ask us to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the face of the biggest disruption their institutions will ever face. It’s the kind of trust that humbles us and which we do not take for granted.

We have seen our campus colleagues and their teams step up in ways that were unfathomable before March. We know this is not without a cost to them personally, and we applaud the institutional leaders who are going above and beyond to honor, recognize and reward this kind of devotion and sacrifice.

We are grateful for the reporters who have asked the hard questions, pushed for better answers, and expected us to think about what higher education must do and must do better to serve its mission and, most importantly, its people. And they’ve done this while confronting yet another existential assault on their own industry.

We’re grateful for those “friends of the show” – fellow consultants and contractors who have shown enormous generosity in bringing our community together to tackle our shared challenges.

And mostly, we’re grateful for you reading this piece, whomever you might be. We wish for you, as we do for all our families, friends and colleagues, a restful and renewing holiday season and a 2021 that is gentle on us all.

With gratitude,

Teresa & Erin