|   College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Pandemic Hack: Forget What It’s Supposed to Look Like

There’s a prairie restoration campus on a distant corner of campus, in between the President’s House and the Student Life Archives. Thing is, it doesn’t actually look much like what we expect a prairie to look like. Rippling waves of grasses, like that picture on the right? No. It’s all flowers. A couple of weeks ago, it looked like this:

Pretty, but...prairie? Well, no. Not yet. Turns out that it takes tens of thousands of years to make a prairie, and wildflowers and grasses can’t achieve a harmonious equilibrium in a human timeframe without extensive human intervention. Planting flowers first, and allowing them to take hold for a few years before introducing grasses, is the way to create a prairie in years rather than millennia. But this knowledge is not self-evident — the methods of creating and restoring prairies are themselves a work in progress, and this “flowers first” approach represents current best practices.

Right now we’re all living through an enormous experiment in creating new methods and conventions for college teaching. Your instructors are trying to establish, in the space of weeks, new practices and conventions to replace ways of doing things that have evolved over decades of teaching and learning. It doesn’t look the way they want it to, either.

So…stop and smell the flowers? Probably not. There’s a lot of goldenrod in that picture. It may be what’s making you sneeze these days. But maybe, if you can, take the long view. We’re all struggling to make something real, and new, in this moment. It’s not all going to look like it’s supposed to, in part because no one knows what these new ways of doing college are “supposed” to look like. But you can learn something that you didn’t know at the start of the semester, push through some new ideas, write something that hasn’t been said before.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers has identified eight “career competencies” that students should develop in college in order to be successful in their post-college career. Here in the HPRC we’ve broken down three of them into some of the skills and capacities you are probably developing in your major. When you’re lost in the weeds of trying to figure out when your next Moodle assignment is due, or dealing with yet another Kaltura malfunction, step back, take a break, and think big picture. What are YOU trying to grow here?