Working in healthcare and serving as a college trustee provides me with different perspectives of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These sectors cannot easily close their services, and as a volunteer trustee, I have been very impressed with the way that Rowan College at Burlington County remained open during the pandemic.

A year ago, the college switched to remote learning with just a few days preparation and resumed a limited number of on-campus classes in the summer. One year after the pandemic started, the college’s safety protocols have prevented any instance of spread on campus.

As a trustee, it’s been heartening to see how the college has:

● Continued its core mission of education both online and on campus, including access to online support such as tutoring and counseling.

● Ensured that the college’s food pantry remained open and accessible to students who rely on it.

● Consistently hosted American Red Cross blood drives at a time when many other locations could not.

● Maintained open lines of communications with students, staff and the community through different methods such as Facebook Live town halls, and more collegewide meetings than when the college was operating under normal conditions.

Incredibly, we would learn how RCBC students, faculty and staff were helping with the county’s effort to overcome COVID: nursing students volunteered at the testing and vaccination sites, Service-Learning scholars maintained access to the food pantry, and some students simply offered support for each other by holding vent sessions in which students were free to talk about anything that was causing them stress.

Rowan College at Burlington County was a pillar of stability during the pandemic, when many learning communities throughout the nation have become divided over the struggle with how and when to return to campus. I have seen no evidence of this at RCBC where the community has pulled together in response to this crisis.

No one at the college is declaring a premature victory, but I do believe we have turned a corner as every day brings news of more vaccinations and fewer hospitalizations.

The combination of improving health conditions and the college’s experience with proven safety protocols provide further optimism in terms of planning for on-campus celebrations for the graduating class of 2021, as well as those who graduated in 2020 without an on-campus ceremony this spring.

I shared our students’ disappointment last spring when we could not hold an on-campus ceremony and look forward to seeing the caps and gown return to the quad in May. I’ll be cheering along as they walk across the stage and receive their diploma.

As we begin to look toward the fall, I’m proud of two other developments. First, the college administration worked hard to reduce spending and propose a budget that will freeze tuition and fees for students in the 2021-2022 academic year.

This is no small feat, but very important as COVID has affected many students’ ability to pay for college.

Lastly, we anticipate a larger return to campus this fall. There have been several staff, faculty and classes on campus over the past year, and now the college is planning to bring a majority of classes back on campus.

The past year has brought countless challenges, disappointments and moments of despair, but it has also provided an opportunity to learn how to better work with each toward shared goals. As a trustee, I couldn’t be more proud of Rowan College at Burlington County - a true pillar of our community.

Jamie Martin is owner and vice president of Marketing and Communication for Strive Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation. She has been a member of the Rowan College Board of Trustees since 2017.

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