A message from Dean Laurie Elish-Piper

Dear COE Colleagues:

Laurie Elish-Piper and Lucy
Laurie Elish-Piper and Lucy

As I ended my second full week of working from home, I feel like I’m living this new meme: “For those who have lost track, today is Blursday the Fortyteenth of Maprilay.”

I remain incredibly proud of our college and how we all are working hard to support our students as we focus efforts to #keepteaching and #keeplearning.

Yet I’ve heard that some of our faculty and instructors are understandably struggling with how to structure expectations for their coursework for the remainder of the semester.

Please allow me to share some advice I gave last week during a senate leadership discussion. My suggestion was to evaluate requirements with the lens of identifying what is truly essential and enduring.

By essential, I mean that it is absolutely necessary to make forward progress. By enduring, I mean that it will continue to be referenced well beyond this course.

Many of our students are struggling right now – really struggling – with balancing multiple demands and priorities. Here are just a few of the stories I’ve heard this past week that reinforce our focus on being as kind, understanding and flexible as possible.

  • A tornado touched down 2 miles from one of our student’s homes, requiring a generator to provide electricity.
  • The father of another of our students lost his job; the mother only will be paid through April.
  • Many students are now sharing a single household Wi-Fi account with siblings and parents, making service intermittent and making it difficult to join synchronous course meetings.
  • Some students are unable to work effectively in virtual groups; one student reports feeling bullied by classmates.
  • Some graduate students report they are struggling to balance multiple priorities of learning to teach their K-12 students online, manage their own children’s e-learning, and complete their NIU courses online.
  • Overwhelmed students are dropping classes due to stress and anxiety.
  • Students are reporting food insecurity.

My goal is not to be depressing, but to report that this is a part of our current reality. All of these external factors will undoubtedly impact our students’ ability to focus effectively on coursework or to meet firm deadlines. Our focus is clearly on student success, especially in these challenging times, so thank you for all you are doing to support and encourage our students.

If you find that your students are experiencing difficulties, and you are unsure of how to assist them, please contact David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, or David Snow, director of Student Services, for guidance and available resources.

Fortunately, many students are succeeding at this time. We don’t want to lose sight of that, something to highlight and celebrate.

You’ll read about three of them in today’s Ed News as they provide eLearning through student-teaching and tutoring in our virtual world. If you have student-teachers, faculty members, instructors or alumni you’d like to highlight, please encourage them to fill out our Educators in Action form.

My hope for each of you is that you are staying healthy and safe during this time and finding some hidden joys from working remotely.

One of mine is getting to know our newly adopted cat, Lucy, who joined my husband and me, along with our cat, Lyla, last weekend. She lived in a shelter for 8 months so we are thrilled to be able to provide her with her very own forever home. She’s making routine appearances on my Zoom calls and providing some much-needed comic relief and comfort.

Thanks again for all you do. I am so grateful to work with such wonderful colleagues.

My best,


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