I’ve been thinking a lot about earthquakes lately. And this isn’t another “what other kind of natural disaster does 2020 still have in store for us” way that I’m thinking about them. I’ve been fascinated by earthquakes ever since living through a couple relatively minor (yet very noticeable) ones as a child in Ohio. (Yes, Ohio.) I’ll never forget just before lunch one day watching the large glass window in our second story classroom vibrate in its frame for almost a minute, gradually gaining strength, wondering if or when it would shatter. I also remember the feeling of the earth itself pulsing below – Mother Nature reminding us who is really in charge.
When an earthquake occurs, stresses that have been slowly building up deep in the earth over decades or centuries are suddenly released. Once enough stress has built up, the release can be minor or quite dramatic. While no one really can predict when they will happen or what will trigger them, once the stress is released, the system reaches a new equilibrium – a new normal. It’s a fact of nature that these built up stresses need to be released every so often.
Many industries have seen changes and disruption in the past year, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing is “normal” right now, but I can see many industries returning relatively unchanged once the pandemic recedes (as they all do). Higher education, however, seems to be one of those industries that will need to adapt to a new equilibrium – maybe COVID-19 was the triggering event, but those stresses had been building up for years, hidden away, but lurking.
This all leads me to the tagline for this year’s conference: Leading Change Together. The past year has been full of challenges for all of us as we’ve been forced to react quickly by forces outside of our control. Higher Ed, however, like few other industries, has the capacity to recover, reinvent and move forward to a new post-earthquake equilibrium, stronger than before. We’ve by now adapted to much of the initial crisis on our campuses so hopefully we can now stop reacting to change. Now is the time to actively lead and direct that change for the better, and we will do it as a community working together.
In this season of thanks (in the US, at least). I’m thankful for the dedication of all of the advisory group members championing their communities throughout the year; for all of those that submitted session proposals to provide a robust program for this year’s conference; and for all of the members that make the HEUG the premiere worldwide networking community in our industry. Let’s hope for no more earthquakes – literal or figurative – for a long time to come (but I will admit that it made Western Civ class with Mr. Thornton interesting that one day all those years ago.)
On behalf of the conference team, we wish you and yours the best of health. And we will see you at Alliance in March. Virtually.