College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | Reconnection important as CR continues COVID recovery

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, January 11, 2024 - 1:30pm

As I write this article, I am reminded that it was only a short time ago that we held New Year’s celebrations socially distanced from one another. These dark and short winter days underscore for me how the COVID lockdown restrictions affected both our personal and professional relationships in ways we could not have imagined before the pandemic.

It is clear to me that we have not yet fully recovered from the COVID lockdowns. Although some time has passed since the restrictions were lifted, College of the Redwoods experienced lasting, palpable, and subtle changes that still reverberate throughout the institution. While Zoom allowed us to continue the business of the college, the lack of everyday conversations in corridors or physical meeting spaces strengthened already existing silos and resulted in a disconnect among friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

I am not a person to make personal New Year’s resolutions since I rarely follow through with them. However, this year, I am making some institutional New Year’s resolutions that I hope will help us as we continue to rebuild and fortify connections between my colleagues and the communities we serve. I would like to invite my fellow professionals at College of the Redwoods to join me in the following goals for the new year.

I would like all CR’s employees to commit to making time to reconnect with the people they miss speaking with. From my perspective, that means connecting with faculty, staff, and students. I will encourage all my colleagues to make a list of people they want to reestablish a relationship with, and in the new year reach out to them.

As educators, we know how important it is to be open-minded and inquisitive. It has become clear how much more work we all must do to fully live the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I would like CR to work hard to make our institution anti-racist and to ensure an improved experience for everyone in our community. That means getting outside our comfort zones and gaining new perspectives. That might mean engaging in conversations with people outside of our normal community, or reading books or articles that champion viewpoints different from our own.

All too often, we slip into our habits and do not really get to know the communities around us. I would like us to break out of our tunnel vision. For me, as a college president, it means deepening CR’s involvement with local high schools, because we know that creating seamless transitions and pathways for students is essential for their success. Because college-educated students are the workforce of the future, it means talking to employers and understanding their needs. In short, I want to make sure CR actively stays engaged with the people around us.

Even through personal isolation, the pandemic served as a reminder that the world is profoundly interconnected. As we move into another election cycle — an election cycle that will be underscored by divisive political rhetoric — it is going to be important that we move beyond our barriers and seek to understand other perspectives. I would like CR to remain committed to the ideal of the free expression of ideas, provide forums for healthy debate of those ideas, and make CR employees and students, as well as our community members, feel safe to explore different perspectives.

The post-pandemic years have been emotionally draining for all of us. We need to take time to look out for one another and to authentically listen to each other’s thoughts and concerns. I want all my colleagues to foster an environment of support, understanding, and compassion.

As we move into 2024, I could not be prouder of our faculty, staff, managers and trustees for their commitment and resourcefulness; our students for their positive attitudes and resilience; and our community for their steadfast support. I firmly believe that College of the Redwoods is an incredible institution, and I am full of optimism for the future.

Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.