In light of these uncertain and disconcerting times, I find it helpful to focus on our purpose and how our work impacts the mission and people of Vanderbilt. Recently, we have had to step up and rise to the occasion to meet this global public health crisis head on. I continue to be struck by the compassion, fortitude and teamwork that our division continues to display each day.
The Vanderbilt Board of Trust met remotely, via Zoom, a couple weeks ago for our annual April meeting, and it was an interesting experience to say the least. I was asked to give a report on campus operations and the work of our division, and in turn, the Board of Trust offered their sincere thanks for the efforts that we continue to undertake. I thought it would be a nice opportunity for me to share with all of you some of the highlights I presented to the Board of Trust.
Our divisional work
Our division has been deeply involved, collaborating closely with areas across the university in a proactive manner. Our Public Safety, Facilities and People and Business Services teams are maintaining an operational calendar that is reviewed regularly in morning and afternoon calls in close collaboration with Academic Affairs, Housing, General Counsel and others. This complicated and extensive calendar touches on everything from student housing consolidation to remote work plans to safety and security efforts.
Our Public Safety team has put forth a heroic effort during this pandemic. Positions were added for Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) at various locations 24/7, and on-call medical transportation for on-campus residents was introduced. Public Safety has increased their patrols of campus in order to ensure it remains safe and secure for students and staff remaining on campus. In addition, Public Safety and Facilities have worked together to implement building security protocols as a part of these efforts.
The Facilities team took a lead role, in conjunction with Housing, in the consolidation of students who remained on campus. As a part of this process, the Housing and Operations teams worked closely to pack student belongings left behind and store them for future shipping or pick-up. By consolidating students and belongings, we will be able to offer additional residence halls as a housing option for medical staff if needed in the future. While our goal is to be a good partner to VUMC, consolidating our students on campus also enhances their safety and security and allows us to better support them. Students were assigned to spaces where they have their own room and bathroom, which will help us continue to combat the spread of COVID-19. This was a complicated process and required true teamwork.
Campus Dining continues to provide meals to the campus community, and in particular, students who remain on campus and residential faculty. They are also providing meals to staff who remain on campus, which has been a huge morale boost for our divisional team. Meals are provided adhering to social distancing protocols and Campus Dining also continues to offer nutritional services to off-campus residents as a way to support students no longer on campus.
Vanderbilt Child and Family Centers remain open in a limited capacity to provide backup care for children of VUMC employees, as well as for children of employees who meet the essential workers criteria as part of the Mayor’s Safer at Home Order. The VCFC team has also put together a variety of resources that I have outlined below.
I am very proud of these and other staff who have gone above and beyond in their duties over the last several weeks to provide support for the people at Vanderbilt and ensure that the university continues to operate smoothly in this unprecedented time.
It is important to note that these efforts are not only important to the mission of the university, but, in many cases, support the important and heroic efforts taking place at VUMC. The Medical Center is on the front-lines of this pandemic, and our goal is to collectively support their efforts as “One Vanderbilt.”
As Interim Chancellor Wente shared in her Open Mind column, VUMC persists in its excellence in research, care and service to the community – working to develop antibody treatments and a vaccine for the virus, delivering care to COVID-19 patients, providing education to the Middle Tennessee community and beyond about the virus and how to stay healthy and safe, and so much more.
These efforts are also taking place at the university, beyond our division. For instance, the Chemistry Department worked to produce hand sanitizer, and VU engineers and VUMC doctors are teaming up for open-source ventilator design.
Much of what I have highlighted thus far focuses on on-campus efforts, and I know much work continues off campus as well. I plan to continue to highlight the great efforts of staff in our division, working both remotely and on-campus, in future newsletters.
Resources for you
Before closing, however, I would like to point you to a few resources that exist. Parents in our division may be experiencing the joys and challenges of working from home with children. The Vanderbilt and Child Family Center has put together a list of resources that includes links to interactive activities for families and caregivers, local virtual experiences for children to engage with, information on state and local resources, links to in-home care services and guides for how to talk with children about COVID-19. If you have not already, check out the Vanderbilt-themed activity pages that VU Communications developed in partnership with The Acorn School.
In addition, Human Resources has compiled a list of sites that offer online educational courses, many of which are complimentary, that staff can access in order to deepen their knowledge of a particular topic or field or to learn a new skill.
As always, you can visit Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 website for the latest news and guidance, and I encourage you to check out this valuable resource regularly.
Our work in the Division of Administration is critical to the operation of the university, and we must continue to provide the same excellent care, service and innovation as we would at any other time. I am very grateful to each and every one of you as you navigate this new normal for yourself and your families, and remain committed to supporting the university. Please keep sharing your stories, pictures and videos that capture the undaunted spirit and work ethic of our team to my office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will share those stories in the future.
Again, thank you for your continued dedication and support for the wonderful people and work that our university carries out.
Vice Chancellor for Administration