Delivery in the New Normal

Yes, pizza delivery. And Grub Hub. Amazon. Instacart. Freshly. Netflix. Zoom. Twitter. USPS.

New Delivery higher education2020 was the year of delivery. We pivoted and scrambled to change our lives, probably forever, to new ways of buying, selling, meeting, sharing, learning and teaching. We put on our sweatpants and hunkered down to master our new world. We turned limitations into opportunities. Some found different ways to do their work; others found new kinds of work. Or no work at all. Both parents and teachers labored to keep children and young adults on task and moving toward their learning goals. We found new independence and some unexpected interdependence. We all needed some kind of delivery to make our work and family lives seem normal – our new “normal.”

Even our language changed. Zoom became a verb as well as a noun, and it joined Kleenex and Scotch tape as an eponymous word for online meetings (or happy hours). Streaming services began to look alike, so friends just use “Netflix” when suggesting a new binge series. “Taking a class” means going to one’s room and closing the door.  “I have a meeting in five minutes” means turn down the music and be quiet. “Grandma is here” means gather around my phone for some FaceTime. The text message “where are you” means you forgot your online meeting. Some old meanings have returned: houses of worship are people, not buildings. Family time is every day. Drive-in movies are being resurrected for a new generation. And cooking means – um – real cooking. Every. Single. Day.

Video conference call remote leadership

From kindergarten through graduate school, educators have struggled with on-again/off-again remote classes, strained internet capacity and the digital divide. Parents have grappled with the same challenges. The quick pivot in the spring of 2020 was thought to be temporary. We just needed to get through the spring semester. We are now into the spring of 2021, and we still struggle with delivery of education to many students. The difficulties and disappointments that have surfaced during this year have brought into question the very nature of education and the social structure of schools and universities. We can deliver classes, but can we deliver social life and extracurricular activities? Can we deliver safety nets to students and families at risk? Can we deliver mental health support? Can we deliver help to parents who are unable to participate in the daily education of their children? Can we deliver millions of school lunches? Can we deliver a college education that genuinely brings together students from different backgrounds? Can we deliver our young adults into the work world successfully?

The winter holiday season stretched delivery to its limits, too. Gift-giving depended entirely upon delivery from online stores and delivery to distant family and friends. We worried about the delivery of financial help as stimulus checks slowly rolled out. We wondered if our ballots would be delivered to achieve our required democratic process.

The delivery of medical care is the real life and death issue that still hangs over us. The health system groaned under the weight of unbelievable pressure and wide-ranging shortages. There were many heroic stories and many hopeless moments. These were delivered to us on television news and by the voices of our families and neighbors. We weathered the lapses in delivery of prescriptions as the postal system melted down before our eyes. And somehow we had to deliver kindness and empathy for those who suffered losses – delivery without any hugs. Now that we can see a glimmer of light in the darkness, we still struggle with the delivery of vaccine. It’s not as easy as it looks.

New normal will never be what we knew as “same old, same old”

Man at computer using web conferencing software - higher education consulting firmLikewise, education outside the classroom is not as easy as it looks. Teachers and professors reached down deep and moved to a new teaching platform that most had not tried before. Students who were able to log on and participate found willing teachers who delivered for them. It CAN work. As vaccines become “normal,” what will become normal in education going forward? There is no going back to the way it was. We may soon wrestle this disease to its knees, but many questions remain about the way we educate our students. Do we value education more now? Can we continue to deliver in a hybrid model? What is the future of residential education? Can we solve the glaring digital inequities that were always there, whether we saw them or not? Will students accept more online delivery if faculty are concerned about safety in the classroom? What will happen to standardized testing? How will tuition-driven higher education meet the financial challenges ahead? Will teachers be more valued by society? Can our local communities shoulder the cost of infrastructure changes to make buildings safer? If education includes the interaction and socialization that happens outside class, how can we ensure that our students have those opportunities? Will student sports and social life resume in a familiar form? Who will make these decisions and will voters deliver some of the answers?

We would be foolish to return to the status quo when we have been given a big kick in the sweatpants to use our creativity to grow and improve. If we insist on doing nothing and refuse to change, the next virus could deliver even more chaos.

The team of focusEDU is available to the higher education community to ensure and help you deliver on the “new normal”.  Contact us.

About the Author:

Delsie Phillips offers more than thirty years in enrollment management leadership and higher education consulting. She joined focusEDU after serving as an independent consultant in admission and financial aid.

Delsie has significant experience working in enrollment management, including dean of admission and financial aid at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and vice president for enrollment management at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. While serving at Haverford, she established the college’s first international recruiting program. At Lynn and Haverford she modernized and reorganized the admission operation, adding new technology and aggressive marketing strategies for both undergraduate and graduate admission programs. Her experience also includes two years with the College Board’s higher education services unit in the Middle States Regional Office in Philadelphia, which was inspiration for assisting colleges through independent consulting.

In 2010, Delsie founded R/N/R Education Consulting, Inc. providing enrollment management services and interim leadership for diverse institutions including Spelman College in Georgia, Mid-America Nazarene University in Kansas, University of New Orleans in Louisiana and Newberry College in South Carolina. Her strengths are staff development and training, team building and inclusiveness, customer service, international recruitment, organizational and strategy review, CRM review and implementation, admission marketing, and interim leadership for enrollment departments. Her expertise is primarily in advancing the success of private colleges at all selectivity levels.

She has served on many professional association committees, including The College Board, European Council of International Schools (now CIS), Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling, The Common Application board, and has presented at major conferences and webinars throughout her career on subjects ranging from selective college admission, customer service, international recruiting, training for new admission deans, and marketing.

Delsie earned her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She later earned a Master of Arts in student personal services in higher education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Her first admission position was at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Currently Delsie lives in Delray Beach, Florida. She has a daughter and son-in-law who reside in New York City.

One Comment

  1. Herb Riley February 27, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    This is a very interesting read. What is next with the “new normal”?

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