Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean, interim president, LeMoyne-Owen College: “When the coronavirus permeated the country…we took every precaution to ensure our students, faculty and staff were informed and safe…. Although we were keeping them safe, we knew that the disruption would affect them in various ways. The real work began.” (Courtesy photo)

LOC’D IN WITH LOC: An inside view as Memphis’ only HBCU (historically black college and university) navigates through the coronavirus pandemic while maintaining its mission.

by Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean —

“If there were not a LeMoyne-Owen College, we’d have to create one.” That’s a quote from a longtime esteemed supporter of the college who knows firsthand of LOC’s legacy and impact on Memphis and, in turn, the country.

For more than 125 years, LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC), the only historically black college and university (HBCU) in Memphis, has been the place where young, bright students learn and train to become leaders in their communities and abroad.

Our student body provides intimate class sizes and a close-knit family atmosphere. Our students were a part of the Civil Rights Movement; they became mayors, judges, teachers and servant-leaders in their respective communities. More than a place to learn and grow, LOC is really home for our students. While we nurture our students, we must also prepare them to compete in an ever-changing workplace.

Prior to “safer at home” orders resulting from COVID-19, this academic year garnered several notable successes. Our Division of Business and Economic Development received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Students are learning competencies of the future as a part of our Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense and our Accelerated Studies for Adult Professionals (ASAP), which provides alternative study for adults who desire to complete their degree, is one of our largest programs.

Our University Engagement Call Center, which supports ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Hospital, gives students the opportunity to work while serving others globally. Most recently in February, we formed a partnership with Tech901 to launch a dual program for students to receive their college degree and tech certifications to catapult them into the working world.

When the coronavirus permeated the country, like other institutions of higher learning, we took every precaution to ensure our students, faculty and staff were informed and safe. On March 24, after an extended Spring Break, we took our instruction online and closed our physical space to abide by local and federal public health guidelines.

Although we were keeping them safe, we knew that the disruption would affect them in various ways. The real work began.

We are proud to share that the learning continues!

For the past two weeks, our students have been engaging in remote learning, an option that wasn’t available to them before the pandemic. Although the circumstances weren’t ideal, we were excited to work together to put sound structures and protocols in place to ensure students were able to continue their work. It’s made us approach teaching and learning in an innovative way to serve our students and community more comprehensively.

It’s our hope that our faculty are inspired to be even more creative to make their content come alive for students who are no longer in their physical classrooms and lecture halls. We also hope that students, who no longer see each other on a daily basis, become virtual partners and supports in their coursework. Just like many of us, they are also adapting to a new normal, but still driven to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves.

It is important to us that students still feel that sense of support and family even outside of the campus gates, especially during this uncertain time. It is not lost on us that as a result of the pandemic and campus closure, many of our students have specific needs that have heightened. Some may have housing and transportation issues or little to no access to the Internet to complete assignments. We are fortunate to have longtime community partners and alumni who have stepped up to help us fill gaps for our LOC family, locally and beyond.

Through this turbulent time, in this weekly column, we will take you on the journey of our students, faculty and staff as we all navigate together to ensure that every student in our LOC family finishes their semester strong or graduates. You’ll hear from various perspectives at the college and their experiences.

Despite the challenges presented to us, we must move forward, while continuing to do what we do best at LeMoyne-Owen College: provide stellar instruction, service and care to our students. We look forward to sharing with you.