Deepening Connection in a Time of Distancing

Chris Long
4 min readMay 1, 2020
Michigan Wildflowers, photo by author.

As this disquieting semester comes to a close, it’s appropriate to pause for a moment to reflect on the distance we have traveled and the path that lies ahead.

Over the past five years, we in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University have made intentional efforts to identify the core values that shape our work. In conversations within units across the College, faculty and staff have engaged in a process of self-reflective dialogue about what we value as individuals and as a group.

Trust grows in such conversations. Values orient us when we are uncertain, empower us when we are hesitant, and draw us together when we are apart.

Let us return, then, to the values that emerged from the conversations we’ve had across the College of Arts & Letters:

The Values of the College of Arts & Letters

The power of values lies in the courage we have to enact them.

The ingenuity and creativity of leaders across the College — chairs, directors, faculty, staff, and students — in accomplishing the shift to remote education with such generosity and grace was a remarkable achievement. Faculty adjusted their plans, reached out with care and understanding to students, developed innovative ways to meet learning objectives, and took joy in celebrating student accomplishments across the College, including in writing, storytelling, and performance. Staff quickly established a cadence of regular check-ins, supported one another in adopting new technologies, and nurtured connection and community online through “Theme Thursdays” and “Fun Fridays” as they focused on mindfulness practices, explored Strengths Finder, and engaged with the special guests they invited to join them.

In virtual classrooms, one-on-one conversations, and podcasts, students have wrestled with uncertainty, settled into home life and new routines, and juggled the challenges of time management, weak wi-fi, and the absence of private spaces for uninterrupted work. They have also put moving words to this difficult experience and found innovative ways to respond to performances canceled, exhibitions without visitors, screenings deferred, and…

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Chris Long

MSU Foundation Professor, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters and of the MSU Honors College; Co-Founder of @PubPhilJ; Co-PI of @HuMetricsHSS.