New Mexico State University system leaders have created a COVID-19 Rapid Response Team tasked with leading the university through the phased return of faculty, staff and students this fall.
Chancellor Dan Arvizu and President John Floros also announced that NMSU’s vice chancellor and strategic chief financial officer, Ruth A. Johnston, will lead the team as chief COVID-19 officer for the NMSU system.
Arvizu said Johnston will collaborate with campus units to prepare for the return of roughly 25,000 students to NMSU’s campuses in August.
Floros noted that the complexity of the NMSU system, with campuses and offices all over New Mexico, necessitates using a broad team with diverse expertise.
“Dr. Johnston is already involving people at all levels across our university system to make sure we see problems and solutions from all angles,” Floros said. “We’re leveraging the wealth of expertise throughout our system, including health care providers, epidemiologists, virologists, facilities experts, and managers.”
The rapid response team is currently assessing plans for the phased return to on-campus operations and instruction. In addition, working groups are targeting specific focus areas. They will address modifications needed for classrooms, research, human resource practices, safety protocols and business operations, and act quickly to address them.
“Safety and health are absolutely paramount in everything that we do, so to reduce the spread of this virus, we have to adapt our physical, our technological and our business processes,” Johnston said. “Our entire infrastructure of how we support our core missions has to be looked at and altered, so we’ve got to be nimble and responsive.”
Johnston acknowledged that for every university system across the nation, NMSU included, the timeline to prepare for the fall semester is short and the urgency is high.
“We will stay true to our strategic plan and our goals of education, research and creative activity, and outreach and service – all aimed at student success and social mobility,” she said. “We’ll also look all over the United States to see the kinds of things that others are doing, and adapt them or create our own ways of being bold and shaping our future.”
Johnston said navigating that transition successfully will require everyone from students to campus leaders to be ready to collaborate and adapt to a changing landscape.
“We’re all in this together because we’re all Aggies, and we want the best for our faculty, our staff and our students as we return to campus in August,” she said.
Author: Amanda Bradford – NMSU
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