As the world responds to halt the spread of the ever-changing, global pandemic COVID-19, Kentucky State University remains committed to supporting our entire campus community while executing appropriate actions and precautions to ensure safety. Whether you are learning, teaching, or working from home, a leading voice of calm and reassurance has been that of our eighteenth President M. Christopher Brown II.
We asked President Brown to share some of his experiences as he’s led Kentucky State through these unprecedented times.
In general, what have the last several days been like for you as the President of Kentucky State University?
President Brown: I have never been more excited about the future of Kentucky State University. COVID-19 has presented the campus, nation, and world with unprecedented challenges to navigate. At every turn, the students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders of Kentucky State have been responsive and resilient. Faculty were able to flip academic instructional delivery in one week and staff are responding with creative approaches to keeping students and alumni engaged. Although the national health climate is tenuous, the Thorobred Nation is discovering innovations on a daily basis.
You’ve held many leadership positions in higher education throughout your career. Has anything else you’ve encountered come remotely close to what we’re experiencing now with COVID-19?
President Brown: Over my administrative career, I have encountered SARS, Zika, Avian Flu, Swine Flu, Ebola, H1N1, Hurricane Isabel, Hurricane Katrina, and countless tornadoes and floods, but I have never experienced a context like the COVID-19 dynamic. The current pandemic is requiring all of us to utilize the core principles of crisis management, strategic planning, and accelerated innovation. In the days and weeks ahead, we will make some excellent and some less-than-ideal decisions; however, we must keep the safety, sanity, and security of all of our constituents top of mind.
What has been the greatest challenge about this scenario for you? What do you feel like you’ve handled the best since this began?
President Brown: The greatest challenge has been encouraging others to accept the uncertainty of time and the need for all of us to wait patiently for this crisis to pass. There is a desire to announce grand schemes and bold visions today that are needed for future dates and times. I prefer slow, steady, deliberate, and judicious steps. There is no need to declare in March ambitions or intentions for June given the complex and rapidly changing realities we are encountering. We must plan and strategize for the future while only implementing for the present. To date, my best decision has been ensuring constant communication with the Kentucky State University Emergency Management Team (EVP Douglas Allen, SVP Clara Stamps, Acting Provost Beverly Schneller, Director Tymon Graham, and myself) and regular engagement with the Board of Regents and the Governor’s staff. I have kept the train on the tracks and my eyes on the rails. Although I am engaged with many others, relying on the strength and counsel of my team has been immeasurable.
Any wise words for Thorobreds (students, faculty, staff and alumni) during this unprecedented time?
President Brown: My best advice to the Thorobred Nation is to be obedient to the guidance of the CDC and state government officials. Everyone must self-quarantine, sanitize, and stay vigilant. It is critical to stay busy and active by reading, walking, listening to music, writing, and being tempered in the volume and sources of news we intake. The human mind is extremely powerful – and unbridled can create angst and unrest. Generations before us have endured enslavement, world wars, atomic cataclysms, natural disasters, and nuclear fallout. We can survive this.
Is there anything you’d like to add that we may have not asked?
President Brown: If anyone has questions, advice, or recommendations for how we can continue to move #KSUForward during these tedious times, they should never hesitate to speak up and be heard. Some of our best achievements and innovations have been spurred by the insights of our alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends.
In closing, President Brown asked all @KyStateU Thorobreds and stakeholders in a tweet on Thursday, March 19 to monitor official Kentucky State email and social media accounts, and monitor KYSU.EDU/COVID19 as the definitive resource for official news and up-to-date information on the COVID-19 pandemic.