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Reflecting on the Past, but Looking Forward to the Future….

Guest blog by Dr. Ryan Tipton, Provost and Dean of the College of Business Administration

With commencement complete, it’s important to reflect upon the preceding year in consideration of all recognized accomplishments.  On Saturday, we celebrated the successes of our students as they prepare for a new chapter in life, and that’s always exciting.  Having attended (and enjoyed) the virtual gatherings and ceremonies, I would also like to recognize one very important accomplishment of the entire USW community.  During the 2020-2021 academic year, everyone in the USW family successfully demonstrated an unwavering commitment to protecting the well-being of one another.  From protecting each other’s health (COVID) to securing sensitive data (IT), time and again, USW students, faculty and staff exhibited servant leadership principles in their actions.  Admittedly, servant leadership can often be “inconvenient,” but the ability to help others is well worth the effort.  For me personally, it is a privilege to see that our campus community routinely opts for the course of action that aligns with the university mission of servant leadership.

At this time last year, I was actively reassuring my (then) 15-year old daughter Rylee that I would keep her safe from COVID.  Rylee has Angelman Syndrome and is non-speaking, so she uses a language board (or device) to communicate.  In the early stages of the COVID pandemic, her greatest fear was that she would get sick and be isolated from everyone without a way to communicate with doctors, nurses, etc.  She has anxiously awaited the day that she would turn 16, not to have a lavish party or receive fancy gifts.  In fact, the only thing Rylee wanted for her birthday was to get vaccinated.  For the previous 12 months, she hadn’t been in a store or restaurant.  She hadn’t been around friends or family.  Unable to wear a mask, she longed for the freedom to be inconvenienced.  Fortunately, the outstanding work of our local healthcare providers has made that possible.  She turned 16 on Sunday and had her first vaccine dose by Wednesday.  She is looking forward to June 10th, which according to the new CDC guidelines, is the date that she can be around others both outdoors and indoors (without a mask).  I have asked her and her mother (Dr. Keisha Tipton) to describe what it means to them to be part of a campus community that is so dedicated to the well-being of others. 

In Rylee’s words –

Imagine a pandemic starting and seeing your friends being taken away in an ambulance without their parents. It was scary because me and my friends are non-speakers. We have Angelman syndrome, which means we need 24/7 care. I became afraid that I would be taken away from my Mom and Dad or that they would get sick. I spent a whole year waiting for hope. For the past year and two months, we have made some big changes to how we live. My Mom and Dad taught me about Covid-19 and how we could be safe. I know staying 6 feet away and wearing a mask isn’t difficult for most people, but I can’t wear a mask because of my Sensory Processing Disorder. I wish I could wear a mask, though, because I would. I want to keep myself and everyone around me safe, so I haven’t been around people during the pandemic. However, I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and I didn’t have any side effects. I can’t wait to get my 2nd dose so I can travel to Florida and be around people again! Thank you, Nor-Lea Hospital!

In Keisha’s words –

I never thought I’d be excited for our family to receive a vaccine, but words cannot describe my feelings when I learned of the vaccine’s efficacy being 95 percent. This was the news we had hoped for, and we were ecstatic that our family of three would be given the opportunity to receive the vaccine this year. Thanks to David Shaw and all of the staff at Nor-Lea Hospital, my husband and I received our first dose on January 20th, which happened to be Inauguration Day. It was a day filled with relief and hope for the future. Our daughter, Rylee, became eligible for the vaccine on May 2nd as she turned 16 years old. The personnel at Nor-Lea scheduled her first dose on May 5th, and they went above and beyond to accommodate her needs. We are incredibly grateful to the healthcare workers at Nor-Lea Hospital, as they work diligently to keep our community safe and healthy.