Pivoting for pandemic, Criswell College sees divine timing

Dallas  COVID-19 has impacted the entire world, and higher education is not exempt. At Criswell College, though, there are some indicators that God has prepared them for these days. 

Just before stay-at-home orders impacted Dallas County and the state of Texas shortly after, the college completed its accreditation reaffirmation—something all accredited schools must do every 10 years. When asked about the pandemic’s effect on the campus, Christopher Graham, vice president for academic affairs, noted what he believes was providential timing.

“The successful visit of the SACSCOC on-site committee with no recommendations in early March allowed us to focus fully on the emerging situation. God used the accolades received during that visit to confirm the mission of the college and the excellence with which the college carries out all of its operations in support of that mission.”

Like so many others, the college had to adjust in a very short time in order to comply with changing regulations, provide a safe environment for staff, and care for students who were no longer able to come to campus. Graham said that everyone’s response was even more remarkable than the complexities of the administrative work.

“When we moved from face-to-face to distance learning in the spring, students both witnessed the resilience of their instructors in completing the task at hand and manifested that resilience themselves as they completed the semester fully engaged. We didn’t have a single member of the class of 2020 who was derailed by the unexpected end of the semester. Returning students are already registering and enrolling to continue their fall courses.”

Among students nationwide, some worry about the safety of returning to campuses in the fall; others are concerned that campuses won’t reopen. Criswell College President Barry Creamer observed that the college is planning to offer on-campus classes this fall, but will also accommodate students who are unable to attend for COVID-19-related reasons.

“Like so many other schools, we have been vigilant not only to require masks but also to reassess our cleaning procedures and ensure that surfaces are cleaned regularly and thoroughly, both throughout the day and each night. But additionally, we formed a specially-tasked campus safety committee at the beginning of the outbreak to address issues related to COVID-19, and we give ourselves a rating at the end of each week to determine how well we are complying with these strict health and safety guidelines. We will have a safe campus and classroom environment for our staff and faculty as well as our students.”

Creamer also pointed out that the college has been blessed to maintain every staff and faculty member’s employment throughout the crisis, something the administration committed to from the beginning. Additionally, though, Creamer observed how the entire crisis has afforded staff, faculty, and students occasion to model the college’s graduate profile—the aim of preparing graduates to be ambassadors, cultivators, peacemakers, problem-solvers and professionals.

Similarly, Graham pointed out that challenges like working and studying from home, changing long-time routines and transitioning to courses offered remotely actually afforded staff and faculty the opportunity to demonstrate the college’s Christian mission. 

“Criswell College faculty and staff are in in a position to capitalize on the type of learning that can occur under adverse conditions. The inconveniences and annoyances required by staff, faculty and students to keep others physically safe is an opportunity to learn how to manifest the love and high regard we have for others through acts of humility and patience both inside and outside the classroom.”

“In short,” Creamer said, “being in the heart of a city itself unsettled by the current situation affords our students a unique opportunity to develop into exactly the leaders so desperately needed by this culture.”   

TEXAN Correspondent
Rob Collingsworth
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