The outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) calls for leaders who can problem solve, said President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD, during a virtual community forum held Friday afternoon.
“We have a responsibility to solve problems and be leaders. That’s why when we have a crisis, we come together so quickly. This institution was built for this kind of problem. We will prove to be some of the great problem solvers of this time,” he said.
Some 650 students, faculty, and staff joined the forum, broadcast via WebEx, to hear updates on and ask questions about the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In these difficult and unsettling times, it is so important that we stay together even if we are physically apart,” said Kelly Lynch, chief of staff and vice president of strategic initiatives, who moderated the forum.
Spinelli and Lynch were joined by Lawrence P. Ward, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, and Ken Matsuno, dean of faculty.
“People believe in this community. If I had to be somewhere else, I don’t think I would feel as strong or as optimistic as I feel being a part of Babson,” Ward said. “We will absolutely get through these times and be a more innovative, and stronger, institution.”
The College has received an outpouring of support from its alumni network, says Lynch. Alumni have made contributions to the student emergency fund and offered to host students in need.
“You join a network of 40,000 global entrepreneurs,” Lynch said. “They want to help. Look for opportunities to rely on them on your journey.”
According to Spinelli, College leadership’s decisions in response to the COVID-19 crisis have been grounded in two imperatives: to protect the health and safety of the Babson community, and to maintain academic continuity.
During the one-hour forum, Spinelli, Ward, and Matusno shared updates on actions the College has taken to ensure those imperatives are met. Leadership recently announced the postponement of in-person Commencement ceremonies; undergraduates were given a pass/fail option for spring semester courses; and some 1,900 students moved off campus. The College’s first day of fully online course offerings was this past Monday.
The group answered viewer-submitted questions and reflected on the impact this global health pandemic is having on the Babson community. Questions ranged from how to stay connected with Babson’s resources in an online environment, to inquiries about the College’s financial state, and impacts on the strategic plan.
The Mission Has Not Changed
Despite the unprecedented disruption of the pandemic, Babson’s mission to change business education has not changed, said Spinelli.
“I am confident that we will emerge from the coronavirus outbreak stronger as an institution of higher learning and as a community of caring friends,” said Spinelli. “This community is ready to solve big problems.”
Dean of Faculty Ken Matsuno characterized the moment as a “great opportunity,” and said he has been encouraged and inspired by what he has already seen.
“When we are confronted with a challenge, we take a deep breath, then start to work,” Matsuno said. “That is the culture of Babson.”
“It’s our time to lead,” said Spinelli. “I am hopeful for the future and confident in Babson.”