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No Barriers Podcast Episode 62: CMC Responds with Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser



Since 2013, Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser has served as President and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, a public degree-granting institution with eleven campuses serving 12,000 square miles of the central Rocky Mountains. Dr. Hauser has held leadership roles at the Kauffman Foundation, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Daniels Fund. While at Daniels, she was a loaned executive advising Denver’s mayor on a citywide college scholarship program and assisting the Metro Denver Sports Commission on an initiative to attract top-tier sporting events, including the Olympic Games. An outdoorswoman and athlete, Dr. Hauser has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro and climbed to the Mt. Everest base camp just to name a few of her non-academic accomplishments

Additional Resources:

More information on CMC Responds

Dr. Hauser’s Statement Regarding COVID-19

Inside Higher Ed Article by Jamie Merisotis and Carrie Besnette Hauser

Follow Dr. Hauser on Twitter: 

» Hear an extended version of our interview with Carrie here


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Episode Transcript

Carrie: We have had to be more in tune to what students need, and their learning styles, and what works, and what doesn't, and if we can really analyze that, um, and take the very, very best of what we've done, with what we used to do, and put those things together, I mean, I think it would be a really remarkable sort of legacy of something that has been really challenging.

Eric W: It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Eric Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barrier's life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means, and part of the equation is diving into the learning process, and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way, and that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in, in the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward is what we call no barriers.

Dave S: In today's conversation, we'll explore how COVID-19 is impacting our universities. We'll speak with Dr.

Carrie:, who has served as president, and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, a public degree granting institution, with 11 campuses serving 20,000 students in the central Rocky Mountains. Hauser has held leadership roles at the American Council on Education, board of directors, Kauffman Foundation, the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Daniels Fund. While at Daniels, she was a [inaudible] executive advising Denver's mayor on a citywide college scholarship program, and assisting the Metro Denver Sports Commission on an initiative to attract top tier sporting events, including the Olympic games. An outdoors woman and athlete, Hauser has summited Mount Kilimanjaro and climbed the Everest Base Camp. Enjoy the conversation.

Dave S: Welcome to our weekly, No Barriers Podcast series, where we continue to explore this extraordinary moment in our lives while remaining true to the theme that we've always focused on, which is, what's within you is stronger than what's in your way. Special, thanks to Prudential and Wells Fargo for their generous support of this podcast series.

Eric W: Carrie and I we've, uh, we have a long history. I first met her husband, Jeff, and we climbed Kilimanjaro together, and so we've been friends for a long time, and, uh, run marathons, and things together, and then got to know, Carrie, then you became the president of Colorado Mountain College. We've skied together, we've climbed a beautiful peak in Colorado, Mount Sneffles together, so it's been really great getting to know you, and you're an outstanding leader, so we thought this is a, a podcast where we really like to dive in, and dissect leadership, and the struggles that people have had, and, and you as the president of the CMC have such a unique role, and maybe I'll just start there. The CMC has a real unique mission, and charter than a lot of the schools I've visited. Can you explain that to folks?

Carrie: Sure, yeah, I think that's pretty relevant. Um, so Colorado moun- Mountain college is a relatively young institution. We're about 55 years old, 55 years young, whichever way you put it, and, uh, you know, [inaudible] 60 years ago, there were a group of small, you know, some r- ranchers, and others in these mountain towns that sort of said to themselves, “Hey, you know, why don't we start a college? Because, if we don't do it ourselves, there will not be post secondary opportunities in these mountain communities.” It's a really remarkable story, um, because our communities invest in us, and our job is to make sure that we deliver back to those communities, so it won't surprise you that our programs are really baked into these mountain communities. You know, we do things that no other institution in the country does.

Carrie: We have a ski and snowboard design program. We have a ski area operations program. We have an av- the only avalanche science program in the country, and of course, we train all the teachers, and the nurses, um, and they EMTs, and business leaders, and people that make these mountain communities run. Our role in these communities, given what's happening in our world, both with a pandemic, and a social unrest, it has just underscored our, our vision and mission. We're really, really proud about what we do.

Eric W: Well, let me, let's dive into that, because that, I mean, that's kind of m- maybe like one of the elephants in the room, right? There is l- we'll talk about COVID later, because we can't, not talk about that, but the social unrest, so like, I was thinking about the CMC, it just seems like an incredibly diverse community, right? So, you have the ranchers, the more conservative folks, the more liberal folks, the economic, uh, the political differences, the ethnic differences. How the heck do you bring that all together into one community?

Carrie: As we see sort of the civil unrest, I think what we're seeing is, you know, I kind of see that we're f- dealing with two pandemics, in some ways. We're dealing with a public health pandemic and we're dealing with a, what I would call a pandemic that sits under the surface a lot of the time, and that is systemic inequity. That is health disparities. There're all the things that are sort of coming up to the surface right now, and what we're seeing play out in our communities, in our cities, um, in our urban centers, um, across the country, so the more that we can facilitate a dialogue, and the more that everyone knows, regardless of their religious background, their political affiliation, you know, what they do for a living, and, and these mountain towns run from very extreme red, to very extreme blue, and everything in between. It's kind of who we are.

Carrie: And so, at our core, we're a bit of everything, and therefore, we try to make sure that everyone, um, is welcome, and we have those dialogues, and we open up discussions for all types of viewpoints. Um, and we make sure that, you know, we're a place just as when we were founded, that is an open door, and that no one is excluded, and so, we're doubling down on that again. I mean, that is where we feel like we can, um, activate. I'm toggling a little bit, Eric, between some of the topics, but, you know, in response to COVID we said, what can we do as an institution? What can we do to, to, to, to bolster these communities where people are leaving? How can we keep people here? All these lift ops, and restaurant workers, and hospitality, and seasonal folks, and everybody, how can we keep them here, keep them engaged, keep them to connected to something that's meaningful?

Carrie: So, we essentially said no costs for summer enrollment. [inaudible] for no costs. We call it CMC Responds. You can find information about that. We can certainly post the link, and we said, “If you're one of our local students from one of our local communities, if you were a student with us in the spring, and your life was disrupted by COVID, obviously, we had to go in, completely to an online virtual framework. If you are anywhere in our sort of in-district, or if you were disrupted, imp- if you were disrupted in your work, and found yourself out of work, you can come to the college at no costs.” Clearly we're all online right now for the summer, but we're up 66%, and most of those are our local students. Most of them are taking more classes.

Carrie: We've essentially kind of said, “Okay, you're out of work. We can connect you to financial aid resources. We can connect you to other things that can keep you here, and once the economy comes back, you will be better skilled. You'll go back to a job with, you know, with, you know, more to offer, you know, if we can be helpful, and it's a place where anybody has access to improve their lives, their training, whatever it is.” Hopefully, we're an antidote to what is happening, uh, on a more global stage.

Eric W: Well, Carrie, in addition to being the president of CMC, you sit on the board of directors of the American Council on Education, and so, tell us a little bit about how you see college changing, perhaps forever as a result of what, what's happening right now with COVID.

Carrie: There're going to be institutions that will not survive this, and they were already, that was already the case across the country, because we have fewer high school graduates, just demographically. That is, um, something that we're seeing over the next decade or two, so that traditional college going student, which is really not traditional anymore, I would say, that's really a very, very small minority of who goes to college in this country, but the notion of college still often, our default is, treeline campuses. I go to an institution, I live in a residence hall, I'm in a fraternity and sorority, and I'll tell you, that's probably one in six, one in seven, maybe one in eight, um, of, of a student that experiences that kind of a college experience anymore. More often they're adults. They have their own children. They're coming back for retraining, they're students of color, they're first generation. That's the demographic that's in the pipeline that are, that become college students in whatever way, shape or form that takes.

Carrie: And so, to me, what changes higher education is, this is sort of the big disruptor, just like it is for anything else. Airline travel, major, big events. You know, all the things that are really re- you know, the model is built on something that, that may not survive COVID-19, or our behaviors will change so drastically that those models will be so dated that they really won't be relevant anymore, so I anticipate one person's view, certainly, not the college's position, but certainly my view that, that higher education will change really dramatically, and particularly for, I would call smaller liberal arts, private institutions, lots of them sprinkled around the Midwest. Those that are built on a, a model that's, you know, was already becoming dated. This is really going to be sort of a kickstart to something that's going to be really different.

Carrie: So, I'm hopeful that institutions that are really responsive to, and guide their decisions by what is good for students. You know, people ask me, “What keeps you up at night right now, given this environment?” And, what keeps me up most is students that are at the greatest risk of having to drop out or leaving, um, who just finally got a bite into being a college student, and, and we're, we're not erasing, but we're making progress around achievement gaps, and we're making some equity gains. One of my greatest concern is we're going to slide back really drastically, and the students who've always been at risk, and we've been trying to get in the door, and we've been trying to get them to our institutions, and trying to get them to graduation. They're going to be the ones that are going to, um, suffer the most in this, and so, um, I'm hopeful that, that's something that doesn't go by the wayside, and .

Eric W: 'Cause they're already isolated anyway, right? Like-

Carrie: Well [crosstalk]

Eric W: ... isolated, maybe.

Carrie: Sure.

Eric W: Um, but more fragmented, you know what I mean? So, they're at greater risk. [inaudible] my friend's starting his daughter on, on, uh, online education. He's like, “We don't even own a computer.” 'Cause, you know, he's economically challenged guy, and, uh, so...

Carrie: [inaudible] language barriers, you have ADA, I mean, certainly relevant to this conversation. You know, I'm sitting in a, in a room with, you know, my senior team, a couple of them right now, 'cause we're able to bring some more folks back. We're all sitting in masks, we're all socially distanced, but I sit there, and I think about somebody that, um, has, uh, you know, hear, is hearing impaired, but really needs the benefit of somebody's mouth, and those facial expressions, and you know, language, and we have so many s- you know, English, second language, um, students and families. Many of our students and families that go home to pretty dense family situations, and, um, or they travel a great distances to, to get to work, and, or they're on a bus, or they're r- rely on, you know, public transit, and that doesn't enable a social distancing situation, so yeah, it's, it's every layer of the onion you peel back, there's more to it. Uh, and uh, the more conscious we can be about who will suffer the most, really important.

Eric W: Do you think that like some things will last maybe a lot longer? Like, for instance, you know how like, uh, you know, it seems like companies keep merging, and getting bigger, and is, is education, I wonder, going to do something similar?

Carrie: I will say that COVID-19 did so far more than anything else. We all had to go online in a matter of about two weeks. I mean, every single one of us. I mean, uh, you know, as far as I know, uh, unless, unless you're CSU Global, or, or others that are designed that way. I mean, we all changed dramatically, and you know, here's a 200 plus year sort of traditional titanic that moved on a dime. We all did, and we had to. Now, the things, you know, obviously, you know, Eric, you have a college aged daughter, a son coming up, that's, you know, probably contemplating some of these things, and, you know, yes, I think some of that's going to change. At least for the next year, there are no 400 person re- lecture halls. You're not packing people in, in a personalized way, no way. I mean, that's just not going to happen until we know that, that can be a safe environment again.

Carrie: And, will that ever come back entirely? I don't know. I mean, uh, time will tell. Hopefully, we put ourselves in a position to be much more flexible, and if that works to my, some of my f- earlier comments, and it doesn't leave students behind, your comment, Eric, about somebody that didn't have a computer. I mean, we're standing up hotspots in parking lots of, uh, you know, of our campuses. Local school districts are having to do the same thing, because they've got kids that need to come and sit in a parking lot in a car to access the internet, so that they can use their, you know, Chromebook, that the school gave them. I mean, it also really exposes other access inequities. I mean, these rural mountain towns don't have the same kind of broadband access. We don't have the same bandwidth.

Carrie: You know, the big technology companies recognize there's just not the density in these locations, and so, we haven't been a priority, so in many cases, in our case, the college, we've had to sort of do it ourselves, uh, and make some of this stuff available, and so, hopefully, some of those things withstand all of this. A more personalized touch, perhaps. We've had faculty say, “I've actually connected better with some of my students in an online platform than I did in the class.” I don't know that, that's for all students, but it does, I think, signal to us that we have had to be more in tune to what students need, and their learning styles, and what works, and what doesn't, and if we can really analyze that, um, and take the very, very best of what we've done, with what we used to do, and put those things together. I mean, I think it would be a really remarkable sort of legacy of something that has been really challenging.

Eric W: Everyone's scrambling to learn this stuff, as you said, like on a dime, right?

Carrie: Yeah.

Eric W: Like, I heard this doctor talking about COVID, and he's like, “Last week we learned that it may not be a lung disease. It may be a hemoglobin disease.” I'm like, "Last week?-

Carrie: (laughs).

Eric W: ... these are like, things are usually learned, you know, decades-

Carrie: Right.

Eric W: ... and, now we're learning things." You know, yesterday we learned (laughs) and it's [crosstalk] of learning that, you (laughs) I mean, so, so what's that process been like?

Carrie: Well, you know [crosstalk] it's sort of the adage of, don't let any crisis go to waste (laughs).

Eric W: (laughs).

Carrie: I mean, at the very core of everything we do, regardless of the position that somebody holds, at, at least at my institution, they all recognize. We had to get students to the finish line, and we had to do it s- somehow, some way, and it was really about the students, and so, the faculty member, and all of our support staff, and everyone else said, “What is it that we have to do to make sure the student finishes the semester?" We can breed a snitch right? In the sum- we can take a slight inhale in the summer, and sort of plan for fall, and the rest of the, sort of the rest of the academic year, but we had to do that, and I think the other thing, just as I say that, this whole thing calls into question the semesters, and very long time sort of notions of structure, and how do we break down some of those barriers?

Carrie: I mean, students and people aren't necessarily aligned with a, quote, "Fall semester, spring semester." I mean, our world doesn't work that way anymore. Particularly, given that you can find acc- you find an access information anytime, so the other things that we're talking about is how do we be more flexible? How do you have shorter courses? How do you make sure that students that come in with some sort of skill sets, whether they're military, or they've worked a job, or they've got, you know, things that they come in with, how can we actually credential those, and how can we evaluate those in ways that students have to, don't have to do them over, but they also bring skill sets with them that m- really add value to the classroom.

Carrie: So, those are all the things I think they get exposed in these kinds of situations, right? You're not in your normal routine where you get up every day, and have your cereal, and go, go to a office, and all this kind of stuff. The whole thing was like thrown up into the air, so everything's open, you know, season. We can change things, and, um, it's our opportunity to come back, and I hope not slide back into some of the old habits that were simp- we simply did just because we did them.

Eric W: That's fascinating, so what I'm hearing you saying is like, this is I- if, if things are exploding, hey, let's like, uh, m- make it an explosion where we get rid of the things that weren't working maybe before.

Carrie: Correct.

Eric W: Wow.

Carrie: Absolutely.

Eric W: Uh, we interviewed a lady, uh, a woman yesterday. She's deaf and blind (laughs) and she is fro- originally from Eritrea, and she is the first deaf blind, uh, person to graduate (laughs) from Harvard law school. (laughs) I definitely felt out of my league.

Dave S: (laughs).

Eric W: She's incredibly intelligent, and she said, “Fighting for inclusiveness is like, not just fighting for your own situation, not for your own belief, it's fighting for everyone.” And, I thought that was so powerful. That's kind of what you just, I think I heard you just say, like, you got to fight for everyone, for all the different backgrounds, and economic, and political, and, uh, all, you know, people's different diversity, which is strength, and we got to fight for it all, not just, you know, our own deal.

Dave S: Well, Carrie, thank you so much for joining us, and to our listeners, for [inaudible] anything you heard during this conversation where we referenced some outside source, you can always go to our show notes at nobarrierspodcast.com to find additional information. Uh, Carrie, thanks so much. We really enjoyed this conversation.

Carrie: Thanks for having me.

Dave S: Well, Eric, uh, what did you hear from today's conversation that stood out for you?

Eric W: I was just fascinated to be listening to, uh, a no barrier story (laughs) all in the perspective and context of a, of a college. Uh, and, and you know, what are leaders from different kinds of inti- institutions doing, right? To scramble? So, yeah, I think, uh, I just, you know, the, the takeaway from me is how adaptable everybody is being at this point.

Dave S: I think some of what COVID is forcing us to do is question our assumptions about things we used to do, and whether they were the right way to do them to begin, the best way to do it, to begin with, and I think she kind of talked about that at the college, and they're really questioning whether some of the things they used to do are the best way to do it to begin with. You can learn more about No Barriers, and our work, participate in the No Barriers Summit, or join it after the fact, and watch the recorded sessions. Uh, go to learn more at nobarriersusa.org. Thanks so much, Eric.

Eric W: Cool, No Barriers.

Carrie: We have had to be more in tune to what students need, and their learning styles, and what works, and what doesn't, and if we can really analyze that, um, and take the very, very best of what we've done, with what we used to do, and put those things together, I mean, I think it would be a really remarkable sort of legacy of something that has been really challenging.

Eric W: It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is

Eric W:eihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a no barrier's life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means, and part of the equation is diving into the learning process, and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way, and that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in, in the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward is what we call no barriers.

Dave S: In today's conversation, we'll explore how COVID-19 is impacting our universities. We'll speak with Dr.

Carrie:, who has served as president, and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, a public degree granting institution, with 11 campuses serving 20,000 students in the central Rocky Mountains. Hauser has held leadership roles at the American Council on Education, board of directors, Kauffman Foundation, the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Daniels Fund. While at Daniels, she was a [inaudible] executive advising Denver's mayor on a citywide college scholarship program, and assisting the Metro Denver Sports Commission on an initiative to attract top tier sporting events, including the Olympic games. An outdoors woman and athlete, Hauser has summited Mount Kilimanjaro and climbed the Everest Base Camp. Enjoy the conversation.

Dave S: Welcome to our weekly, No Barriers Podcast series, where we continue to explore this extraordinary moment in our lives while remaining true to the theme that we've always focused on, which is, what's within you is stronger than what's in your way. Special, thanks to Prudential and Wells Fargo for their generous support of this podcast series.

Eric W: Carrie and I we've, uh, we have a long history. I first met her husband, Jeff, and we climbed Kilimanjaro together, and so we've been friends for a long time, and, uh, run marathons, and things together, and then got to know, Carrie, then you became the president of Colorado Mountain College. We've skied together, we've climbed a beautiful peak in Colorado, Mount Sneffles together, so it's been really great getting to know you, and you're an outstanding leader, so we thought this is a, a podcast where we really like to dive in, and dissect leadership, and the struggles that people have had, and, and you as the president of the CMC have such a unique role, and maybe I'll just start there. The CMC has a real unique mission, and charter than a lot of the schools I've visited. Can you explain that to folks?

Carrie: Sure, yeah, I think that's pretty relevant. Um, so Colorado moun- Mountain college is a relatively young institution. We're about 55 years old, 55 years young, whichever way you put it, and, uh, you know, [inaudible] 60 years ago, there were a group of small, you know, some r- ranchers, and others in these mountain towns that sort of said to themselves, “Hey, you know, why don't we start a college? Because, if we don't do it ourselves, there will not be post secondary opportunities in these mountain communities.” It's a really remarkable story, um, because our communities invest in us, and our job is to make sure that we deliver back to those communities, so it won't surprise you that our programs are really baked into these mountain communities. You know, we do things that no other institution in the country does.

Carrie: We have a ski and snowboard design program. We have a ski area operations program. We have an av- the only avalanche science program in the country, and of course, we train all the teachers, and the nurses, um, and they EMTs, and business leaders, and people that make these mountain communities run. Our role in these communities, given what's happening in our world, both with a pandemic, and a social unrest, it has just underscored our, our vision and mission. We're really, really proud about what we do.

Eric W: Well, let me, let's dive into that, because that, I mean, that's kind of m- maybe like one of the elephants in the room, right? There is l- we'll talk about COVID later, because we can't, not talk about that, but the social unrest, so like, I was thinking about the CMC, it just seems like an incredibly diverse community, right? So, you have the ranchers, the more conservative folks, the more liberal folks, the economic, uh, the political differences, the ethnic differences. How the heck do you bring that all together into one community?

Carrie: As we see sort of the civil unrest, I think what we're seeing is, you know, I kind of see that we're f- dealing with two pandemics, in some ways. We're dealing with a public health pandemic and we're dealing with a, what I would call a pandemic that sits under the surface a lot of the time, and that is systemic inequity. That is health disparities. There're all the things that are sort of coming up to the surface right now, and what we're seeing play out in our communities, in our cities, um, in our urban centers, um, across the country, so the more that we can facilitate a dialogue, and the more that everyone knows, regardless of their religious background, their political affiliation, you know, what they do for a living, and, and these mountain towns run from very extreme red, to very extreme blue, and everything in between. It's kind of who we are.

Carrie: And so, at our core, we're a bit of everything, and therefore, we try to make sure that everyone, um, is welcome, and we have those dialogues, and we open up discussions for all types of viewpoints. Um, and we make sure that, you know, we're a place just as when we were founded, that is an open door, and that no one is excluded, and so, we're doubling down on that again. I mean, that is where we feel like we can, um, activate. I'm toggling a little bit, Eric, between some of the topics, but, you know, in response to COVID we said, what can we do as an institution? What can we do to, to, to, to bolster these communities where people are leaving? How can we keep people here? All these lift ops, and restaurant workers, and hospitality, and seasonal folks, and everybody, how can we keep them here, keep them engaged, keep them to connected to something that's meaningful?

Carrie: So, we essentially said no costs for summer enrollment. [inaudible] for no costs. We call it CMC Responds. You can find information about that. We can certainly post the link, and we said, “If you're one of our local students from one of our local communities, if you were a student with us in the spring, and your life was disrupted by COVID, obviously, we had to go in, completely to an online virtual framework. If you are anywhere in our sort of in-district, or if you were disrupted, imp- if you were disrupted in your work, and found yourself out of work, you can come to the college at no costs.” Clearly we're all online right now for the summer, but we're up 66%, and most of those are our local students. Most of them are taking more classes.

Carrie: We've essentially kind of said, “Okay, you're out of work. We can connect you to financial aid resources. We can connect you to other things that can keep you here, and once the economy comes back, you will be better skilled. You'll go back to a job with, you know, with, you know, more to offer, you know, if we can be helpful, and it's a place where anybody has access to improve their lives, their training, whatever it is.” Hopefully, we're an antidote to what is happening, uh, on a more global stage.

Eric W: Well, Carrie, in addition to being the president of CMC, you sit on the board of directors of the American Council on Education, and so, tell us a little bit about how you see college changing, perhaps forever as a result of what, what's happening right now with COVID.

Carrie: There're going to be institutions that will not survive this, and they were already, that was already the case across the country, because we have fewer high school graduates, just demographically. That is, um, something that we're seeing over the next decade or two, so that traditional college going student, which is really not traditional anymore, I would say, that's really a very, very small minority of who goes to college in this country, but the notion of college still often, our default is, treeline campuses. I go to an institution, I live in a residence hall, I'm in a fraternity and sorority, and I'll tell you, that's probably one in six, one in seven, maybe one in eight, um, of, of a student that experiences that kind of a college experience anymore. More often they're adults. They have their own children. They're coming back for retraining, they're students of color, they're first generation. That's the demographic that's in the pipeline that are, that become college students in whatever way, shape or form that takes.

Carrie: And so, to me, what changes higher education is, this is sort of the big disruptor, just like it is for anything else. Airline travel, major, big events. You know, all the things that are really re- you know, the model is built on something that, that may not survive COVID-19, or our behaviors will change so drastically that those models will be so dated that they really won't be relevant anymore, so I anticipate one person's view, certainly, not the college's position, but certainly my view that, that higher education will change really dramatically, and particularly for, I would call smaller liberal arts, private institutions, lots of them sprinkled around the Midwest. Those that are built on a, a model that's, you know, was already becoming dated. This is really going to be sort of a kickstart to something that's going to be really different.

Carrie: So, I'm hopeful that institutions that are really responsive to, and guide their decisions by what is good for students. You know, people ask me, “What keeps you up at night right now, given this environment?” And, what keeps me up most is students that are at the greatest risk of having to drop out or leaving, um, who just finally got a bite into being a college student, and, and we're, we're not erasing, but we're making progress around achievement gaps, and we're making some equity gains. One of my greatest concern is we're going to slide back really drastically, and the students who've always been at risk, and we've been trying to get in the door, and we've been trying to get them to our institutions, and trying to get them to graduation. They're going to be the ones that are going to, um, suffer the most in this, and so, um, I'm hopeful that, that's something that doesn't go by the wayside, and [crosstalk 00:11:03].

Eric W: 'Cause they're already isolated anyway, right? Like-

Carrie: Well [crosstalk]

Eric W: ... isolated, maybe.

Carrie: Sure.

Eric W: Um, but more fragmented, you know what I mean? So, they're at greater risk. [inaudible] my friend's starting his daughter on, on, uh, online education. He's like, “We don't even own a computer.” 'Cause, you know, he's economically challenged guy, and, uh, so...

Carrie: [inaudible] language barriers, you have ADA, I mean, certainly relevant to this conversation. You know, I'm sitting in a, in a room with, you know, my senior team, a couple of them right now, 'cause we're able to bring some more folks back. We're all sitting in masks, we're all socially distanced, but I sit there, and I think about somebody that, um, has, uh, you know, hear, is hearing impaired, but really needs the benefit of somebody's mouth, and those facial expressions, and you know, language, and we have so many s- you know, English, second language, um, students and families. Many of our students and families that go home to pretty dense family situations, and, um, or they travel a great distances to, to get to work, and, or they're on a bus, or they're r- rely on, you know, public transit, and that doesn't enable a social distancing situation, so yeah, it's, it's every layer of the onion you peel back, there's more to it. Uh, and uh, the more conscious we can be about who will suffer the most, really important.

Eric W: Do you think that like some things will last maybe a lot longer? Like, for instance, you know how like, uh, you know, it seems like companies keep merging, and getting bigger, and is, is education, I wonder, going to do something similar?

Carrie: I will say that COVID-19 did so far more than anything else. We all had to go online in a matter of about two weeks. I mean, every single one of us. I mean, uh, you know, as far as I know, uh, unless, unless you're CSU Global, or, or others that are designed that way. I mean, we all changed dramatically, and you know, here's a 200 plus year sort of traditional titanic that moved on a dime. We all did, and we had to. Now, the things, you know, obviously, you know, Eric, you have a college aged daughter, a son coming up, that's, you know, probably contemplating some of these things, and, you know, yes, I think some of that's going to change. At least for the next year, there are no 400 person re- lecture halls. You're not packing people in, in a personalized way, no way. I mean, that's just not going to happen until we know that, that can be a safe environment again.

Carrie: And, will that ever come back entirely? I don't know. I mean, uh, time will tell. Hopefully, we put ourselves in a position to be much more flexible, and if that works to my, some of my f- earlier comments, and it doesn't leave students behind, your comment, Eric, about somebody that didn't have a computer. I mean, we're standing up hotspots in parking lots of, uh, you know, of our campuses. Local school districts are having to do the same thing, because they've got kids that need to come and sit in a parking lot in a car to access the internet, so that they can use their, you know, Chromebook, that the school gave them. I mean, it also really exposes other access inequities. I mean, these rural mountain towns don't have the same kind of broadband access. We don't have the same bandwidth.

Carrie: You know, the big technology companies recognize there's just not the density in these locations, and so, we haven't been a priority, so in many cases, in our case, the college, we've had to sort of do it ourselves, uh, and make some of this stuff available, and so, hopefully, some of those things withstand all of this. A more personalized touch, perhaps. We've had faculty say, “I've actually connected better with some of my students in an online platform than I did in the class.” I don't know that, that's for all students, but it does, I think, signal to us that we have had to be more in tune to what students need, and their learning styles, and what works, and what doesn't, and if we can really analyze that, um, and take the very, very best of what we've done, with what we used to do, and put those things together. I mean, I think it would be a really remarkable sort of legacy of something that has been really challenging.

Eric W: Everyone's scrambling to learn this stuff, as you said, like on a dime, right?

Carrie: Yeah.

Eric W: Like, I heard this doctor talking about COVID, and he's like, “Last week we learned that it may not be a lung disease. It may be a hemoglobin disease.” I'm like, "Last week?-

Carrie: (laughs).

Eric W: ... these are like, things are usually learned, you know, decades-

Carrie: Right.

Eric W: ... and, now we're learning things." You know, yesterday we learned (laughs) and it's [crosstalk] of learning that, you (laughs) I mean, so, so what's that process been like?

Carrie: Well, you know [crosstalk] it's sort of the adage of, don't let any crisis go to waste (laughs).

Eric W: (laughs).

Carrie: I mean, at the very core of everything we do, regardless of the position that somebody holds, at, at least at my institution, they all recognize. We had to get students to the finish line, and we had to do it s- somehow, some way, and it was really about the students, and so, the faculty member, and all of our support staff, and everyone else said, “What is it that we have to do to make sure the student finishes the semester?" We can breed a snitch right? In the sum- we can take a slight inhale in the summer, and sort of plan for fall, and the rest of the, sort of the rest of the academic year, but we had to do that, and I think the other thing, just as I say that, this whole thing calls into question the semesters, and very long time sort of notions of structure, and how do we break down some of those barriers?

Carrie: I mean, students and people aren't necessarily aligned with a, quote, "Fall semester, spring semester." I mean, our world doesn't work that way anymore. Particularly, given that you can find acc- you find an access information anytime, so the other things that we're talking about is how do we be more flexible? How do you have shorter courses? How do you make sure that students that come in with some sort of skill sets, whether they're military, or they've worked a job, or they've got, you know, things that they come in with, how can we actually credential those, and how can we evaluate those in ways that students have to, don't have to do them over, but they also bring skill sets with them that m- really add value to the classroom.

Carrie: So, those are all the things I think they get exposed in these kinds of situations, right? You're not in your normal routine where you get up every day, and have your cereal, and go, go to a office, and all this kind of stuff. The whole thing was like thrown up into the air, so everything's open, you know, season. We can change things, and, um, it's our opportunity to come back, and I hope not slide back into some of the old habits that were simp- we simply did just because we did them.

Eric W: That's fascinating, so what I'm hearing you saying is like, this is I- if, if things are exploding, hey, let's like, uh, m- make it an explosion where we get rid of the things that weren't working maybe before.

Carrie: Correct.

Eric W: Wow.

Carrie: Absolutely.

Eric W: Uh, we interviewed a lady, uh, a woman yesterday. She's deaf and blind (laughs) and she is fro- originally from Eritrea, and she is the first deaf blind, uh, person to graduate (laughs) from Harvard law school. (laughs) I definitely felt out of my league.

Dave S: (laughs).

Eric W: She's incredibly intelligent, and she said, “Fighting for inclusiveness is like, not just fighting for your own situation, not for your own belief, it's fighting for everyone.” And, I thought that was so powerful. That's kind of what you just, I think I heard you just say, like, you got to fight for everyone, for all the different backgrounds, and economic, and political, and, uh, all, you know, people's different diversity, which is strength, and we got to fight for it all, not just, you know, our own deal.

Dave S: Well, Carrie, thank you so much for joining us, and to our listeners, for [inaudible] anything you heard during this conversation where we referenced some outside source, you can always go to our show notes at nobarrierspodcast.com to find additional information. Uh, Carrie, thanks so much. We really enjoyed this conversation.

Carrie: Thanks for having me.

Dave S: Well, Eric, uh, what did you hear from today's conversation that stood out for you?

Eric W: I was just fascinated to be listening to, uh, a no barrier story (laughs) all in the perspective and context of a, of a college. Uh, and, and you know, what are leaders from different kinds of inti- institutions doing, right? To scramble? So, yeah, I think, uh, I just, you know, the, the takeaway from me is how adaptable everybody is being at this point.

Dave S: I think some of what COVID is forcing us to do is question our assumptions about things we used to do, and whether they were the right way to do them to begin, the best way to do it, to begin with, and I think she kind of talked about that at the college, and they're really questioning whether some of the things they used to do are the best way to do it to begin with. You can learn more about No Barriers, and our work, participate in the No Barriers Summit, or join it after the fact, and watch the recorded sessions. Uh, go to learn more at nobarriersusa.org. Thanks so much, Eric.

Eric W: Cool, No Barriers.

Dave S: The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer, Pauline Schafer, executive producer, Diedrich Jonk, sound design editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman graphics by Sam Davis, and marketing support by Megan Lee, and Carly Sandsmark. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our intro song, Guidance, and thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time, and we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoyed this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.

Dave S: (music).

Dave S: The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer, Pauline Schafer, executive producer, Diedrich Jonk, sound design editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman graphics by Sam Davis, and marketing support by Megan Lee, and Carly Sandsmark. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our intro song, Guidance, and thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time, and we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoyed this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.


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