Finding Perspective in the Era of COVID-19
April 27, 2020
As an admissions dean, the highlight of my year is making connections with many of the amazing students and families whose stories I've become familiar with through the college admissions process. I was terribly disappointed when I realized that we would not be able to hold our on-campus events in celebration of our admitted students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I also realize that there is a tremendous level of disappointment for many seniors, who have had their final year of high school disrupted and may not have had a chance to visit all of the colleges they have been admitted to. There are reasons for a lot of folks to be disappointed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has brought about.
My cousin lives in Guangzhou, China and she has been under quarantine for almost three months now. During the extra time spent at home, she's been practicing her painting. I've seen a few of her pieces, and she's really good! Seeing my cousin use her time at home to do something constructive made me think about what I would like to get out of this experience and what changes I would make as a result of it.
Professionally, I'm in the same boat as other college admission deans. Unable to host admitted student events on campus, we've turned to virtual experiences to offer a glimpse of what our campuses have to offer students. At Drexel, we've launched The Moment, a new virtual experience for our admitted students that features a special message from Drexel’s president, John Fry as well as a welcome from me to the Class of 2020 and information about all of the academic departments at Drexel.
At home, I've made it a point to practice my guitar playing more. Thanks to my kids, I've discovered the brilliance of Captain Underpants Epic Choice-O-Rama on Netflix. I've also been taking part in a 30-Day Song Challenge, sharing some of my favorite songs from certain categories and asking my friends to do the same. The song challenge has been a lighthearted distraction, introducing me to some new music and allowing me to get to know some friends on a deeper level through their musical tastes and selections. I've also made a point to more frequently and deliberately check in with family and friends, whether through phone calls or Zoom. It's been a blessing to strengthen personal ties despite social distancing.
Starting 2020 off with a pandemic is not the start of the year that any of us wanted or deserved, but it's the situation that we have. The disruptions of lives that comes with social distancing measures may be unwelcomed and unfair, but also necessary for containment of the spread of COVID-19. I've come to realize that it is okay to be disappointed in all of the chaos, disruption, loss, and sorrow that has entered our lives due to this pandemic, but it is also okay to celebrate our gifts and accomplishments and to be excited for the things that await us once we return to normalcy.
“Change” by Blind Melon is one of the songs that I used in my 30-Day Song Challenge. One of the lyrics is "When life is hard you have to change," very timely advice for a song that is almost 30 years old and advice that I'm trying to live up to as we all work our way towards flattening the curve.
Michael J. Keaton is Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Drexel. Mike enjoys public speaking, is a music and pop culture enthusiast, and has been working in college admissions since 1998.