Editor’s note: As classes resume on campus during this unprecedented time, faculty and staff members are, as always, HERE for Notre Dame students. Whether work is done physically on campus or remotely, the collective purpose remains to offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the mind, body and spirit; and to advance human understanding through scholarship, research and post-baccalaureate programs that heal, unify and enlighten.
Jason Reed was happy to be back in the classroom for the first day of classes Monday. Sure, it was a different classroom than the assistant teaching professor of finance is accustomed to — much larger — and the students were physically distanced from each other, and, yes, everyone was wearing a mask. But besides those details, it felt good. It felt normal: An instructor teaching and conversing with students while in the same room.
“I think I am more excited than the students are, if that’s possible,” Reed said. “Notre Dame is such a special place to be at and I feel so lucky to be here and I know the students feel the same way. And when they get involved with their dorms and they get involved with their classes and the clubs...all that happens on campus in person.”
Reed says he’s been mentally preparing to come back since May 18 when Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced that the semester would begin early, the week of August 10, continue through without a fall break and conclude before Thanksgiving.
“It was a rallying point, an all-hands-on-deck call,” Reed said of Father Jenkins’ message. “Before the announcement, there was about a month when we just didn’t know what was going to happen. We were kind of in a wait-and-see approach. But when Father Jenkins said we’re coming back to class and we will do everything we can to support you, my brain kind of said, ‘OK. This is it. This is how it’s happening.’”
Reed says he understands it’s not as easy for some faculty colleagues to return. Some will teach remotely for health or other reasons. He feels fortunate to be able to be here in person. “I look forward to seeing familiar faces and new ones and building relationships, helping students kind of navigate the uncertainty,” he said.
In a personal essay describing his past five months, Reed wrote about the start of the academic year, “... it seems that our classes will now have two important functions. Not only will they be places of learning and scholarship but now they will be places of refuge. Hopefully, classes provide some shelter from a world fraught with uncertainty and give students some sense of normalcy. Maybe we — the faculty, staff, administration and Notre Dame as a whole — can stand in as the beacon of hope that our students need.”
Reed acknowledges the year will have challenges.
“Many of us find ourselves teaching in new classrooms with untested technology, with new learning goals or unfamiliar pedagogy. Helping hands continue to reach out and offers of consultation chip away at all the known unknowns the fall brings. All of us, however, are acutely aware that there are still so many unknown unknowns,” he wrote in his essay.
And yet, he believes whatever lies ahead, the 2020-21 academic year at Notre Dame will be remembered as a year of resiliency.
“We can get through this together as a community. Father Jenkins has reminded us of the community that we belong to. We will help each other and move forward. I just had a phone call with a colleague in another department about getting ready for classes and we were trading tips on how we’re going to do things. And that’s exactly what my summer has been like. We can do this together.”
Jason Reed is an assistant teaching professor, assistant department chair and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Finance in the Mendoza College of Business.