We’ve all been inundated with news about the coronavirus crisis that the world is coping with these days. Throughout the ordeal, public administrators remain on the front lines of the pandemic serving in many roles at all levels of government. Living through a time of crisis is unsettling, but I am encouraged by the committed public servants I interact with each week both in my PWE and in the MPA program. Students showed up in class this week despite working twelve (or more) hour days responding to the crisis. They work in local budget offices and health departments and emergency management. They serve in state and federal agencies, preparing their communities for the ongoing situation and the recovery that will follow.
Two weeks ago (has it really been only two weeks?) I drove down Main Street in Canton on the way to my PWE and noticed that downtown was thriving. Workers stood on ladders erecting signs for new businesses. Shoppers passed through the doors of boutiques. Tourists sat on the patios of the local restaurants. Since then, measures taken in response to COVID-19 have resulted in rapid and dramatic changes. When I drove through town this morning, the sidewalks were deserted. Except for a small number of residents venturing out for supplies or employees traveling to their shifts, the streets remain noticeably quieter.
Changes brought on by this pandemic have fundamentally altered the way we live, forcing everyone to adapt. In many ways, being a student in the MPA@UNC program has prepared me for working in the current environment. As other managers, employees, and students face a learning curve transitioning to remote work and distant learning, my PWE and school work continue uninterrupted. Like everyone else, I wake up wondering what changes the day’s news will bring. And, of course, the coronavirus has disrupted much of what I do every day. I am forced to balance new responsibilities while remaining focused on finishing my PWE, writing research papers, giving final presentations, and completing final exams. For now, though, I am grateful to be part of a program that has enabled me to adjust to uncertainty and confront new challenges every day.