One year after the pandemic hit campus: Q&A with President Tressel

YSU president Jim Tressel sits down in the studio to discuss what the pandemic taught him and his hopes for the future. Photo courtesy of JambarTV

By Abigail Cloutier 


One year ago, Youngstown State University students went on spring break and didn’t return to campus following the explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic. I sat down with YSU President Tressel to discuss the past and what he’s looking forward to a year from now.


In the last year, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned?


The most important thing would be that you better be ready for everything. Then the second thing, maybe, that’s been a neat outcome is we’ve had a lot of people working together in unusual circumstances on different things and I think we’ve become closer. We’ve been working on things with other parts of campus, we’ve been working more intimately with the Academic Continuity Team, the Institute for Teaching and Learning, the Environmental, Occupational Health and Safety Department. I think in my first six years here, I had zero interaction with the [EOHS] group. For the last year, it’s been daily. It’s been a rewarding thing. Our students have been amazing. Our faculty has got the hard job of trying to figure out, ‘How do I bring my passion, my knowledge, experiences, interaction in this environment?’ so they’ve been working like crazy. This will be one that we’ll all remember, no matter how old we get, we’ll know where we were in 2020.


What’s an accomplishment of the university or student body in the past year you’re proud of?


I think the patience that I’ve seen displayed, because we’ve all been tense, we’ve all been disappointed, we’ve all been disrupted. But ultimately, we’ve all grown in our patience — we’re going to get through this. We can’t wait till it’s more back to normal, which — knock on wood — I think will be the fall. 


What do you hope next March looks like?


I hope a year from now, we’re still able to reach back and take from these lessons we’ve learned, but also be counting our blessings that we’re back a lot more how we would like it to be, and that we never forget how fortunate we’ve been to have the lifestyle and the interaction and fun together. When you can’t be together, you’re really losing a lot of the fun — we’re human, we want interactions. That’s the most fun of anything, and so I hope a year from now that we’re enjoying that, we’re having fun, but we’re also counting our blessings that we learned a lot of good lessons and if there’s ever another pandemic 100 years from now, we’ll be ready.