It’s a new year with a renewed sense of optimism for the future, including the literal opportunity for a shot in the arm due to the availability of a vaccine to further mitigate the effects of the pandemic. My personal list of resolutions definitely prioritizes health. For Cameron University students, resolutions likely also include studying more effectively, procrastinating less, and graduating as quickly as possible.

At Cameron, a new year is a time for us to reflect on our contributions and to reaffirm our commitment to our mission and our core values. We support a very diverse and dynamic student body, and it’s our mission to provide every student a quality education. Student learning is our top priority. It is our duty to provide students with innovative classroom teaching and experiential learning that prepares them for success in the workplace and reinforces their ability to be responsible citizens making meaningful contributions to society. The pandemic has provided the opportunity and a sense of urgency to review and reframe what we mean by “classroom.”

Outside the classroom, it is also our mission to be a driving force in the cultural life and economic development of this region. That means sharing our expertise and talents with others whenever possible, whether it is to form partnerships with outside entities that help stimulate job growth, contribute to a well-prepared workforce, or to promote cultural experiences that improve the quality of life for the citizens of southwest Oklahoma. We appreciate the financial investment that the taxpayers of Oklahoma make in CU as a public, regional university that allows us to pursue that mission. We strive to be responsible stewards of those resources, as well as the tuition dollars from our students and the many private gifts from alumni and community supporters of Cameron University.

All of us on campus long for the day when we’ll be able to plan classes, athletics and arts events, and student celebrations such as Commencement without consideration for face coverings, physical distancing, or having to schedule a Zoom session. Until that day arrives, we will continue to adapt to changing circumstances. Much as we did last fall, we entered the spring semester offering instruction in-person and virtually. Our faculty and staff have learned from student performance and student feedback last fall and we are committed to doing an even better job this spring.

We understand that not all of our students have the capability to participate in class from home; some lack internet access or the specialized software necessary. Anyone can tell you that writing a term paper on a mobile device is nearly impossible. Many of our students depend upon campus computer labs and the library to complete their assignments. STEM students are enrolled in classes that have labs with experiments that can’t (and shouldn’t) be conducted in the kitchen sink. Other students live on campus and rely on the food and housing services we provide. For that reason, we continue to make those resources available so our students can remain on the road to a timely college degree.

In just a few weeks we will be able to demonstrate our commitment to our students and to our mission. In early March, a team from the Higher Learning Commission will visit our campus virtually and in person to verify our assurances and to review our request to retain accreditation. Accreditation is important for Cameron University because it allows student coursework to transfer to other institutions, including for professional programs, and it gives our students access to millions of dollars in federal financial assistance. HLC team visits occur at least once every 10 years. The visits are essentially an institutional physical examination to check on our current health and to provide suggestions to maintain and improve our health for years to come. It’s our opportunity to demonstrate that CU is healthy and proficient in its task of educating our students. As long as we remain true to our mission and values, we are optimistic that we will reaffirm our accreditation and continue to provide our students with the quality of education they deserve at an exceptional value.

John McArthur is president of Cameron University.