Undaunted. Not intimidated or discouraged by difficulty, danger, or disappointment. This should be the word for 2020 because I have seen so many people all around the world do what they needed to do despite the pandemic because they were undaunted. The health care professionals. The researchers. The first responders. The grocery and food providers. All essential workers kept doing what had to be done while much of the world scaled back and shut down.
With a global pandemic it would be easy to take time off from school. A crashing economy and worries about health (especially African Americans) are valid reasons. But I saw a great number of students, parents, professors and staff members on our campus (and on all college campuses) that despite the pandemic were dedicated to having some kind of normalcy this year.
I think about the freshmen, the class of 2024. If they were a 2020 high school grad they didn’t have a traditional prom or graduation, two coming of age experiences. For many of them, come hell or high water, they were starting college this fall. And for many that meant going AWAY to college, determined to have this coming of age experience albeit different than normal.
I think about faculty members I spoke with this summer as we discussed how we could open this fall. I was moved by a faculty member that initially, because of age and comorbidities, wanted to only teach online (which was perfectly fine). But later they came back and said they want to teach some classes in person, undaunted by the pandemic.
I have great respect for students who had the mindset that they would make the best of the situation, and do their best. While some worried about how they would perform academically, overall for these past two semesters Dillard students outperformed the average semester GPAs for spring and fall since 2012 when we started capturing these statistics. In fact, spring 2020 was the highest semester GPA in 8 years, a combination of hard work, grace, and unmerited favor! (Just keeping it 100…)
And while our fall athletics have been delayed, we still had teams competing and winning in a virtual environment. Both the mock trial team and debate team participated in competitions, and each tasted its share of victory. So on top of their normal academics in the middle of a pandemic, they found the strength to practice, compete AND win in a new format.
I got a close up view of the undaunted watching our 2020 LEAD program group. LEAD stands for Legal Education Advancing Diversity, led by our Pre-Law program but including students from SUNO and Xavier. In the spring they complete a 10 week LSAT prep course which meets twice a week plus practice tests on the weekends. We moved all operations online midway through their prep class, but the instructors found ways to continue the classes via Zoom; not perfect but they too were undaunted like the students.
The result? The average score for the group increased by about 10 points from the diagnostic test to the actual LSAT. We’re anticipating a record number of Dillard students admitted to law school this year even in a year where law school applications are up by a lot.
For some folks around the world, the pandemic became a convenient excuse for everything that’s wrong in their lives, when the fact is that before the pandemic they had the same issues. We have some of those folks too. But I want to salute the undaunted among us, those who chose to live the motto of Dillard University.
Ex Fide Fortis.
Strong from faith.