The Next Phase

Pair of white tennis shoes on a red background. Photo by Christian Chen on Unsplash

1. What do we call it?

I am not a fan of the phrase “post-pandemic.” With COVID still raging throughout the world, with massive health disparities impacting vaccine access, and with the immense loss of life we’re experiencing, to imply that there’s an “after” to all of this feels wrong. How does my student who buried seven members of his family last year feel when he sees “post-pandemic”? How do the countless people who are spending every ounce of energy they have to manage their pandemic-induced or pandemic-worsened trauma feel about the implication that this is over, or could ever be over anytime soon?

2. Timing is everything.

I got burned out in the fall. I know better, but I don’t always do better. When did the burnout really hit me? A few days into my winter break. Adrenalin is a powerful drug, and when you’re in the thick of things, it can keep you running, even on empty. Paradoxically, when we slow down or stop, all hell can break loose. For me, that looked like my body shutting down on multiple levels, making a return to the pace of my fall term impossible. Bodies are funny like that. They ask nicely repeatedly. We ignore them. They slam on the brakes.

3. Be careful of resilience.

Resilience is an important concept to know when talking about trauma, but we have to really keep an eye on it. I much prefer a Whitman-inspired take on our strengths: we contain multitudes.

4. Things aren’t always as they seem.

Trauma reactions are often domain-specific. That means we might be rocking it in some areas of our lives and barely getting by in others.

5. Can it be online?

Pre-pandemic, I spent a fair amount of time asking conference and workshop organizers if their events would be offered online. The answer was almost always, “Oh no, we’re sorry. This is only an in-person event.”

6. Will we finally give community colleges the respect (and funding) they deserve?

Community colleges are typically the most trauma-aware spaces in higher education. They’ve been doing this work for decades.

7. What are some practical considerations?

I think we’re going to be called to keep adapting on the fly, one day at a time. There are things we’re just not going to be able to plan for, so I think the best plan is to take care of ourselves and each other. Let the other chips fall where they may.

8. Are we ready to talk about trauma?

I recently subscribed to the Sunday NY Times. I’m having fun collaging it, and I love the book section in particular.

What else?

What did I miss? What are you hoping? What does a trauma-aware approach to this next phase of the pandemic look like for you and your campus?



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Karen Costa

Karen Costa


I write about higher education. Here for my work through 100 Faculty, LLC, supporting faculty, staff, and student success.