When the spring semester began at SFA, I believe most of us were hoping the beginning of a new year would bring relief from many of the trials we experienced in 2020. Now that we are well into 2021, we have survived two of Nacogdoches' largest snowfalls in recorded history, and I am happy to say there are many new developments at SFA that have helped to brighten our outlook for the year.
One of our goals as a public-serving institution of higher learning is to build community, so that as our students enter the workforce or continue their educational pursuits, they have a model they may use to transform the communities in which they will live and work. This task can seem overwhelming when COVID-19 restrictions require that we stay physically distant, and it will be at the forefront of the work of our new vice president for student affairs. Dr. Brandon Frye arrived on campus in February and is leading the charge to help our students navigate a college experience that is both safe and rewarding.
As the world continues to battle the coronavirus, Lumberjacks have stepped up to help. Our School of Nursing was honored with the 2020 Do-Gooder of the Year Award from the Texas Forest Country Partnership, an economic development agency serving 12 counties. The award recognized the Nacogdoches COVID-19 Call Center, a collaborative effort of SFA and the city, county, both Nacogdoches hospitals and more than 20 health care providers. Representatives from these entities left their self-interests at the door to join forces and serve the greater good of East Texas, playing a major role in keeping our community — and our campus — safe and healthy.
The call center went from paper to practice in five days, with SFA providing phone lines, staffing and the expertise of our nursing faculty members and students. During the first two months of operation, student and community volunteers answered more than 2,700 calls, and the center administered nearly 600 COVID-19 tests. Our nursing students have played a major role in COVID vaccine clinics held on campus and in the community. Even before their graduation, they are heroes in my eyes.
We recently learned our forestry students have continued their winning ways — the Society of American Foresters students were named among the top three such groups in the nation. Also, the first graduates of our family nurse practitioner program achieved a 100% pass rate on certification exams. This fall, we will begin offering courses that will eventually lead to a new program in aviation sciences, and we have transitioned our doctorate in educational leadership to be our first completely online doctoral degree program.
Our athletics teams will begin participating in the Western Athletic Conference beginning in July, and the Loddie Naymola Basketball Performance Center at Johnson Coliseum will be complete this summer. Progress on the Griffith Fine Arts Building construction project is impressive.
The new year and the beginning of spring is a time when many of us set goals and think about what we would like to accomplish in the year ahead. We also might pause to consider how we spend our time and what we truly value. I truly value the individuals — from our faculty and staff to our fervent alumni — who hold SFA near to their hearts and work to ensure its vibrant future.
Axe 'em, Jacks!
Dr. Scott Gordon
Stephen F. Austin State University