La Roche President Reflects on covid-19’s Impact on Education

By Madeline Riccardi, Editor-in-Chief

La Roche University’s President discussed the importance of mental health, changing perceptions and making a difference during the covid-19 pandemic.

For their summer 2021 edition, Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine asked the presidents of local universities to discuss what impact the pandemic has had education.

“We asked the presidents of the region’s colleges and universities to answer this question: ‘As we move closer to the end of the pandemic, what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats have become more apparent to you for your institution than they were pre-pandemic,’” the Pittsburgh Quarterly staff wrote.

Among those asked were Associate Vice Chancellor Linda Dostilio of the University of Pittsburgh, Eric J. Barron of Penn State University, Michael Driscoll of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Sister Candance Introcaso, CDP, of La Roche University.

Introcaso was quoted, saying, “La Roche University’s flexibility and will to survive were more apparent than ever. Our students and staff proved to be resilient while demonstrating a commitment to each other and their institution.”

During the spring 2020 semester, La Roche University extended spring break for a week following a rise in covid-19 cases in Allegheny County. The University then implemented an online course policy that allowed the students and faculty to continue classes from home when the country went into lockdown.

“In record time,” Introcaso said, “we modified class modalities, adapted to remote work and implemented effective health and safety precautions.”

Introcaso said she believes that it is because of the quick implementation that La Roche was able to continue their mission. “Our swift actions and decision-making enabled us to continue our mission of making a difference in the world through education,” the La Roche president of 17 years said.  

The La Roche Mission Statement mentions that the University “fosters global citizenship and creates a community of scholars from the region, the nation and around the world. The University [empowers] members of our community to become lifelong learners, achieve success in their chosen careers and promote justice and peace in a constantly changing global society.”

This mission has continued, even after weaknesses within La Roche surfaced during the covid-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic exposed disparities in student wealth, including inequitable access to Wi-Fi, technology and private space. Covid-19 also emphasized the importance of mental health,” Introcaso said, “and revealed how fragile community can be, as the social isolation took a toll on many of our students.”

La Roche University is working on their mental health resources according to their website. Under their covid resources, the University added a new category that is dedicated to mental health resources.

La Roche University versus the covid-19 Pandemic

The website says, “Navigating a public health crisis like covid-19 is stressful and upsetting for all of us, and it is normal to have a wide range of emotions during this time. The following resources are available to help you manage your mental health, especially if you feel anxious, depressed or overwhelmed.”

What follows on the website is several resources, including the phone numbers for the Disaster Distress Helpline, the PA Support and Referral Helpline, and the Keystone Disaster Spiritual Care Network covid-19 Helpline.

Introcaso believes that La Roche will now be more on guard for anything that comes their way. “We are now mindful of the need to be on guard for the unexpected. This past year,” the seventh president of La Roche said, “significantly changed how we do our jobs, how we interact with others and even how we see the future.

“La Roche now has the opportunity to reflect and better prepare students for new opportunities in the growing fields of health care, technology, and education. We also learned a valuable lesson in the feasibility of remote work, which will allow us to enhance work-life balance among faculty and staff moving forward,” Introcaso said.

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