The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) new vice-chancellor, Professor Geraldine Mackenzie. May 2017
The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) new vice-chancellor, Professor Geraldine Mackenzie. May 2017 Bev Lacey

New world brings in 'different normal' at USQ

IT'S April 2020, and at the University of Southern Queensland our campuses should be buzzing with students and we should be preparing for our graduation season. 

Instead, we are locked down with only essential travel allowed, our students are all studying online, and our staff are working from home, except for essential services. 

Some of our international students were locked out and never came, others are studying online. 

This is our new normal, at least for the foreseeable future.

It's a brave new world, and it's come upon us so suddenly that we don't know what's hit us. 

New phrases such as flattening the curve, social distancing and self-isolation are now our every day lingo.

At first, the news in January was disturbing, then alarming and then shocking. 

Predictions of hundreds of millions of infections and millions of deaths seemed crazy, until it was here, on our doorstep. 

Health workers, the frail and vulnerable, Mums and Dads, babies, innocent retirees going on the holiday of a lifetime, famous people, everyday people going about their lives and struck down with this insidious disease. Terrible, unimaginable scenes in Italy and New York.

Economies ruined for years to come and unemployment increasing so rapidly that we all know someone who has lost their job. 

Support package for USQ students: USQ students will get help with rent and technology purchases as part of a massive $5.2 million support package
Support package for USQ students: USQ students will get help with rent and technology purchases as part of a massive $5.2 million support package

Uncertainty and disappointment for schoolchildren, particularly those in Year 12, and same for university students who can't complete their practical training this year, particularly in health and education disciplines.

The simple things are now so significant - a beautiful sunset, a walk in the park. Anything to get away from the four walls and terrible news.

At the university, life goes on, albeit with a different normal. 

Everyone has pulled together in a most remarkable way, and our academics and support staff have worked around the clock to get all of our programs and courses online. We continue to offer a great range of degree programs, and although these are currently all online, this is what USQ does best, and has done for more than 20 years. We have announced a $5.2 million emergency financial support package for our many students in need, and an academic support program.

Education is more relevant than ever before and will play a key role in the recovery. We will get through this, together, as a community. 

Professor Geraldine Mackenzie is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland.