One of my favorite Grateful Dead songs is “Truckin’,” a hit from 1970 so popular it was recognized in 1997 by the United States Library of Congress as a national treasure. The song’s climactic refrain, “What a long, strange trip it’s been” is immediately apparent even to those casually familiar with the Dead. It is this refrain that keeps playing in my head this spring and as we enter into the summer months, still reeling from the comprehensive and devastating effects of the novel coronavirus we have come to know as Covid-19. There is no industry sector that has not been disrupted by the tentacles of this vicious virus. We in higher education know this all too well. Even those of us who have been in professional, continuing and online education for some time, well accustomed to moving quickly, have never seen anything this swift or all encompassing.
It is within this turmoil that we are launching the new issue of UPCEA’s digital magazine, Unbound. What a long strange trip it’s been. We had planned to unveil the new issue, under new editorship and its new institutional home at the annual conference in Boston. We had planned to salute Unbound Editor Dean Tom Gibbons and his team at Northwestern University for the stellar work that they had done to bring Unbound into the modern age with a digital format. We planned to present the changes in store for the next version of Unbound, version 2.0. The pandemic hit, the conference was canceled and we faced a dilemma. Do we simply move ahead with our planned release or do we acknowledge the crisis and develop a new article highlighting how some of our institutions and some of our colleagues have moved quickly to ensure both business continuity and academic continuity? By now you guessed correctly that we opted for the latter.
As we prepared this issue of Unbound, new article in tow, and as the higher education response to the pandemic evolved, it became apparent to all of us involved with the production that our PCO community was stressed by these changes and challenges, most of us working harder and more intensively to keep the train moving, and we didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to consume a large issue of Unbound in one sitting. It also became apparent that the pandemic was not a month-long crisis, but would be with us for some time. And so we shifted yet again, with a plan to provide a couple articles each month over a span of several months. It is our hope that this will be a more digestible format, timely and useful as the PCO community plays a continuing key role in institutional efforts to operate successfully in this new world.
With this as the backdrop, I am delighted to bring to you the first installment of the new issue of Unbound, from its new home at Rutgers University, Division of Continuing Studies. I am deeply grateful to Tom Gibbons and Peter Kaye and the team at Northwestern for bringing us to this point in the evolution of Unbound. I am so appreciative of my colleagues at Rutgers, especially Jim Morris and Beth Salamon, who have embraced this opportunity with open arms, an “opportunity” that was presented by my commitment and offering of their services! My thanks go to the editorial board members who have agreed to stay on and to the many volunteers who have indicated a willingness to be involved in some way with Unbound. Thank you for your patience as we sort out the roles and look to engage you most effectively. I am indebted to Molly Nelson, Jordan DiMaggio, Bob Hansen and the entire UPCEA team who have been critical partners and remain unflagging in their efforts as together we strive to keep Unbound alive and well in a time of Covid! We are excited to take Unbound forward with a diversity of articles, a diversity of digital formats and a diversity of voices – all with the same level of high quality that we inherited from Tom, Peter and company.
Most of all, thanks to all of you, gentle reader, for your attention at a time when there are so many demands for your attention. Thanks for your patience as we delayed our first Version 2.0 issue. Thank you for your willingness to entertain some changes in format, content and delivery as we try to keep Unbound fresh and relevant. Despite all of the planned changes there is a constant – this continues to be your publication, and we welcome contributions of innovative articles and content from you, especially in such changing and challenging times. And while it has been a long strange trip, together we will keep on Truckin’.
Dr. Richard J. Novak
Vice President for Continuing Studies and Distance Education
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey