Thursday, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education reported that throughout Alabama higher education is responding to the call for help during the Coronavirus pandemic. The support has been widespread from food supplies to equipment needs.
“I am heartened by the generosity of college and university staff and students in supporting their community, hospitals and healthcare professionals,” said Alabama Commission on Higher Education Executive Director Jim Purcell.
The institutional efforts have expanded beyond the boundaries of converting to online coursework for students into the communities they serve.
Alabama’s community colleges, along with the University of Montevallo and the University of Alabama, have supplied healthcare workers with 3D printed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The University of Montevallo is providing free WIFI to the downtown area of Montevallo. This particularly helps area public school children who are having to now take all of their classes online as Alabama K-12 schools are closed through the end of the year.
The Greek community on the campus of the University of Alabama have donated 5,000 pounds of food to the West Alabama Food Bank.
Outside-the-box-thinking has led chemistry and geoscience professors at Jacksonville State University to help Yellowhammer Brewery and Distillery transition to manufacturing hand sanitizer at the Huntsville-based beer distillery. What was supposed to be spring break for the northeast campus turned into a volunteer effort to analyze the company’s first batch of sanitizer to ensure it met the recommendations of the World Health Organization.
East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC) has received medical supplies from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Auburn has donated three ventilators and multiple disposable supplies to EAMC.
Although athletic games and training are all on hold, the equipment staff members at Auburn have turned their attention to sewing face masks to be used to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
ACHE’s Purcell called the varied efforts of assistance inspiring. “We are benefitting from technology being used in ways never before seen,” he said.
Troy University has partnered with Troy Elementary School for years to develop a community garden. Social distancing has transitioned the garden into the home of a university coordinator who is continuing to offer lessons on nutrition and gardening via Zoom. Troy’s Rosa Parks Museum has gone virtual through tours and resource sharing.
The University of South Alabama is offering the South CARES Student Emergency Fund to direct critical resources to students who have urgent expenses. USA is collaborating with the city of Mobile to provide appointment-only drive through testing for COVID-19. Virtual visits, provided by USA Health, will give patients access to healthcare providers.
Alabama A&M University is maintaining contact with students via telehealth services for those experiencing depression and anxiety related to the Coronavirus disruption of their academic lives.
James E. Purcell is the Executive Director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
“ACHE will continue to work with our institutions in innovative ways to assist students and the state’s needs during this pandemic,” Purcell said. “This will be recorded as an impossible semester that has produced many heroes and new life lessons.”
A team of Auburn engineering faculty, students, and alumni developed an accessory that added to a common household CPAP machine turns the CPAP into an emergency life-saving ventilator. The prototype was developed March 20 to 22 by Tom Burch and Michael Zabala, faculty in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Hayden Burch, a sophomore in mechanical engineering. Additional engineering faculty and alumni joined the team to refine the mechanical design, control system, user interface, and alarm to have an improved design finished on Monday.
This is on top of the efforts of researchers, like UAH’s Jerome Baudry and UAB’s Frances Lund, who has been enlisted in the effort to find cures, treatments, and vaccines to fight COVID-19.
Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “We all have our roles and can offer support amidst the COVID-19 crisis, and the higher education community has risen to the occasion. The brainpower and manpower supplied by Alabama’s colleges and universities demonstrate a willingness to serve and is greatly appreciated during this time of need.”