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Strategic Partnerships: Adapting and Leading with Humanity after COVID-19

By Tiffany Menyhart, Chief Commercial Officer for Sodexo Universities in North America

The world has changed. In just a few short weeks, we’ve shifted from business as usual to living in a reality that would have seemed inconceivable only a few months ago. Campuses are closed, classes are online, and shelter in place orders have changed the way we engage, making our individual digital footprint and reliance on technology even larger than we ever thought possible.  

The social and economic upheaval is altering some students’ plans in a way that is sure to impact higher education in the months—and possibly years—to come. According to a national survey of nearly 500 students conducted by the Art & Science Group, one in six high-school seniors who expected to attend a four-year college full-time before the pandemic now think they will choose a different path this fall. And, what we already knew as the most anxious of generations from a mental health standpoint, is even more fragile. In fact, a new study cited in a recent article in Wired magazine, polled students aged 13 to 25 about their current mood, and the top three results were “frustrated” (54 percent), “nervous” (49 percent), and “disconnected” (40 percent).  

As we consider a future wrought with uncertainty and look forward to the day when students return to campus, it will require us to lead with humanity and evaluate the essential role that strategic partnerships can play in adjusting to our new reality and getting students, faculty and staff members, and institutions back on track. 

In the timely wrap-up of this year’s President to President thought leadership series we examine the importance of strategic partnerships; many of the ideas the last two chapters are even more valuable in light of recent events. In “Creative Collaborations: The Promise of Strategic Partnerships,” Springfield College President Mary-Beth A. Cooper, Ph.D., D.M., shares how her institution identifies organizations that share similar values and pursues meaningful partnerships with them. And, in “The Blank Sheet of Paper: Crafting Curated Solutions for Strategic Partners,” Robert Morris University President Chris Howard, D. Phil., describes how his institution forms strategic relationships with local businesses and other employers to develop mutually beneficial programs in Allegheny County, PA and beyond. 

A spirit of partnership has always been part of Sodexo’s foundation, and it is core to our mission of improving quality of daily life. Although the road ahead may present complex challenges, Sodexo is ready to support our partner campuses in navigating a changing landscape and responding to rapidly shifting student demands and expectations. Leading with humanity and strong partnerships will get us back to the business of educating students, even as the business of education changes.

April 30, 2020

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