Dispatches from Arizona during the Time of COVID-19

Written by: Laura Sippel

As I write this in my home office in Arizona, there are news reports that Arizona is the second highest state to have the most spikes in COVID-19 cases in a single day. My husband and I have been self-quarantining ourselves since March. As my profession is marketing for expert organizations related to credential evaluation and applied comparative education research, these have been very trying times.

According to NBC News, “Coronavirus hospitalizations in Arizona have hit record numbers as cases continue to surge in states in the South and the West, overwhelming medical professionals.” Arizona reported a record high of 3,591 new cases Tuesday, June 23, 2020 – with nearly 60,000 known cases in the state overall.  Some of the people hit hard by the pandemic are in rural areas.

11% of the White Mountain Apache Tribe population in Pinetop, just north of downtown Phoenix, have tested positive for COVID-19. According to AZ Family News, the number of cases per capita is now outpacing the sprawling Navajo Nation, which has been a COVID-19 hot spot.

The Navajo Department of Health reports 7,045 cases out of a population of approximately 173,000, according to 2010 Census data. The White Mountain Apache tribal community will go on a 57-hour lockdown starting June 26, 2020, followed by a shelter-in-place order. Tribal leaders are also prepared to use the police and the courts to force people into quarantine. The council approved converting part of the Hon-Dah casino-hotel in Pinetop into a site for both voluntary and involuntary quarantine.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged people to continue to physically distance and wear masks when they could not stay home if they were sick. He acknowledged the rise in cases, but said there had also been an increase in testing. “We’ve increased testing in Arizona 600 percent since April 15, we’ve more than doubled testing since we lifted the stay-at-home order, so we’re going to continue the focus there,” he said. “But we’re also seeing an increase in positivity, which tells us that the virus continues to spread.”

It has certainly been some challenging times and I’ve been searching for a way to cope and have found it in my international higher education community.

Today I attended the fourth session of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) Mindful Minutes with ACEI – Safe Space, Virtual Place. ACEI President and CEO, Mrs. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert said, “ACEI’s Mindful Minutes provides a moment of rest and refueling in these times of upheaval. In today’s session, we utilized the mind-body connection to foster personal stability. Practicing mindfulness in community, we interact with care for connection. This session was geared toward helping us all meet this moment with inner courage.”

ACEI’s guest speaker is Abby Wills who is an educator with an MA in Human Development. Abby has over twenty years of experience in integrating mindful practices for social emotional health into a wide diversity of school settings through direct service to learners and educators throughout Los Angeles and internationally.

These sessions focus on our mental health during the challenges and uncertainties of these times which can be overwhelming. Jasmin continued, “self-care is crucial right now. To effectively navigate our way through the unknown, we need to first take care of our own well-being, before we can help our loved ones, co-workers, students, applicants.”

As a community, we are directly addressing the changes and gaining an understanding of how individuals and institutions are managing change in higher education. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities have worked diligently and creatively to bring students back to the United States to complete their academic programs online. Professionals are banding together to provide roundtable discussions and sessions on international policy issues, international credential document fraud, updating online resources for admissions, how to think differently during a time of crisis, sustainable online databases available and how to use them, and much more.

We are also learning how to adapt to a virtual world. While virtual education abroad may not substitute a direct experience abroad, it may be increasingly relied upon to engage students for effective education abroad programming. Our professional organizations are providing excellent up-to-date travel information, while others have kept us informed of the endless changing immigration policies.

Our profession has addressed our need for a solid, steady and predictable world during these uncertain times. By collaborating closely with colleagues, education abroad program providers, and international university partners; organizations and institutions are adapting academic standards and set practices to accommodate changes.

According to Inside Higher Education, members of the higher education community are supporting front-line workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. “Whether it’s repurposing university-owned equipment to decontaminate N95 masks, mixing hand sanitizer in chemistry labs for use by hospitals, collecting supplies of personal protective equipment — of which there is a critical national shortage — or babysitting health-care workers’ children, professionals in higher education and the students they serve have found all kinds of ways to help.”

Everyone goes into this field wanting to help others.

Abby said today’s Mindful Minutes with ACEI, “being mindful is simple, but it’s not easy. None of us are alone in this experience. Keep each other in mind and heart.”

I am so very grateful for our community. Be safe and be well.

P.S. If interested, you can listen to the recordings of ACEI’s Mindful Minutes Sessions by clicking here and scrolling down to “Presentations.” You won’t be disappointed!

Laura Sippel is President of Laura Sippel Dynamic Consulting. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing in higher education. She is the Director of Marketing and Communication for The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) and is a member of ACEI’s Global Consulting Group www.acei-global-consulting.org.

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, California, USA.  ACEI is a full-service company providing complete and integrated services in the areas of international education research, credential evaluation, and translation. ACEI’s Global Consulting Group®, offers expertise in the following specialties: Media and Branding, Global Pathways, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to interested institutions and organizations around the globe. www.acei-global.org

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Filed under COVI-19, COVID-19, credentialevaluation, Credentials, Education, evaluation, Human Interest, international education, international students, Language, News, Politics, study abroad, technology, Travel

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