The COVID-19 pandemic reminds Dr. Debra Eischen of another time of crisis.
“I was in the state of New York during 9-11. It was terrifying. We did not know from one day to the next what would happen. I had a brother in the Pentagon. Everyone started cocooning, they stayed home. This is kind of similar to that, but this enemy is unseen,” Eischen said. “One of the things I think about during these types of crises is that it’s a time where you can thank God for many blessings you have and to reprioritize. It’s just a chance to see that these material things we hold so near and dear that you don’t take with you. It gives us a chance to get in touch with our loved ones and figure out what’s really important.”
Eischen also believes these are times for businesses to reprioritize – “people, planet, then profit.” She notes instances of major businesses stepping up to the aid of humanity – 3M stepping up production of protective masks, automakers starting to produce ventilators – even whiskey distilleries shifting to producing hand sanitizer.
As Eischen tries to guide students from her face-to-face classes to continue their studies online, she noted that if anything positive comes out of a pandemic like this, it’s the opportunity to create knowledge and observe sectors of the business community that are responding in positive ways.
“In business we’re always looking at different ways to solve problems and satisfy needs, so for right now I give them assignments that have to deal with that,” Eischen said.
She also points out the readiness of a growing number of online retailers and flexibility of a growing number of businesses already relying on telecommuting employees who have been working from their homes.
“You’ll notice in homebuilding now there is usually an extra room in the front of the house near the front entrance that they call a flex room or an office. So, even the builders are recognizing the necessity for that,” Eischen said.
Eischen wants for her students to grasp ways they can learn from crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to focus on solutions.
“For us in the Benson School of Business it’s a wonderful opportunity to get these people thinking about, ‘this is what I can be doing in the future.’ They even switch gears a bit, they might even want to get into health care or supply chain in health care,” Eischen said. “It’s very easy for young people to get on social media and just become inundated with all of this bad news and forget – first of all – that God is in control – don’t forget about talking to Him. Ask Him for strength. An attitude of gratitude is something we shouldn’t just talk about but show through servant leadership. This in my opinion will make students stronger; they’re going to be more knowledgeable; they’re going to be in tune with what can happen in this world and how can we prevent it. If it does happen again, what can we do to mitigate the harm it does. I have faith they will do it.”