University of Nebraska President Ted Carter is facing a different challenge today than in his 38 years of military service due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Carter came to NU in January out of retirement and is now helping the entire NU community respond to the coronavirus. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Carter said that had he known it was coming, he would have still taken the job. He could not be happier to be a Nebraskan and be at NU.
“Nebraskans are problem solvers; if there’s a big problem and you ask somebody to help you solve it, they’ll solve it,” Carter said. “We here, in this state, are problem solvers, not problem gazers. We just don’t sit back and critique or admire a tough problem, we’re out there to fix it.”
To solve problems brought on by the coronavirus, Carter has been focusing on what NU can do now to be successful in the future, including ensuring families that campuses will be open so they can plan ahead.
“What we need right now is predictability, using all the resources that we have to make the best-informed decisions that we can and not sit on our hands and wait for perfect information,” Carter said. “The NU system is doing that, we’re working across our campuses; everybody is in lockstep.”
Carter said he and each campus chancellor and other campus leaders meet more frequently now than before the coronavirus in order to keep everyone up to date on information. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green said Carter has offered support and helped ensure UNL can continue in its educational mission.
“He has been really a rock through this and has been a very, very strong leader,” Green said. “He sees us emerging from this on the other side of this pandemic becoming a stronger institution as a result of it, and I wholeheartedly agree.”
Each NU campus is attending to different problems, Green said. The University of Nebraska Medical Center is assisting medical students and their education in the future and the University of Nebraska at Kearney is dealing with surrounding areas with high concentrations of COVID-19 cases, like Hall and Adams counties. But Carter continues to assist all aspects of NU.
“I think we absolutely hired the best person for this position that is out there; I’m convinced of that,” Green said.
Carter’s five-year strategic plan, which was planned to be released before the Board of Regents meeting, will be released closer to the fall, according to Carter. He said he wants to be respectful to the situation and focus his attention on its response.
Having served in life and death situations, Carter said those in combat usually refer to not having perfect information as the fog of war. Now, people are dealing with not having all of the information in what he calls the fog of COVID-19, but Carter said NU can get through it, just like it survived other historical situations.
“We read that in the history books, but now we have a crop of very talented young men and women that have been through it and through the educational system,” he said. “Now they’re going to have lots of their own ideas for how to solve the next pandemic or the next national or even state problem.”
Carter said the future remains uncertain, but sitting back and waiting for a vaccine will not help students and their families who may be wondering if they can go to or should return to NU. In the meantime, he also hopes the graduating seniors can celebrate their successes and recognize the challenges they overcame.
Carter said the months ahead will require patience, and while hope may not be a course of action or a driving factor in deciding what to do next, there is no doubt that everyone needs hope as NU looks to be even stronger on the other side of the pandemic.
“Hope is that very foundational piece of inspiration that will make us believe that we're going to be able to get through this and get through it safely and be stronger and enjoy the life that we got to know in the past, even though it might change a little bit going into the future,” Carter said. “There is a lot to be excited about going into the future.”