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A letter from the Dean

  • 24 Mar. 2020
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  • Last updated: 25 Mar. 2020 09:36

"Dearest Friends of the NATO Defense College,

Last month when we welcomed Senior Course 136 and NATO Regional Cooperation Course 23 (NRCC- 23), I intended to refresh this site with a semi-annual update. Unfortunately, the spread of the Corona Virus Disease-19 (COVID-19) into Europe has stipulated otherwise.

A letter from the Dean

Oddly, the delay in publishing the note has provided an opportunity to explain the College’s response to the pandemic. COVID-19 has impacted the College in substantial ways, but we are committed to protecting our people, delaying the spread of the virus, and continuing the mission.

The safety of our faculty, staff, and families is paramount to academic programme execution. To ensure both, we moved to 100% on-line instruction, with live-streamed lectures, “remote” committee discussions, and “virtual” Field Studies. We have consolidated the College’s efforts onto executing Senior Course 136 and planning for Senior Course 137. Several constraints prevented us from satisfactorily delivering the agreed NRCC 23 programme, which was canceled as of 17 March. Most participants returned safely to their home nations, but some remained in Rome and are following the Senior Course programme until 9 April. Based on planning timelines, uncertain travel requirements, and the primacy of the Senior Course, we also canceled or postponed a number of other courses and activities into June. These include the Modular Short Courses, the Integrated Partner Orientation Course, the Generals, Flag Officers, and Ambassadors’ Course, the Senior Executive Regional Conference, NATO International Week in Kiev, and the Conference of Commandants.

The Senior Course has been the firm foundation of the College for 69 years and now, our primary goal is to achieve Senior Course learning objectives to the maximum extent possible. We will continue with the current remote model at least until 9 April, with the intent of reconvening after the Easter Break. Circumstances permitting, we hope to see everyone – Faculty, Staff, and Course Members – back at the College on 20 April.

The NATO Defense College is not designed, structured or resourced for online instruction but thanks to everyone’s hard work and determination, we’re overcoming multiple challenges. Our experimentation with live-streamed lectures and technology-enabled committees in 2019, provided a glimpse of greater on-line instruction possibilities. Currently, we have over a 100 faculty and course members listening to live lectures and asking questions in real-time, using a chat box. Faculty Advisors are learning new tools to facilitate committee work, the staff is tackling myriad technical issues, and the course members are adjusting to exchanging ideas in the virtual environment. These virtual classrooms are not the same as sitting together with classmates in the auditorium and listening to questions being asked in wonderfully accented English or through deft interpretation, but they are a safer and suitable substitute – for now.

Additionally, to comply with Prime Minister Conte’s decree and our Host Nation’s policy, we are protecting the faculty, staff, and course members by stopping the spread of the virus through a 95% teleworking policy, meaning only 5% of us are actually working in the building at any time. At the College to date, we have had two people test positive, one test negative and are taking every precaution to stop the spread of the virus.

Outside the College, Rome is a città fantasma (ghost town). We’re not even in the epicentre but our hearts go out to those in more afflicted areas. The Commandant signed an affidavit that allows faculty, staff, and course members to go to-and-from the office on essential business, which is allowing us to carry on with minimal manning. Each one of us also has a “self-attestation” to go to the grocery store or pharmacy. Amazingly, (despite local driving habits ☺), nearly everyone is adhering to the protocols, being respectful, keeping their distance in supermarket lines, waiting their turn patiently, and avoiding the temptation to hoard. And of course, you might’ve heard about singing from balconies in the evenings. It’s true and wonderful to see (and hear) the best coming out of people in the worst of times!

The situation continues to change rapidly, which is one of the many reasons why the Commandant and I have been so impressed by the adaptability and resilience of faculty, staff and course members. We are grateful for their dedication and to you for your continued interest in, and support of, the NDC and its mission. Let’s stay healthy and strong during these trying times. And let’s keep going together!

Grazie mille, merci beaucoup."

Stephen J. Mariano, Ph.D.

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