Shaping the Future of Health and Communication

The President’s Column

Portrait of President Jo Allen In the fall of 2022, Meredith College proudly opened its newest academic/athletic building: Communication and Health, Exercise & Sport Sciences (CHESS). The building houses two growing programs, communication and health, exercise & sport sciences, along with several coaches’ offices. Collectively, the decision to house these programs in a new facility was based on the majors’ incredible enrollment growth as well as our successful athletics program. We also wanted to signal Meredith’s ongoing, but often unseen, commitment to health programs that attract talented students and speak in powerful ways to the needs and passions of women.

During the pandemic, which ironically interrupted the building’s construction for several months, we became more acutely aware of the impact of general health and open communication on the well-being of our society and ourselves. We know, for instance, that underlying health conditions were powerful factors in the impact of COVID on the body (the degree and longevity of debilitation and recovery), as well as drivers for policy decisions regarding work options (remote or in-office), the prioritization of vaccinations and boosters, and the lasting effects of illness.


Similarly, we relearned the importance of knowledge and communication of that knowledge during the pandemic, including the disparate effects on various groups by age, race, economics, and other factors. I’ve often said COVID-19 was a perfect storm of information, disinformation, and misinformation – some science-based and evolving and some conspiracy-laden and deteriorating. Sadly, we did not see the coming together of concern and care that has characterized so many threats to our nation’s well-being and, especially, to the most vulnerable among us.

Our programs are designed to address the many health and communication elements that deeply affect our everyday lives. From taking better care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually, to being more effective listeners, writers, and speakers, we have an extraordinary opportunity when asked “What did you learn from the pandemic?” to respond that we learned how better to respond to discomfort, to navigate change and challenge, and to put others at the center of our concerns.

As educators and learners, we remind ourselves and teach our students that life is fundamentally about change. Having a wonderful new building to house those explorations through technology, simulations, and hands-on experiences further solidifies our commitment to navigating change with our strengths in mind.

President Jo Allen, ’80