From President Schneider
Before I get into my update, I want to center your thoughts on one of our students, Ethan Payne. Ethan, who will be a sophomore in the fall, was recently involved in a car accident with his family. His brother didn’t make it and his father was seriously injured. Ethan was also seriously injured with burns on 70 percent of his body. He has a long road of surgeries ahead. Please lift up Ethan, his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.
We had our first Campus Forum for students last night on Zoom. I shared important information and expectations with students and families about the upcoming year. Christi Hopkins, Vice President for Enrollment, facilitated the question/answer session during the forum. Special thanks to my co-host Nicole Abunaja, senior Business Finance major, who shared her insights on a safe and successful academic year. A few key points from our time included:
- McPherson College will leverage its size to keep students safe and start the semester with a less dense campus by making more space between seating in public areas and reducing capacity when necessary as well as training for all employees and students as they return to campus. We will also be prepared in case of mandatory social distancing. To put it in perspective, our “normal” is going to be a major university’s version of “safe” this coming fall. So, by reducing capacity and making some changes to our set-up we will have a safe starting place for the year.
- In-person classes are expected when we start this fall, and faculty will be prepared to accommodate students as needed with hybrid or blended courses. Accommodations will be made for employees and students with health concerns. And we should all be prepared to wear masks in certain situations to protect someone’s health or if wearing masks become a campus wide practice.
- Returning students who completed a housing application should have received their housing assignments. New students will receive their housing assignments by mid-July.
- Fall athletics will have fewer contests, and there is now a “ready to play” plan and schedule.
- All students coming to McPherson College in the fall from abroad should start to make plans to arrive by July 25.
- Finally, we need all students to complete a basic survey over the next week to identify where they will travel from before arriving in McPherson for the fall semester. The survey link can be found at: https://mcstudentlife.formstack.com/forms/student_location
This is just an overview of the information shared last night. A recording of the forum can be found here. All other details related to health/safety, academics, residential life, athletics and fall arrival can be found at www.mcpherson.edu/covid.
The past few months have been difficult on many levels. In addition to our concerns about the pandemic, our minds and hearts are also heavy with racial injustice. I want you all to know that we are committed to the work we’ve started the past five years to become a more inclusive campus—training employees and student leaders to ensure everyone has opportunities in and out of the classroom. I’ve been meeting with a student group and our diversity and inclusion working group to reset plans by engaging our campus in anti-racism education and initiatives.
As you prepare to make your way to campus, please keep in mind that everyone is accepting the reality of our current situation in different ways and at different paces. Please be patient and kind with your co-workers and classmates. To those of you who can’t wait to be on campus, we can’t wait to see you either. To those who are nervous, we will be ready to take care of you and meet you were you are. And to members of our community of color, this campus stands with you.
Leadership will have the campus prepared for the fall. We need you to be prepared to take care of each other.
President, McPherson College
I am more optimistic than I am worried today. We are starting to carefully and safely open up in preparation for your arrival back on campus in August. We continue to follow the phased guidelines provided by the McPherson County Health Department as the state and county have lifted all mandated restrictions. The campus recently completed a plan that ensures students will be safely learning in classrooms, labs, studios, shops and playing fields. A few things for you to know about our planning for the upcoming year:
- The Classroom—Classes are scheduled to begin on August 17th and we plan to meet in-person. The fall semester has been condensed and finals will be finished by Thanksgiving break. However, we know that some in our student body and on faculty or staff might need accommodations based on their health situation. And some international students might struggle to get back to the United States. So, faculty will be ready to deliver courses in hybrid formats for students who need to complete coursework off-campus. In addition, because of our small size we are prepared to social distance in our classrooms, labs, studios and shops.
- Your Health—Campus safety is being addressed as we outline new health protocol for general hygiene and social distancing as needed. We continue to work with the county health department and our campus health clinic to ensure the campus remains safe. Plans are being finalized for testing at our campus clinic. Although there will be space on campus for students to quarantine, no student testing positive for COVID-19 will stay on campus. If students test positive, they will recover off-campus either at home or in isolation at a campus-owned residence. All employees including student workers will be trained in the new health protocol.
- Housing—Student Life is ready to start helping you with room assignments. (Look for an email from student life with more instructions.) We are starting the year with fewer students in dorms and limitations on common spaces as well as practicing important personal hygiene behavior. Staff will be prepared to implement social distancing if needed with single-point entry, bathroom assignments and one-way stair wells to prevent virus spread on campus.
- Athletics—The NAIA in coordination with the National Athletic Trainers Association is providing guidance for keeping athletes safe. The KCAC is developing contingency plans in case there is a disruption in seasons. We will be prepared to limit facility capacity as well as sanitize equipment and spaces as needed.
Additional information on the fall semester can be found at https://www.mcpherson.edu/covid/#faq
As the campus finishes planning for the fall, we need your help to make next year a success. Students and families will soon receive a listing of expectations for returning to campus in the fall. These expectations will outline basic health and safety guidelines as well as some commonsense ground rules. Expectations will be shared with students and families in mid-June.
We have learned the last several months things can change quickly. We are excited to get students and faculty back on campus. We are also prepared and ready for challenges. I expect that we will all be ready to meet these challenges honoring our responsibility to our campus and the greater McPherson community by representing MC well and keeping the campus safe.
Enjoy the weekend.
President, McPherson College
Congratulations graduates! Sunday is the big day for the class of 2020. Tune in to the livestream event starting at 1.30 p.m. CDT: https://www.mcpherson.edu/experiences/graduation/. Graduates and families are invited to a virtual brunch at 11.00 a.m. CDT to share memories and spend time together—special guests will drop in to congratulate the class. I will email a Zoom link to graduates on Saturday for the virtual brunch.
The state of Kansas has made progress reopening as we moved to Phase Two today, which means we are on track to move additional administrators to campus and students can coordinate moving into apartments for the summer. Gatherings are limited to 15 people with six-foot social distancing. I would encourage you to continue checking the website for updates on reopening at: https://www.mcpherson.edu/covid/#faq.
Planning for the fall semester is going well. We are finalizing residential housing sign-up details and guidelines for students returning to campus. In addition, the faculty Educational Policy Committee approved an updated schedule for the 2020-2021 academic year which condenses the fall semester to limit student travel to/from campus. The new schedule starts on August 17 (as planned) but fall finals will be completed before Thanksgiving. Details around the new schedule and plans for accommodating students given any outbreak disruption will be shared next Friday, May 29.
Graduates, your resilience the last two months has set an example that we will always remember. Thanks for making an impact at McPherson College. We look forward to celebrating you on Sunday.
Have a great weekend.
President, McPherson College
While faculty and staff have done a remarkable job operating the campus remotely during the pandemic, we are working toward a gradual reopening of campus consistent with Kansas’ phased plan to reopen the state. Yesterday the state announced modest progress toward reopening by moving from “Phase One” to “Phase 1.5,” allowing for some restrictions to be lifted, including our stay-at-home orders. In Phase 1.5 we continue to limit gatherings to fewer than ten people, while practicing six-foot social distancing. However, we have received authorization from the county during this phase to allow a few key administrative employees to start working on campus as well as schedule time for Kansas students to retrieve their belongings from dorms and host limited numbers of campus visitors from known locations.
Our plans to reopen are being shared and refined across campus in consultation with state and local health officials as well as our on-campus health clinic partner. Reopening this summer is the first step to getting students back in classrooms, labs, studios, and shops and onto playing fields. Here are a few highlights of how the Kansas plan to reopen affects campus:
Kansas Phase Two, which will begin no sooner than June 1 includes bringing additional administration back to campus; summer apartment move-in for students; gatherings limited to 30 people; six-foot social distancing and continued remote campus operation.
Kansas Phase Three will include departments moving back to campus gradually; Mohler Hall open for student services; facilities available to students when supervised on a limited basis; gatherings limited to 90 people; six-foot social distancing and continued remote operations for staff meetings.
Kansas Phase Out plans, which we hope will be realized in June would allow us to fully open the campus; reconsider our travel policy; allow in-person meetings with continued use of remote technology as needed and allow more student engagement on campus.
Additional details on reopening as they relate to different areas across campus will be shared over the coming week. Students can find out how reopening will affect them at: https://www.mcpherson.edu/covid/#faq
We are all anxious about the fall semester. However, I refuse to let this pandemic define McPherson College. We don’t know yet if next year will be a little different or a lot different. And there isn’t a college on the planet that has the answer yet. However, we will press for a safe return to physical classrooms and activities, while we prepare for possible disruptions. We will have a plan for next fall in place by June 1—a plan that will serve our students no matter the outbreak status.
Most of us chose McPherson College because it is small. Our size has been and will prove to be an advantage during this outbreak. We are able to adjust quickly to serve students and keep the campus safe. You have already proven that you, the members of our community, will continue to define McPherson College.
Thanks to each of you for making it a great day to be a Bulldog. Good luck with finals next week!
President, McPherson College
Today we celebrated your accomplishments at our annual awards convocation. Your good work this year did not go unnoticed. The awards convocation which premiered this afternoon on our social media networks can also be viewed online at:
Our marketing and public relations team produced this video and countless other multimedia this semester. Thanks Brian Lundberg, Tina Goodwin, Colleen Gustafson and Corey Long for your dedication to keeping our campus culture alive online. Also, thanks to Andy Ullom and Kevin Morris in computer services for making sure we have the platforms and bandwidth to deliver the messages. This update is dedicated to all our employees who have pitched in adapting to meet the changing needs of our campus this spring.
When the outbreak started in March, it became clear that some employees would be overwhelmed and others would have their work put on hold. One of the most impressive parts of this COVID-19 experience is witnessing people from across campus pitch in to help co-workers make an impact.
As faculty worked through the remarkable task transitioning to remote instruction, the registrar’s office took over the responsibility enrolling students for fall courses. Since the registrar’s office was already short staffed, others across campus from academic services, admissions and advancement to student life have stepped up to keep us on track enrolling students. Entire teams have set aside their normal routines, including Linda Barrett, Carole Barr and Lisa Goering in academic services; Gabrielle Williams, Danielle Sutter, Justin Wiltfong and Aaron Bachura in student life; as well as Kendra Flory and Monica Rice in advancement, to make sure students are ready for the fall semester. Even Jaime Perez, our Fresh Ideas Foodservice Director, is finding time outside preparing quarantine meals to help support our efforts.
A new partnership between career services and human resources has been created to better serve students. The uncertainty in the job market has created a heavy workload in our career office. Brenda Stocklin-Smith in human resources has been quick to shift her responsibilities to contact students and support our work to ensure students get jobs.
Staff make a lot of calls during a normal year, but between student life, academic services, business office, athletics, advancement and admissions, we have recently been contacting 3,000 people a week to stay in touch since we can’t meet in person. Brian Martin and Abi Morgan, who would typically be in the shop or at an automotive event, have altered their work, making dozens of calls a week to students, donors and employers in preparation for next year.
Jamie Makatche and Lindsey Loucks, who would normally be serving a buzzing Miller Library, are now on the front lines making sure students have what they need to complete the semester and recently started supporting admissions efforts to review transcripts for fall transfer students.
Athletics and facilities staff are helping with projects in the business office. Andrew Gustafson and Connie Stucky are normally focused on taking care of our physical plant but have now crossed over to help with accounts payable. And although Phil Schoenwetter’s spring season got cut short as our head athletic trainer, he has also agreed to spend a few hours a week supporting the business office.
Even Dave Barrett, who should be on the road raising money, has stepped up to relive his glory days in admissions by making a few recruiting calls each day. And when I thanked Dave for helping out, he said, “Let me know what else I can do to help.”
Next Friday I will share our plans to reopen the campus in preparation for the fall semester. And although there is uncertainty as we plan for the fall, I am confident we will be ready because of the people who serve McPherson College—the same people who are leading us through this semester working outside their normal duties asking what they can do next.
The sun is out in McPherson, KS. Have a great weekend.
President, McPherson College
In the spirit of our seniors, this update is dedicated to you. I have enjoyed following social media the last week as we began to recognize you and your time at McPherson College. I encourage the campus to celebrate our senior capstone projects as they come online the next few weeks.
Career is important to all students, but particularly relevant to our seniors who will soon scatter out into the world. Seniors, you should have all received a graduate outcome survey link. This survey helps us understand where you are in the process of securing employment or graduate school placement. If you have not completed the survey, please do so at: https://mcstudentlife.formstack.com/forms/graduation_outcomes_2019_20
- We recently reallocated staff on campus including our human resources department to support students with securing internships and employment. We continue to be committed to your careers. Here are a few things for all McPherson College students to know about career services:
- Questions or concerns about internships, jobs or other topics related to your career should be directed to Amy Beckman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many students have already taken advantage of the new programs created to support you in this complicated job market.
We are part of the Handshake network with hundreds of certified McPherson College employers and jobs across the country. The following link will help: Getting started in Handshake.
- The Student Debt Project is moving into its fourth year and we are accepting any student committed to reducing their student debt. Debt Project students work with mentors in small cohorts learning financial skills to manage their budgets. McPherson College matches part of every dollar applied to a student’s account. Debt Project students are graduating with 1/3 less debt than other students at McPherson College.
Finally, on Thursday night the Kansas Governor announced the state’s plan to “ease” out of our stay-at-home orders and open the economy. We continue to social distance and public gatherings are limited; however, the plan moves us in the right direction to welcome students on campus in August. Many students, faculty and staff have struggled at some point to make the best of this situation. You might be questioning whether your “best” is good enough. Please know one thing as you work hard to complete this semester—your best is good enough for me.
President, McPherson College
My next couple updates will be dedicated to our seniors. Seniors, when we were together in Brown Auditorium a few weeks ago, we knew an in-person commencement ceremony was uncertain given the limitation on large group gatherings. After consulting a group of student leaders and others on campus, we have decided to host a virtual commencement on the scheduled May 24th date. We considered a Homecoming commencement but concluded that there are too many unknowns and asking families to come back in October could be unrealistic or even a hardship. There are already too many hardships given this situation. Families have the current date saved, so we are proceeding with a virtual commencement to allow everyone an opportunity to participate no matter your location. Here are some highlights of the planned event:
- Virtual Brunch with President Schneider @ 11 a.m. CST
- Live Stream Graduation @ 2 p.m. CST
- Cap and Gowns will be mailed ASAP
- Visit the Bulldog Connect homepage for instructions
Social media the next few weeks will focus on seniors. Follow all of MC’s social media accounts, sharing your comments and likes. We are also working on a dedicated webpage to celebrate our senior capstone projects.
Every student has made an investment into their career at MC. And we recognize our returning students have a lot on the line for next year. Please know that although this COVID-19 outbreak creates uncertainty, many faculty and staff are working hard to make plans for next year. We will be ready. And we expect you will, too.
Keep up the good work in your classes and enjoy the weekend.
President, McPherson College
I continue to be impressed by your effort to work through our complicated world. Each day brings a new challenge. Students, I recognize that you would rather be in the classroom but hang in there and keep showing up. Thanks to each of you for doing your part.
We had a “Zoom” huddle this week with nearly 150 employees attending the meeting. It was fun to get the campus together even though we had to quickly “mute all.” I shared some of the themes we are learning from our remote operation and how we will start plans to be ready for next year. The uncertainty this outbreak has caused is frustrating, but please remember the following about next year:
- McPherson College will be ready to start classes by August 17.
- We will be ready for students to return when it is safe.
- We have a group on campus working through different options for next year.
- We will get students back in labs, studios and shops as soon as possible.
- Support and services will continue, and our top priority is graduating students on time.
- We are committed to every sport competing in 2020-21 and discussions are underway in the NAIA to make sure your seasons take place at some point in the year.
We have groups of faculty and staff working on planning for different scenarios in preparation for next fall. They are exploring all options but know that the most important part of the equation is maximizing the student experience no matter the situation.
Keep taking care of each other, and know that I can’t wait to get you all back to campus. I miss you.
President, McPherson College
Thanks to each of you for your commitment to the temporarily “new” McPherson College. Everyone is doing their part. Students are encouraging each other and patiently waiting on how we can help them through this difficult situation. Faculty are pressing forward remotely to complete the semester. And staff keep the operation moving. I recognize how much you miss each other, and I am thankful for your grace during this time. If this crisis has proven one thing, it is how much we appreciate being a community.
Since my last note, students displaced from campus dorms have received credits on their student accounts. In addition, there is new guidance in the “FAQ” section of www.mcpherson.edu/covid for students and families. Staff are ready to help navigate options for students with significant hardship. I appreciate your understanding as we balance personal situations with the ongoing challenges of our institution.
Let me be clear on two points as many are curious about what fall semester will look like at McPherson College. First, we will be ready to start classes by August 17. Second, we are committed to every student learning in the classroom, competing on the field, creating in the studio, researching in the lab and working in the shop next academic year even if there is a delay because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The challenges continue, but I am confident each of you will help us navigate this situation. I think one of the parents of a prospective student during our virtual Presidential Scholarship day this past weekend said it best.
“Your team did a great job adapting to the current situation. I work with Fortune 500 companies and state government organizations and they’ve been struggling to get up to speed with online activities. It almost appears as if your school was prepared in advance due to how seamlessly you moved to an online format.”
Stay safe and happy Easter.
President, McPherson College
Thanks to your great work, we finished our first week of remote classes on our way to completing the second semester. There continues to be a lot of uncertainty in the world; however, it is nice to be part of a focused institution with a persistent student body.
I had the chance to meet with student leaders today via Microsoft Teams. I am impressed with their work to keep other students informed and engaged. We talked about student concerns related to finishing the semester as well as engaging students online and recognizing our senior class. I want to personally thank our Student Government Association president, Diamond Blaylock-Norris. She has shown strong leadership keeping our student organizations in place, while advising me and others on staff, during this difficult situation.
As we look to next week, students displaced from campus dorms should be receiving notices of credits toward their student accounts, and by next Friday there will be more information in the FAQ section of this page related to the CARES Act and how MC can support students. In addition, make sure to follow MC on social media as there will be a lot of activity to connect students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.
Finally, I heard from MC graduate Lou Schneider ’06 this week. Lou is managing over 100 physicians who are battling the COVID-19 outbreak in New Orleans. His family has a special connection to MC. When Hurricane Katrina left them homeless in August 2005, Lou’s family joined him in McPherson as classes started that fall. They lived for several months in a home owned by the college. This week Lou was reflective of his time at MC and was moved to share a few words of encouragement with our campus. I’ll share his thoughts with you Monday on social media.
Lou is one of many alumni and friends who have reached out to me over the past week. Please know that people are thinking about you and praising your good work.
Enjoy the weekend.
President, McPherson College
Our first day of the second semester starts Monday. Although this isn’t the semester that any of us planned, here we are together at our digital devices finding a way to move forward. Most of the campus is working remotely. Leading from a laptop presents new challenges but I’m finding a new appreciation for our work and lucky to be surrounded by so many talented co-workers.
Many of you continue to have concerns and questions. I would encourage you to look for updates here. The “FAQ” at the bottom of the page provides information related to students. Congress recently passed unprecedented legislation called the CARES Act, which is a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package. There are important allocations for higher education to support emergency aid to students. Although we don’t have enough guidance on the new bill to share specifics, we are still committed to credits for displaced students and we plan to notify those students about credits to their accounts by April 6. We are evaluating all costs associated, including the percent of interterm/spring semesters remaining, fixed costs associated with the credit as well as the timing. I also recognize others are struggling with hardships and we are working on ways to support you. We will share more details on how we can help in the next few weeks.
Students, as you sit down in front of a screen next week to start classes, know that there is a person on the other end—a person who cares and worries about you. A person who is working hard to find a way to finish the year in spite of our current situation.
Faculty, you inspired our campus the past few weeks. You stepped up and exceeded my expectations to recreate how learning will happen in courses.
Seniors, I am in awe. It was me who made the decision to upend the year. I cancelled the spring athletic seasons and end-of-year events. I moved classes online. And I asked many of you to leave campus. It was hard to share all of this with you two weeks ago when we were together in Brown Auditorium. I expected to be met with anger and resentment. However, what I found was grace. Many of you were worried about me— the guy who ruined your year. Your overwhelming support has made me better. You motivate me to find a way forward.
It isn’t what we planned but you are ready. Have a great first day of class!