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A COVID Journal

Journal Entries

Follow along as President Michael Schneider chronicles the changes caused by COVID-19 in this journal. Starting on March 11, 2020, the entries describe actions taken to manage the college through the pandemic as well as personal insights.

 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Opening Convocation—Campus update to employees, students, families and board of trustees

  • Huge thanks to our students for following the health and safety protocol.
  • A few precautionary symptomatic quarantines but no exposures or positive cases yet.
  • “Welcomes” at Convocation came from student Ethan Payne and long time staffers David Barrett and Carole Barr.
  • We have a lot to be proud of—record enrollment, students reducing debt, students getting jobs, new academic programs like the health care initiative and new campus center in planning phases.
  • New outdoor events announced for the “First 40 Days” of school including a Build Your Own Adventure program where students can plan outings throughout Kansas using MC owned gear.
  • Students are exactly where they need to be—in college at MC ensuring their futures as we safely and successfully navigate the year.

My takeaway: It is a great day to be a Bulldog!

Personal: Only 10 more days until I drop my student off at college for her freshman year.

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Alumni Forum on Zoom

  • Focused topic for this alumni forum was Athletics.
  • Athletics is the most complicated part of our reopening as we continue to work with the conference on return to play. The protocol is detailed and every school is operating on different scenarios. Example: Some schools are allowing no visiting fans, while others allow any fans with no masks as long as they can social distance.
  • Every sport is different and requires different protocol for practice, competition and off the field engagement.
  • Soccer, Volleyball, Cross Country and Tennis start the week of September 5, while Football plays on September 12.

My takeaway: People really like athletics. And our alumni appreciate the steps we’ve taken to operate safely.

Personal: Hayden Schneider found out she will now be in a suite with a roommate—we are all very happy.

 

Monday, August 17, 2020

First Day of Fall Semester 2020— Campus update to employees, students, families and board of trustees

  • It’s been 162 days since we were in class last spring.
  • The campus has done excellent work preparing and executing plans for students to see this day.
  • Special shout-out to Director of Facilities and Safety, Marty Sigwing for all his work and leadership.
  • Students are doing a great job following the protocol—wearing masks and social distancing when needed.

My takeaway: Inside Higher Education and The Chronicle of Higher Education both said students would not show up. Well, here they are on campus doing what they need to do for us to navigate the year. Likely another enrollment record.

Personal: First day of class and you can see the dimples rise above the masks from all those happy students excited to be back in college. It was a good day.

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Greater McPherson Community Forum on Zoom

  • Hosted a forum for local leaders to share our reopening plans.
  • All plans have been approved by the McPherson County Health Director.
  • Leaders were impressed with our comprehensive Health and Safety Protocol.
  • Recognized local support of MC and fortunate we are to be in this community.

My takeaway: There is now a limit on how much hand sanitizer you can hoarde. Apparently the stuff is really flammable in large quantities.

Personal: A late night of cards, which has become an end of day tradition in our household, has me slow today. Teenagers play hard.

 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Alumni Forum on Zoom

  • Hosted alumni on Zoom to share our Health and Safety Protocol as well as our 2021 operating plans.
  • Lots of good questions and appreciation for sharing details.
  • Student leaders have started to arrive on campus—so far, so good.
  • Ethan Payne, a freshman who was seriously injured in a car accident this spring, left the hospital this week to rehabilitate at home.

My takeaway: Zoom has come in handy the past few months, but I miss seeing the people behind the “Q&A.”

Personal: The Schneiders have started to talk about next summer’s plans.

 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, familes and board of trustees

  • This is the big update to students and families that outlines our expectations for the fall semester. We shared our completed reopening plan and Health and Safety Protocol today. The COVID section of our website is becoming rich with updates and bookmarked by many familes.
  • All details are worked out except athletics. Details around return to play will evolve prior to planned competitions in early September. Weekly Zooms are scheduled for KCAC athletic director and presidents.
  • First COVID death in McPherson county.

My takeaway: Effort makes a difference. We are ready for students to arrive.

Personal: Tomorrow is August 1st. Weekend temperatures expected in the low 80s. I’ll take it.

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Zoom Campus Forum with new and returning students/familes

  • Hosted the forum with students Nicole Abunaja, Student Atheletic Leadership Team, as well as Tyler Dunn, SGA President and Courtney Weesner, M-Club.
  • Spent a lot of time talking about move-in and check-in—limit two guests per student, health and safety training requirements and “Welcome Week” activities.
  • Examples were given on how hybrid classes will work and that nearly every class will have an in-person componenet.
  • Answered a lot of questions about athletic participation protocol, residence halls and dining hall. Daily health checks are required for every athlete, residence hall capacities will be reduced and students will reserve times to eat in the dining hall or take-away meals.

My takeaway: Leadership can come from anywhere at anytime. I witnessed it over the past several weeks thanks to senior Nicole Abunaja who has hosted all three of our Zoom Campus Forums with me. She has provided me solid advice and support the past several weeks.

Personal: Now that I’m not around the house as much I’m eating less OREOs.

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Campus huddle with employees

  • Provided an update on Health and Safety Protocol.
  • Shared details around how the budget will work for the fiscal year.
  • Cloth masks are in for all employees and students.
  • Classrooms are ready to go and social distanced.
  • USD 418 will likely delay the start of their school year, which will affect employees—this is the start of the common disruptions we will face throughout the year.

My takeaway: This will be a strange year for higher education. Students and families perceived value of a socially distanced, hybrid experience will be very low; while the cost to the institution to provide this “low” value experience and all of the associated safety precautions will cost us more than any year in our history.

Personal: I appreciate the notes of support. When was the last time you got a hand written note? Thank you.

 

Friday July 17, 2020

Board of Trustee meetings

  • The board of trustees affirmed our 2021 operating plans with three horizons based on pandemic disruption. In addition, they approved an operating budget with key dates to release funds to ensure dollars are used carefully depending on disruption.
  • The board and administration spent time diagnosing what we have learned since March.
  • 2020-2021 Priorities were suggested by leadership and endorsed by the board:
    1. Operational Excellence—The operation is strategic in 2020-2021. Navigating the upcoming fiscal year safely (physical and mental health) and adapting the student experience, while continuing to unite the campus is the top priority.
    2. Community by Design Initiative Focus—Lean into initiatives that will directly impact students—career, student debt project, PAC, retention and inclusion. Give the campus permission to delay some initiatives.
    3. Assess and Learn—Continue to push for learning across campus and assess the situation often to gauge when more focus can be on the Community by Design strategic initiatives.
    4. Steer clear of the Iceberg and create space to look beyond—Find time and resources for leaders across campus to look beyond the current situation to reset the Community by Design strategic plan.

My takeaway: The goal of most of our summer board retreats is to esure alignment between MC leadership and trustees on priorities and expectations. Alignment was accomplished this summer.

Personal: We got an official time for Hayden’s high school graduation. Saturday, August 8 from 10:40-11:00 a.m. Looks like they will do 10-minute ceremonies with 12 graduates at a time.

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Zoom Campus Forum with new and returning students/familes

  • Hosted the second family forum with students Nicole Abunaja, Student Atheletic Leadership Team, representative and Shyanne Henkis, SGA Chief of Staff.
  • Provided an overview of the health and safety protocol.
  • Masks will be worn on campus and the city of McPherson passed a mask ordinance requiring masks in town when social distancing is not possible.
  • Good questions from anxious parents.
  • The Homeland Security decision to disallow international students from staying in the US if classes move online was reversed—international students can stay in the US no matter how courses are offered at MC. Good news given 10% of our students are international.

My takeaway: Things change quickly. We need to do better riding the highs and lows of this situation.

Personal: If you want to go into Walgreens you need to wear a mask. They have plenty of OREOS by the way.

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Campus huddle with employees

  • Introduced the new health and safety protocol.
  • Reiterated that we will continue to listen to the CDC guidance on reopening.
  • Onboarding students will be different and we will create a less dense campus.
  • Same day PCR testing will be available on campus by early September.
  • The campus will be in masks when not in personal spaces or outside and unable to social distance.
  • Training is in place for all employees and students.
  • Recent decision by Homeland Security to disallow international students from staying in the US if colleges have to move classes online presents a big issue—campus leadership is exploring options.

My takeaway: This year will present a major challenge balancing individual preferences with institutional needs.

Personal: We had a great forth of July—sort of normal. Just the four of us.

 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, familes and board of trustees

  • Masks are required by the state. We have been wearing masks since our reopening. Continue wearing masks.
  • Testing is becoming more of an option with tests and equipment on order. The entire student body will not be tested which comes at the recommendation of the CDC. Only symptomatic and exposed people will be tested.
  • 77 positive COVID-19 Case in McPherson County.

My takeaway: Everyday is something new. I don’t like clichés but this year we might have to just go with it—one day at a time.

Personal: Family golf outing was a success.

 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, familes and board of trustees

  • Updated information on a safe and successful return to campus are in place.
  • Ethan Payne is doing better but has a long recovery. Thoughts and prayers to him, his family and friends. Coach Fiscus and the football team will be an important part of his recovery.
  • mcpherson.edu/covid is updated with our most comprehensive plans yet for the 2020-21 academic year.
  • Good meetings with students as well as our diversity and inclusion working group to reset plans for next year.
  • 41 positive COVID-19 Case in McPherson County.

My takeaway: Everyone is accepting the reality of the situation in different ways and at different paces. We need to be patient and kind to each other. Leadership will be ready for the fall semester. And I hope everyone else is ready to take care of each other.

Personal: Kandee and I went inside a store this week. It felt like we were the only ones wearing masks.

 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Zoom Campus Forum with new and returning students/familes

  • Hosted the forum with student Nicole Abunaja, Student Atheletic Leadership Team, representative and senior business major. The forum was less about the content and more about getting people together so they could trust we have a plan. Over 100 questions presented by the participants answered by cabinet members.
  • Shared information on our health/safety, academic, residential life and athletics plans.
  • Made it clear that we recognize there is a lot going on in the world and we stand firmly against racism—our students of color will return to a campus that values their contributions and is committed to keeping them safe.

My takeaway: I was nervous about sharing so much with students and families. However, when done well, authentic conversations will make a bond stronger.

Personal: Perrin competed in tennis for the first time since March. She won.

 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Fifth Campus Huddle since pandemic with over 100 employees

  • Thoughts are with student Ethan Payne, riseing sophomore, seriously injured in a car accident with 70 percent of his body burned. He lost his brother in the accident and his father was also seriously injured.
  • Fiscal year end is coming to a close. Fundraising and budget goals met. Enrollment for fall looks strong. Faculty preparations for fall are ongoing.
  • CARES Act dollars have all been received and 100% of them will go to our students. Through support our students in need as well as allowing us to provide a credit for spring room and board.
  • Plans for next year are nearly complete and the revised budget will be shared for review in a few weeks. Budget dollars will be released in conservative amounts on three important dates—July 1 (first day of the fiscal year); September 11 (20th day of first semester); February 23 (20th day of the second semester)
  • Diveristy and inclusion plans for next year will shift to focus on anti-racism as well as broader engagement within the student body.

My takeaway: Just because McPherson College does a better job valuing diversity and fighting racism than some, doesn’t mean we are doing good enough.

Personal: We took the girls to the lake—our first public outing in months—it was relaxing and weird at the same time. Easy trip staying at a friend’s home. I can’t imagine the next time I’ll stay in a hotel or fly on an airplane.

 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, families

  • We stand beside our African American faculty, staff and students in the wake of the crisis across our contry.
  • Our work with the Kansas Leadership Center to ensure a more inclusive culture through meaningful dialogue, training and new initiatives.
  • Our support of diversity and inclusion training for all student leaders as well as any interested student through the Student Government Association.
  • Our participation in the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center’s National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates to better understand and act on student perspectives on campus climate and diversity. I learned a few weeks ago that McPherson College was the first college to sign up for next year’s assessment.

My takeaway: Our work to fight racisim and ensure an inclusive campus does not stop for a pandemic. I was challenged by two students who said we needed to do more. They are right. I’ve been too passive with our efforts. I invited those two students to help and they created a working group. Once the moment has passed we need to make sure we are more committed than ever.

Personal: We had a good talk in our house about race and equity today. I am proud of the adults my kids are becoming.

 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, families and board of trustees

  • McPherson County lifts all restrictions with health and safety guidelines.
  • The Classroom—Classes are scheduled to begin on August 17thand 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.

My takeaway: I am more optimistic than I am worried today.

Personal: We have not done a family Tik-Tok in a while. This is a good thing.

 

Week of May 29th  2020

Board of Trustee Committee Meetings

Key Discussion Points:

  • Disruption Mindset— Rather than social distancing—we are physically distant but still socially connected. Our students needs MC to be safe and steady. Some students will be safer at MC than their current location. Our students need us whether it is in the classroom, on a playing field or in a Zoom meeting.
  • Complexities Navigating the Horizons—Given the outbreak will control the schedule, response time will need to be considered as part of the planning process. Some areas will be able to adapt quickly between horizons and scenarios while others will struggle with the transition. Also, people are accepting the reality of the situation at different paces.
  • Community Impact—After planning is complete, a greater McPherson area forum will be hosted to share details and the impact fall student arrival will have on McPherson, KS.
  • Testing—This is a priority. Understanding prescreening protocol and access to testing is critical.
  • Hybrid Format Classrooms—We are asking the faculty to create new course formats in a limited amount of time. Partners with experience in hybrid learning (like Bethany Theological Seminary) should be identified to support plan execution for fall. In addition, ongoing training and support should be ongoing.
  • Communication—Regular and transparent updates should continue, and social media should be leveraged to ensure multiple platform messages.
  • Institutional Learning is Important—Can our ability to adapt and expand accommodations to students put us ahead of our competition?
  • Next steps include refining the plan and preparing a 2021 operating budget for the board to consider at the July meeting. Supporting documents will be shared on Board Effect as they are completed over the next two weeks.

My Takeaway: Many on the board have stepped up to provide important advice as we position MC to navigate one of the most challenging times in our history.

Personal: Walgreens had everything this week. As many eggs or rolls of toilet paper as you need!

 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fourth Campus Huddle since pandemic with 130 employees on Zoom

  • Shared the new operating plan for 2020-2021.
  • Plan is directed by a set of guidelines from key areas across campus to provide strategy during execution.
  • Three broad operating horizons are defined to account for different scenarios that could be affected by pandemic disruption including losses in net tuition revenue, housing revenue and other challenges if there is mandated social distancing or stay at home orders that only allow for remote operations.
  • Perspectives in the plan include: health/safety, academics, residential, athletics and operations.
  • Supporting documents details health and safety protocol, hybrid/online learning plans, housing scenarios, athletic safety contingency plans and updated 2021 operating budget.
  • Financial impacts are less in Horizon One and become more severe in Horizon Two and Three. Recovery and financial burdens are not at the level of requiring any kind of additional funding in Horizon One and Two. However, if there is a major shift to remote operations with closed residence halls and no athletics there will be at least a 3-5 year recovery and additional funds required to keep the operation functioning.
  • Next steps include collecting feedback from campus and building an aligned operating budget.

My takeaway: The world is trying to get back to normal and people are wanting to know if they can go to weddings or go on vacation. Can I have a friend visit from out of state? I don’t know the answers to the questions. But I do know that I need all our employees to be healthy. We will listen to health experts and plan pragmatically while using a lot of common sense.

Personal: Did you know they have “Golden” OREOS? They were okay. I’m old school.

 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Graduate virtual Zoom brunch and 132nd Graduation

  • Great turnout to brunch—and students had fun with their familes.
  • Clary and I (with great support from communications) presided over the graduation ceremony with all but 3 students participating.
  • Typically it is the president’s role to give the graduation speech in their first and last years. This year was an exception.
  • My message to graduates was a reiteration of my regular advice on student success: Show up and ask for help. I shared the story of 4’11’’ grandmother, Gertie who delivered meals-on-wheels to old people when she was in her 70s and took her friends to the KC Royals game in her 80s. She taught me these things and how to build a fire, cook, read, apologize, talk to girls as well as how to “will” something done by doing your best.

My takeaway: To the Class of 2020: “Know that today and especially those days in your future when life’s struggles have you down, your best is good enough for me.”

Personal: It was the largest graduation ceremony in MC history with a few thousand people watching online with only four people in the audience—Janelle Clary, Kandee Schneider, Hayden Schneider and Perrin Schneider. And I had pictures with my favorite graduate in our academic regalia, Hayden Schneider, McPherson High Class of 2020.

 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Weekly update to campus and Board of Trustees.

  • Kansas moves to Phase Two of the reopening plan, but we will still social distance and crowd sizes are limited.
  • Faculty Executive Committee Pandemic Task Force with approval from Educational Policies Committee approved an updated fall semester that reduces student travel to/from campus by ending the semester before Thanksgiving by holding classes on assessment days and fall break.
  • Graduation is this Sunday! Online…
  • Shared the draft 2021 operting plan that factors in pandemic disruption and provides direction for the upcoming year. Board of Trustees will hold committee meetings to discuss the draft plan.
  • Outstanding work by the campus to adapt and create a plan that allows for multiple scenarios.

My takeaway: Just when you think you have a little momentum…

Personal: President Jack Melhorn passed away this week. Jack has been one of my biggest supporters.

 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Weekly update to campus and Board of Trustees.

  • Campus reopening is underway with Phase 1.5 and our stay at home orders lifted—limited staff to campus with social distancing and no groups bigger than 10 people. Students can retrieve items from dorms and we will be allowing limited campus visitors.
  • FEC Pandemic Working Group Guidelines received with focus on scenarios and being prepared to deliver hybrid courses in the fall.
  • Health and safety plans are coming together as well as plans for housing and athletics.
  • 2021 Operating Plan outline shared with the board of trustees with guidelines to direct three operating horizons with multiple scenarios from the perspective of health/safety/facilities; academics; residential, athletics, operational, communications and financial.
  • Deposits are still ahead of our record setting pace from last year.

My takeaway: We continue to learn to be patient and focus our work. The entire campus is pitching in to help.

Personal: Everyday is like learning to hit a curve ball—over and over. Everyone (including my kids) wants to know what the fall will look like. My answer varies depending on my mood.

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Third Campus Huddle since pandemic with 140 employees on Zoom.

  • Campus is focused on reopening over the coming weeks. Slowly. And ease back into it.
  • Introduced the idea of Three Horizons of disruption to consider allowing for multiple scenarios and contingency planning.
  • Budget will be conservative in line with the updated operating plans.
  • One disruption like the spring semester and we are looking at million dollar issues in the budget.
  • Our comminunity really misses each other—you should see the “good byes” as we end the Zoom meeting.

My takeaway: The health and safety protocol is changing daily. Marty Sigwing our Facility Director attempted to clean using best practices from the National Association of Athletic Trainers. Apparently, no one had attempted to actually clean using the guidelines. We are going to need a lot of common sense to make our way through this pandemic.

Personal: I am out of OREOS. And that is not a bad thing.

 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Weekly update to campus and Board of Trustees.

  • Focusing more on Phases with “do’s/don’ts” rather than dates—the Governor will not move from Phase to Phase without proper testing, which Kansas is not getting. MC reopening plan is gradual—no need to rush. We have plenty to prepare for our August 17 start date
  • 26 cases in McPherson—first case of a person under 18 years old to test positive
  • Students are disappointed in the “virtual” graduation, but it is the best way to ensure everyone can participate—rescheduling presents larger issues for our students than the virtual aspect.

My takeaway: Our small, adgile operation is a big advantage as we have reassigned work for 9 FTE employees to help out across campus. No complaints, just people asking what they can do to help. Modena Hoover shared information from the American College Health Association’s new COVID-19 reopening guidelines—we put them to work right away in our plans. Rick Doll still has not grown any facial hair—a true professional.

Personal: Kids had serious cabin fever this week. Lots of cards after dinner and then Naked and Afraid on Discovery Channel to shut down the day.

 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Weekly update to campus and Board of Trustees.

  • Kansas Governor eases restrictions but encourages those that can work from home until May 18 to do so.
  • No more than 10 people gatherings
  • 22 cases in McPherson
  • The 2021 Operating Plan is coming together as faculty and staff develop guidelines to inform the plan and I start to outline the plan. We are considering the following perspectives: academic, social/health/safety, operations and communications. Various enrollment, outbreak and economic factors are also being considered. (Example: We now have a housing model which allows for 37 different scenarios allowing us to plan based on different combinations of perspectives and factors.)
  • Largest deposit week of the year—enrollment is looking good.
  • Received additional funds due to MC being an Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution from the CARES Act.
  • Students are reminded of our commitment to career services as we reallocated our human resources department to support them finding internships, jobs and graduate school placement.

My takeaway: Uncertainty about the fall semester is weighing heavy.  However, spending time in the “balcony” is critical. We have the luxery to sit tight and see what happens with the opening of the state. We will continue to operate remotely and proceed with caution—we don’t need to take any unnecessary risks. A risk that leads to a positive COVID-19 test sets us to far back and prevents a clean recovery from this situation. Kerri Kobbeman has been a rock as our board chair. She has been a great listener and wise advisor sorting through the complexities of the situation.

Personal: My kids ate a meal together at 3.00 p.m. today. Perrin was eating lunch and Hayden was eating dinner.

 

Wednesday April 29, 2020

Second Campus Huddle since Pandemic with nearly 150 employees on Zoom

  • Campus reopening is underway with Phase 1.5 and our stay at home orders lifted—limited staff to campus with social distancing and no groups bigger than 10 people. Students can retrieve items from dorms and we will be allowing limited campus visitors.
  • FEC Pandemic Working Group Guidelines received with focus on scenarios and being prepared to deliver hybrid courses in the fall.
  • Health and safety plans are coming together as well as plans for housing and athletics.
  • 2021 Operating Plan outline shared with the board of trustees with guidelines to direct three operating horizons with multiple scenarios from the perspective of health/safety/facilities; academics; residential, athletics, operational, communications and financial.
  • Deposits are still ahead of our record setting pace from last year.

My takeaway: The fall is getting very complicated. The state’s phased plan is a moving target. We need to stay focused, stay informed, get ready and adapt. People are literally losing their minds—freaking out would be a better description. My job is not to freak out.

Personal: The Schneiders did take out for the first time in two months. Papa Murphy’s take-and-bake pizza.

 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Weekly update to campus and Board of Trustees.

  • In an effort to include every student and avoid hardships to students as well as to prevent more delays we will have the first virtual commentment in MC history.
  • The campus is working on guidelines to inform scenario planning for next year.

My takeaway: Patience is key. Each morning I attempt to reflect and document themes from our current situation. Last week as I was preparing for my day, I looked out the window to see two squirrels make their way over to Kandee’s “squirrel proof” bird feeder. One squirrel climbs to the top of the feeder and starts swinging violently at the top of the feeder trying to get food. The other squirrel is on the ground below the feeder patiently watching the show. This goes on for five minutes before a big blue jay swoops in and the squirrel at the top of the feeder drops to the ground running away. The blue jay starts eating food and dropping seeds to the ground. The squirrel on the ground starts eating her breakfast. As someone who is sometimes the squirrel at the top of the feeder trying to force his way to the food, I was reminded that patience and diagnosis can have great benefit—action comes in many forms. I have seen this daily as I make decisions that will impact our future. And right now, we need to be the squirrel at the bottom of the feeder.

Personal: Back to Wal-Greens. I was again the only customer at 8.30 p.m. but both employees were wearing masks. Ice cream, eggs, wasp spray and OREOS. My kids keep using the term “grade exemption.” Apparently, the way it is working at McPherson High School is that given the remote learning environment no student’s grade can go down—so, when a student has an assignment with a grade that will reduce their letter grade in the class that assignment is “exempted.”

 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Weekly update to campus and Board of Trustees.

  • CARES Act higher education funding guidance is coming from the Department of Education. MC’s allocation is just short of $800,000 to support emergency student aid. This will offset some of the hardship for the college (room/board credits) and for student hardships.
  • Most major events are cancelled or postponed, including graduation. Plans are in place to recognize graduates virtually in May and then host them on campus for a graduation ceremony Homecoming weekend.
  • The online coursework “honeymoon” is over. Faculty and student frustrations are becoming more prevalent—everyone misses the literal classroom.
  • 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in McPherson. No cases are related to MC.

My takeaway: Working from home is getting easier for me. I get to campus occasionally to sign paperwork and check in on things. My biggest challenge at home continues to be Kandee hiding the OREOS.

Personal: We made masks today.

 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

First campus huddle since pandemic with over 150 participants in a Zoom room.

  • Adapting to a remote environment is going well. But we need to improve as it is likely we will be operating this way for longer than expected.
  • The campus is focused on finishing the year strong, enrollment and reset plans for this spring—this focus gives us a shot at strong fall enrollment.
  • The campus is learning a lot—systems are good but we can’t forget about individuals who might be isolated given the remote operation; students want to be on campus; uncertainty is our enemy so creating certainty and taking advantage of opportunities to be decisive is important; communication (particularly in the virtual world on social media) is our most important tool; reallocation of work is critical.
  • Regular conversations with the KICA, NAICU, KCAC as well as contact with colleagues at places like Whittier, Grinnell, Drexel and University of Pennsylvania have been beneficial in decision making.
  • Operational scenario planning is needed for 2021. Planning considerations will include timing of student arrival, remote vs. in-person learning, athletic seasons and recovery—contingency plan in place by June 1.

My takeaway: The virus is the boss and our job is to be ready for different scenarios. The last time we went through a recession starting in 2008 we were able to grow enrollment by 10% over 3 years—we can do it again. We will be ready for August 17—the first day of class.

Personal: I went to Wal-Greens today to see what they had in stock. I went 30 minutes before they closed. I was the only customer. It was more of a surveillance mission so I did not have a list. I came home with soap, eggs, frozen pizzas, OREOS (double stuffed), chips and lots of Easter candy. I was a hero.

 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, families and Board of Trustees.

  • I had to learn to spell “scenario” this week as planning has moved from this semester to next year.
  • Credits for students who were displaced from dorms have been applied to student accounts.
  • MC was approved for a CARES Act Payroll Protection Loan from the Small Business Administration. The loan will provide funding to cover two months of payroll and be forgiven if employees are still on the payroll within two months of receiving funds.
  • Communication is key and the following points were made clear to the campus, students and prospects: We will be ready to start classes on August 17. Students will come back when it is safe. We are committed to learning in the classroom, competing on the field, creating in the studio, researching in the lab and working in the shop. Leadership is working on different scenarios from on-time start to delayed start and even a totally remote first semester.
  • Faculty voted to allow “D” grades to become “passing” as a way to provide some leniency for students struggling with the new format—a practice widely used in this situation across higher education.
  • Virtual Presidential Scholarship Day was the largest in our history with over 100 participants. Campus visits (although virtual) are also up—a good sign.

My takeaway: A parent of a prospective student said it best in a note to me after a virtual visit day—“Your team did a great job adapting to the current situation. I work with Fortune 500 companies and government organizations and they’ve been struggling to get up to speed. It is almost as if you were prepared to deal with this based on how seamlessly you moved to this new online format.”

Personal: Perrin did a “make-shift” hibachi dinner on our electric skillet tonight. I was unable to catch a shrimp.

 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Campus update to Board of Trustees.

  • I met with student leaders on Microsoft Teams this week and they are adapting better than expected as they continue work leading Student Government and various clubs online.
  • Communication is our most important operational tool, and everyone is on social media—look for the new virtual campus community to evolve on Facebook @McPhersonCollege; Twitter @McPherson_College and Instagram @mcphersoncollege to get a feel for the energy on campus.
  • Over 3,000 contacts made during the week to current and prospective students, alumni and supporters.
  • 2020 fiscal year-end budget projections look good as new plans are in place and the budget will be balanced with the board approved spending rate of 5.2%.

My takeaway: Students miss campus, and it appears recruits can’t wait to get here next year—we can’t miss this opportunity. How do we end up on the right side of this outbreak?

Personal: I’m into OREOS.

 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Campus update on first day of completely online courses in 133-year history of MC.

  • Campus-wide digital communication plan takes effect this week. Communication with all constituents is critical in this new virtual world.
  • Evaluation of student needs and hardships is complete. Every student who requested a digital device (laptop or tablet) has received one and all students have access to free WIFI through their cellular devices.

My takeaway: Message to campus community—“It isn’t what we planned, but you are ready. Have a great first day of class!”

Personal: Girls are crying a lot. I am glad Kandee is here.

 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Email to campus community and trustees prior to start of online classes March 30.

  • The campus is now operating remotely (from home) with limited employees on campus and fewer than 30 students in the dorms.
  • All operational areas are required to have daily morning check-ins and afternoon meetings. A new cabinet report has been created to make sure plans, work and results are aligned daily. Cabinet meets every day at 4:00 p.m.
  • CARES Act passes and allocations for higher education to support emergency aid to students are at record levels. A “FAQ” section is in place at mcpherson.edu/covid to provide guidance for students.
  • First case of COVID-19 reported in McPherson County; we await likely “stay at home orders.”
  • Admission team sets up virtual campus visits for prospective students as well as a virtual Presidential Scholarship Day. And something strange happened this week—we had a record number of campus visitors with not one of them stepping on campus.

My takeaway: Reminded our students that even though they aren’t in the classroom, there is a person on the other side of the screen that cares about them. Also, I am inspired by the work of faculty to get online instruction produced in just two weeks with no pushback.

Personal: I was introduced to Tik Tok today.

 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Comprehensive campus update to the Board of Trustees.

  • Stressed importance of measures being taken to keep campus safe. There are now fewer than 50 students living in the dorms when there would normally be close to 500. Most are international students who are unable to leave the country.
  • Faculty are working vigorously to implement online teaching, and a shift to remote work force has been implemented.
  • Examined operational impact, revising budget and determining impact of room/board credits to students who were displaced from dorms.

My takeaway: If I can figure out how to “unmute” myself before making my points in virtual meetings, I would likely get back an hour a day. Working remotely sucks, but we are figuring it out.

Personal: Kanas becomes first state to cancel in-person classes. More questions I can’t answer from my kids.

 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, families and trustees.

  • My commitment to being decisive has led to an early decision to complete the 2020 spring semester remotely using online resources after the extended spring break ends on March 30.
  • Students in dorms left with the idea that they would likely not come back and could make arrangement to collect the remainder of their personal items when it is safe. Other students in campus apartments can stay. Everyone will have access to meals, which will be delivered as needed.
  • Our first major misstep—we weren’t prepared for all the questions coming in from students and families. An email address—ask@mcpherson.com—was created for families to submit questions with responses within an hour of submission.
  • The board executive committee approved the following motion: “The Executive Committee supports the administration’s decision to finish the 2020 spring semester remotely using online resources as outlined in the approved Higher Learning Commission recommendation.”

My takeaway: I met with all employees today in groups of 10-15. Mingenback was filled with one person sitting at eight-person round tables. I spoke honestly and directly about our plans. People looked worried but appreciated the time together. I hope we are “right” by moving the campus remote and requiring people to work at home.

Personal: Social distancing in a house with teenagers is easy.

 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Campus update to employees, students, families and trustees. Preceded by my meeting with the senior class.

  • Dedicated MC COVID-19 web page created (mcpherson.edu/covid).
  • Provided clarity on early dismissal and check-out process; addressed student questions from March 12 announcement.
  • Committed to students that we would be decisive and set March 19 as latest date to announce whether we will finish semester in-person or remotely.
  • KCAC determines all athletic activities suspended indefinitely.
  • Internally, COVID-19 communication team set-up; planning begins to transition to nearly complete remote work force.
  • Employee update included new re-set plans for the semester and considerations based on the disruption due to the virus outbreak.

My takeaway: I had the opportunity to meet with our seniors yesterday afternoon in Brown Auditorium. It was tough. The reality is setting in, and I ruined their year. However, they weren’t angry; rather they were worried about faculty and staff. They understand the challenge. I can’t imagine better evidence that they are ready for the world.

Personal: So many questions from my kids. What is going to happen at school? Can we go on spring break? My answers are not going to be good enough for them…

 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

First email sent to MC campus community regarding COVID-19 and met with faculty to make preparations for finishing the fall semester remotely using online resources.

  • Commitment to safety of campus community and ensuring students, especially seniors, will complete spring semester classes.
  • Announced early dismissal for Spring Break with likelihood classes would resume remotely after break on March 30.
  • Students instructed to check-out of residence halls starting March 16.
  • Stressed basic guidelines to limit exposure to COVID-19—hand washing, social distancing and people with fevers should not come in to work.

My takeaway: Day ended with the most donations ever received on MC’s 2020 Power Day; yet, looming crisis and major decisions impacting our campus community forthcoming. It has a name, COVID-19, and it is like a train coming down the tracks. And it isn’t going to stop.

Personal: I am so grateful that everone is working adaptively here—I bet faculty at other colleges are struggling right about now. 

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

First email sent to the Board of Trustees just four days after their on-campus spring meetings.

  • We are monitoring the coronavirus situation to ensure campus safety.
  • Regular communication is in place and outbreak protocol is coordinated with McPherson Hospital and the county health department.
  • The Department of Education provided flexible guidelines for institutions affected by the virus so the college can complete the year online without accreditation issues.
  • Kansas Association of Independent Colleges (KICA) and National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) held their first conference calls about the situation. And my cabinet met to process next steps to keep the campus safe.
  • Meeting scheduled with faculty to discuss moving classes online.

My takeaway: We need to stay ahead of this and start preparing for the worst case—shutting down the campus.

Personal: Poor Hayden Schneider McPherson High School class of 2020.