How the College of Charleston Navigated the Pandemic and

Charleston, South Carolina, June 07, 2021 (Globe NEWSWIRE) — The year 2020 was envisioned to be a monumental one particular for the College or university of Charleston. And it was, but not in the way faculty leaders had hoped. 

With 2020 marking the 250th anniversary of the College’s founding in 1770, the university had invested months scheduling for a year-prolonged celebration of the milestone. Occasions had been scheduled, speakers booked and exclusive courses readied for start.  

But within just weeks of kicking off the anniversary calendar year with a unique event in Cistern Garden in January 2020, the unexpected emergence of COVID-19 transformed everything. The global pandemic forced the Higher education to pause the anniversary strategies and convert its focus toward a sudden pivot from in-man or woman mastering to a blend of asynchronous and synchronous on-line understanding. 

In contrast to some faculties and universities that totally halted in-human being lessons for most of the 2020-21 university year, the University was equipped to give a blend of in-human being, on-line and hybrid lessons starting up with the fall 2020 semester and growing into the spring of 2021. The critical to offering in-person courses was rigorous adherence to and enforcement of the school’s COVID-19 mitigation prepare, which involved screening and vaccination clinics, messaging campaigns and code of carry out referrals. 

But a nutritious campus was not Faculty of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu’s only issue. At the begin of the pandemic, he vowed to reduce any staff and faculty layoffs throughout the 12 months. He was able to retain that promise. The College thoroughly managed its funds throughout the pandemic and carried out short term spending controls that served the establishment prevent necessary furloughs and layoffs of staff members. It was a person of the handful of faculties in South Carolina to accomplish that intention.   

Moving Ahead 

In scheduling for the Tumble 2020 semester, President Hsu and his management crew understood they experienced to strike a harmony between maintaining pupils, college and team safe while also continuing to deliver a significant-excellent instruction. They made a decision that supplying a decreased number of in-person courses with stringent rules for encounter masks and social distancing would be the ideal way to navigate the educational 12 months.  

“I knew that our talented faculty would be equipped to deliver a quality education in these on the internet formats, but I also knew that both of those students and their families needed to be reassured that on the web studying would be just as meaningful as in-individual learning,” says Hsu. “The very best way to encourage them was to demonstrate them.” 

Suzanne Austin, government vice president for educational affairs and provost, assembled a group of faculty to maintain a live-panel discussion to educate students and families about the diverse styles of course formats and how professors strategy educating in each individual modality. The professors also available ideas for college students to be effective in the digital environment. The initiative was a results with hundreds of men and women viewing the panel reside or in a recorded format. The College’s news and social media accounts were being also utilised to generate home the gains of online finding out.  

The pandemic launched new issues for the higher education, specifically aiding pupils and staff members with the transition to distant discovering and operating. To make sure that all pupils had the engineering required to go forward, the College’s Division of Data Technology offered products on mortgage to pupils. All through the pandemic, the division supplied far more than 275 laptops and 61 WIFI hotspots to aid college students keep linked. The division also implemented a virtual desktop resolution to enable college students and school to entry software package from anyplace on their personalized devices, rapidly implemented Zoom and LinkedIn Understanding selections, revealed day-to-day tech ideas for staff members, and facilitated the use of virtual telephones to create a transparent knowledge for the campus community. 

“Many of these changes have turn into aspect of ‘what we do’ that will go perfectly further than the pandemic and the return to usual,” says Chief Facts Officer Mark Staples. “While the digital environment is not a replacement for own engagements, the convenience to be in a position to link with college students and our colleagues alterations the way we consider about company.”  

Virtual City Halls 

 It was crystal clear to Hsu and his administration that the most effective way to continue to keep the campus community informed of the ever-switching academic landscape was to retain consistent contact with families and pupils for the duration of the school yr. They realized college students and their families had questions and concerns, and everybody wanted assurance that the College would remain safe while keeping its reputation for rigorous tutorial instruction and university student everyday living choices. 

With that in thoughts, Hsu and his senior staff members held a collection of digital town hall meetings for around a year. In all, 21 rounds of live town corridor conferences, such as individual city halls for workers and students and family members, were conducted from March 2020 via April 2021. Hsu and his COVID-19 management staff attended every meeting and addressed a whole of nearly 1,400 questions throughout the calendar year. More than 26,000 dad and mom, family customers, learners, faculty and personnel participated in the city halls, all of which have been recorded and produced obtainable on the College’s COVID-19 web page, Back on the Bricks. 

“I assume it was important that the families and pupils realized that another person was available to response their concerns,” says Hsu. “Not only did it support the families and students fully grasp what was heading on at CofC, but it also aided us to fully grasp their concerns so that we could change our planning as necessary.” 

Student Success 

The personalized and recurrent engagement from college and the administration translated into a much better academic practical experience for learners, and the last grades proved it. At the stop of the 2020-2021 college 12 months, the ordinary GPA for CofC college students rose to 3.20, up from the 3.10 at the start out of the 2019-20 faculty calendar year. 

 “Our school actually embraced on the web finding out,” claims Austin. “They innovated and engaged with their students in new and significant techniques. A lot of college members explained their connections with pupils were truly deepened in the virtual natural environment and felt the knowledge made them superior teachers.”

Probably far more than any other team, on-campus residential students were drastically impacted by the pandemic. Alicia Caudill, govt vice president for student affairs, claims the Faculty was ready to permit college students in the home halls by cutting down density and creating guidelines this sort of as closing popular parts and limiting visits. 

“We realized these limits have been difficult for our household pupils, but they authorized us to continue to provide the on-campus dwelling working experience that is this kind of an critical aspect of faculty lifetime,” states Caudill. “I’m so happy of our resident assistants and our expert employees for coming up with innovative means to continue to keep our on-campus college students engaged as a result of digital activities, common verify-ins and fun routines.”  

Caudill claims with imaginative perform and dedication, the School was able to offer quite a few means for students to have interaction whilst even now adhering to COVID basic safety recommendations. In all, student affairs available a lot more than 200 courses and occasions for students for the duration of the 2020-21 academic year.   

As the close of an unparalleled and historic educational calendar year wound down this spring, the College or university ensured that the pandemic would not take away from the celebration of its graduating seniors. For the first time at any time, the University offered seniors a option in graduation ceremonies. Due to social distancing prerequisites for massive gatherings, students were provided a traditional commencement ceremony in the College’s historic Cistern Yard without guests or they could choose to attend a ceremony at the College’s soccer stadium and bring up to four attendees.  

Connecting With New College students 

As Faculty faculty and personnel labored tough to enable present-day college students sustain their academic progress, the school’s admissions aspect was employing exceptional procedures to have interaction with prospective pupils and households. Like their peers at many other midsized universities, CofC recruiters understood that they had to be resourceful in connecting with potential pupils all through a time when work fairs and superior faculty campus visits have been not an option. 

“We understood that we had to readjust our recruitment to pupils for the duration of the pandemic and preferred to be as artistic as possible to fulfill their needs,” says Amy Takayama-Perez, vice president for university marketing and enrollment arranging.    

Among other methods, the admissions team offered 851 virtual higher college visits, 68 school fairs, 43 virtual gatherings, as well as 120 virtual information periods with approximately 60,000 visitors to the virtual tour this 12 months.  

The University also hosted in excess of 10,800 on-campus guests considering that securely re-opening tours in August 2020. 

Takayama-Perez says it was crucial for prospective students and family members taking on-campus tours to not only see the school in human being, but to also see the College’s health and safety protocols in motion. The technique worked, and the Higher education established a new record for fascination, with more than 20,000 programs for fall 2021. The incoming freshman class is predicted to raise by 400 students above the past tumble.  

Seeking Forward 

In addition to the 250th anniversary, 2020 was also highly anticipated since the Higher education planned to complete a strategic setting up course of action and submit the strategy to the school’s Board of Trustees for acceptance. Regardless of the numerous worries introduced on by the pandemic, which includes the pivot to remote do the job and virtual meetings, Hsu was identified that the College push ahead with readying the plan. By trying to keep the Faculty and its leadership staff targeted on strategic priorities and extended-expression planning in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Hsu successfully secured acceptance of the program by the trustees in May perhaps 2020. The College then held a virtual campus forum in February 2021 to formally kick off the plan’s implementation. 

“It would have been simple to pause our work on the Strategic Plan and to blame the pandemic,” says Hsu. “But I had self confidence that our senior leadership workforce, our deans and our overall campus local community would be in a position to navigate the pandemic when retaining progress towards our lengthy-expression targets.”

And with continuous proof that the pandemic is easing in the U.S., the Faculty is now primed for a re-emergence as it prepares to welcome students back again to campus for a new tutorial calendar year in August 2021.

 

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