Charleston, South Carolina, June 07, 2021 (Globe NEWSWIRE) — The year 2020 was predicted to be a monumental 1 for the School 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 school experienced expended months scheduling for a yr-lengthy celebration of the milestone. Occasions had been scheduled, speakers booked and exclusive packages readied for launch.
But inside of weeks of kicking off the anniversary calendar year with a special function in Cistern Property in January 2020, the unexpected emergence of COVID-19 altered anything. The world-wide pandemic compelled the University to pause the anniversary strategies and convert its target towards a sudden pivot from in-man or woman mastering to a blend of asynchronous and synchronous on the web learning.
Contrary to some faculties and universities that totally halted in-particular person lessons for most of the 2020-21 college calendar year, the Faculty was ready to offer a blend of in-individual, on line and hybrid courses beginning with the fall 2020 semester and raising into the spring of 2021. The key to providing in-particular person courses was strict adherence to and enforcement of the school’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy, which provided tests and vaccination clinics, messaging campaigns and code of conduct referrals.
But a nutritious campus was not University of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu’s only concern. At the get started of the pandemic, he vowed to avert any staff and college layoffs all through the 12 months. He was in a position to retain that promise. The College very carefully managed its finances throughout the pandemic and carried out temporary paying controls that aided the establishment steer clear of necessary furloughs and layoffs of personnel. It was 1 of the couple colleges in South Carolina to accomplish that aim.
In organizing for the Tumble 2020 semester, President Hsu and his leadership team understood they experienced to strike a harmony between keeping learners, school and employees safe although also continuing to deliver a higher-top quality schooling. They made a decision that presenting a minimized selection of in-man or woman classes with rigorous rules for deal with masks and social distancing would be the ideal way to navigate the academic year.
“I knew that our proficient school would be in a position to produce a top quality education in these on the internet formats, but I also realized that both equally pupils and their families needed to be reassured that on line understanding would be just as meaningful as in-human being finding out,” says Hsu. “The very best way to influence them was to present them.”
Suzanne Austin, government vice president for tutorial affairs and provost, assembled a team of faculty to keep a live-panel discussion to educate pupils and family members about the various sorts of class formats and how professors tactic teaching in each modality. The professors also available suggestions for learners to be effective in the digital natural environment. The initiative was a achievements with hundreds of people today viewing the panel stay or in a recorded structure. The College’s information and social media accounts had been also applied to generate property the added benefits of on-line learning.
The pandemic released new problems for the school, especially helping pupils and personnel with the changeover to distant discovering and working. To make positive that all learners had the technological innovation desired to shift ahead, the College’s Division of Information and facts Technology offered machines on personal loan to students. Through the pandemic, the division furnished a lot more than 275 laptops and 61 WIFI hotspots to aid students keep connected. The division also implemented a virtual desktop option to enable learners and college to access application from wherever on their own gadgets, quickly executed Zoom and LinkedIn Mastering possibilities, released every day tech ideas for staff, and facilitated the use of virtual telephones to produce a transparent expertise for the campus group.
“Many of these variations have turn into component of ‘what we do’ that will go effectively further than the pandemic and the return to usual,” says Chief Information Officer Mark Staples. “While the virtual entire world is not a substitution for individual engagements, the ease to be equipped to join with college students and our colleagues alterations the way we believe about support.”
Virtual Town Halls
It was clear to Hsu and his administration that the best way to retain the campus local community knowledgeable of the at any time-modifying academic landscape was to manage constant get hold of with families and learners through the school year. They realized pupils and their families had questions and concerns, and absolutely everyone required assurance that the College would remain safe while sustaining its standing for rigorous tutorial instruction and student lifetime offerings.
With that in brain, Hsu and his senior staff held a series of virtual town hall meetings for around a yr. In all, 21 rounds of live town corridor conferences, like individual city halls for staff members and students and families, were conducted from March 2020 via April 2021. Hsu and his COVID-19 management team attended each meeting and addressed a total of nearly 1,400 questions throughout the year. More than 26,000 mother and father, family associates, students, school and employees participated in the city halls, all of which ended up recorded and built readily available on the College’s COVID-19 site, Back on the Bricks.
“I consider it was essential that the families and students understood that an individual was out there to respond to their thoughts,” says Hsu. “Not only did it help the families and pupils fully grasp what was going on at CofC, but it also assisted us to comprehend their concerns so that we could change our planning as necessary.”
The private and frequent engagement from school and the administration translated into a superior educational encounter for pupils, and the closing grades proved it. At the conclude of the 2020-2021 school year, the typical GPA for CofC college students rose to 3.20, up from the 3.10 at the begin of the 2019-20 faculty yr.
“Our faculty genuinely embraced on the internet mastering,” says Austin. “They innovated and engaged with their pupils in new and meaningful strategies. Many college members mentioned their connections with learners were really deepened in the virtual surroundings and felt the expertise manufactured them improved academics.”
Perhaps much more than any other team, on-campus residential college students have been appreciably impacted by the pandemic. Alicia Caudill, government vice president for student affairs, says the Higher education was able to make it possible for college students in the home halls by lowering density and creating rules these kinds of as closing popular spots and limiting visits.
“We knew these limits were tough for our household students, but they allowed us to still offer the on-campus residing experience that is this sort of an critical component of faculty everyday living,” states Caudill. “I’m so happy of our resident assistants and our experienced staff members for coming up with innovative approaches to keep our on-campus students engaged through virtual occasions, frequent verify-ins and enjoyable actions.”
Caudill states with innovative work and perseverance, the College or university was equipped to give many methods for pupils to interact though still adhering to COVID security tips. In all, university student affairs available a lot more than 200 systems and gatherings for students through the 2020-21 educational year.
As the conclude of an unparalleled and historic educational yr wound down this spring, the College ensured that the pandemic would not take absent from the celebration of its graduating seniors. For the first time ever, the Higher education available seniors a option in graduation ceremonies. Due to social distancing specifications for substantial gatherings, students were offered a traditional commencement ceremony in the College’s historic Cistern Yard without guests or they could pick out to attend a ceremony at the College’s soccer stadium and bring up to four company.
Connecting With New Learners
As University school and staff labored tricky to assist recent pupils sustain their academic development, the school’s admissions facet was employing exceptional techniques to have interaction with potential learners and families. Like their peers at quite a few other midsized faculties, CofC recruiters realized that they experienced to be innovative in connecting with future learners through a time when career fairs and significant university campus visits have been not an choice.
“We understood that we experienced to readjust our recruitment to learners through the pandemic and wished to be as artistic as probable to meet up with their demands,” says Amy Takayama-Perez, vice president for university marketing and enrollment planning.
Among other methods, the admissions team offered 851 virtual substantial faculty visits, 68 college fairs, 43 digital situations, as well as 120 virtual information periods with nearly 60,000 people to the digital tour this yr.
The School also hosted more than 10,800 on-campus site visitors given that securely re-opening excursions in August 2020.
Takayama-Perez says it was vital for prospective students and families taking on-campus excursions to not only see the school in individual, but to also see the College’s health and safety protocols in motion. The method worked, and the College or university established a new record for interest, with more than 20,000 apps for tumble 2021. The incoming freshman course is envisioned to maximize by 400 pupils about the former slide.
Looking In advance
In addition to the 250th anniversary, 2020 was also very predicted since the School prepared to complete a strategic arranging procedure and post the prepare to the school’s Board of Trustees for acceptance. Irrespective of the numerous challenges introduced on by the pandemic, including the pivot to distant perform and digital conferences, Hsu was established that the College push ahead with readying the strategy. By preserving the University and its management crew targeted on strategic priorities and extensive-time period planning in the midst of a global pandemic, Hsu successfully secured acceptance of the strategy by the trustees in May 2020. The Faculty then held a digital campus discussion board in February 2021 to formally kick off the plan’s implementation.
“It would have been easy to pause our function on the Strategic Plan and to blame the pandemic,” says Hsu. “But I experienced assurance that our senior management crew, our deans and our total campus neighborhood would be capable to navigate the pandemic although retaining progress toward our extended-phrase plans.”
And with continuous evidence that the pandemic is easing in the U.S., the University is now primed for a re-emergence as it prepares to welcome pupils back to campus for a new educational year in August 2021.