President’s Update 4.10.20
Good afternoon all – yes, this is a photo of the campus taken this morning…..
It’s Friday, April 10th. It’s been a month since I shared that we were moving to online and remote instruction. While the disruptions have slowed a bit, there is still a lot of unknowns. I realize this is difficult for everyone. We are planning to host a college forum via ZOOM on Friday, April 17th at 1:00 to discuss additional updates and to work towards our future.
I am trying to get back to providing regular updates. It has been a busy week returning to coursework and preparing for summer and fall offerings. Here are a few updates:
Reaching out to all students:
The Student Success team, in collaboration with the Advising team are engaging with all
enrolled students to check-in, offer support, and stay connected. By using several technologies including Microsoft Teams, Text Magic, Zoom, email, and the trusty telephone, they are closing the loop with each student at least once a week.
Under the leadership of Nick Runco and Mike Preble, the team has created a
comprehensive list of resources for students that includes academic supports and tutoring as well as a guide to other community resources to help them through this difficult time. The site also includes engagement activities and offerings like “Cabin Fever Week.” Check out all of the resources at: https://www.emcc.edu/studentsupport/index.html.
Mike Preble and Nick Runco shared that since April 2nd
- 212 different people have visited the Student Support site from 10 different states
- 63 different people have visited the Faculty Support site from 4 different states
- On average, people are diving into 2 topics on the site and are truly using the site as a “hub” and going to internal and external resources for questions they have
In addition to continuing to process and package summer and fall financial aid, the Financial Aid office is collaborating with FAME to provide incoming students extra assistance in completing FAFSA forms.
Additionally, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently. This brings approximately $1.4 million in assistance to EMCC. 50% must be spent on college students whose lives have been disrupted, and are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet. The remaining 50% is to cover a wide variety of expenses as a result of the pandemic including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with transitioning to distance education, faculty and staff training, and payroll.
Erica and Terri are also working to increase students’ access to scholarships and funding, reorganizing the website to display scholarships and applications in a program of study and special options categories. Students will have an easier time finding scholarships that fit their needs, instead of reviewing all of the scholarships.
Staff continue to “meet” with students interested in fall programs and provide information and guidance regarding the application process. Students are encouraged to visit the campus via the virtual tour on our website.
Erica has been reaching out to over 50 work-study students to connect several with remote-based work. Some will be working shifts on the Student Success Teams Support Chat talking with students, answering questions about learning online, helping them find information and making sure they have what they need to successfully engage in classes. A few will be talking with prospective students via video or phone calls, since the campus can’t currently have visitors. Some are also creating digital media content about EMCC and their experiences here.
Fun Fact: Did you know that we have a team of people available and ready to answer student questions and to help them with their overall success? We do! Simply click on the “Connect with us” link on any one of the web pages in the Support Hub and you can chat and/or video conference in Microsoft Teams with someone who is here to help you.
Someone is available to help any student Monday – Friday from 8:00am – 8:00pm, Saturday from 12:00 – 4:00 and Sunday 4:00 – 8:00.
The Perkins Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment has been approved by the System
and will be forwarded to the Department of Education for funding approval.
A cross-functional team has begun to redesign the online New Student Orientation experience
using D2L Brightspace.
Enabling a Mobile Workforce:
In very short order, we made a massive transition from a very rigid on-campus work environment to a flexible work from home solution for nearly all employees. We could not have done this without YOUR help, understanding, and patience. No process was left un-touched – from course delivery, to mail processing and answering phones, we found new ways of doing almost everything! We could not have done it without the amazing team of IT professionals that worked day and night to gather, inventory, build, secure, and distribute mobile computing hardware to those that needed it to continue carrying out EMCC’s mission. They pressed new systems into service well ahead of schedule, building new solutions and processes where none existed previously with very little notice and few additional resources – and they even took time to show us all how to use it.
Thank you to Michael, Chris, Eric, Jason and Andy for pulling this off. Yes, Andy! He’s the new guy that started in the middle of all of this craziness. He spent a few days on-site before being sent home to work. Andy joins our team as a software developer, and has already begun making new systems contributions to help us enhance administrative and institutional effectiveness, automate and streamline online solutions.
With help from Enrollment staff and IT, the Enrollment Center has launched an electronic document storage solution which permits staff to access most, if not all, incoming documents required to process applications, disperse financial aid, evaluation transfer credit and graduation applications, and nearly all other routine enrollment functions. This is a big step in improving efficiencies for the team and critical for student acceptance and registration processes.
Registering for Summer and Fall Courses:
Fall registration is well underway and staff are working with department chairs to get all returning students registered for courses. We have shared that Summer Session 1 will be online and remote. We have not yet decided on Summer Session II or Fall. We are awaiting information from the Governor on our ability to provide anything other than online and remote offerings
Headcount is tracking up 12% and credit hours are tracking up 9% from the same point of registration last year. Summer numbers remain strong, tracking up 2% from last summer.
Stacy and her team are working with department chairs to finalize admissions decisions in our allied health fields and all accepted students will receive a digital acceptance packet.
Sharing our Story:
Mariah has collaborated with several departments to launch the virtual tour, contributed to the Faculty Support and Student Support pages, developed a variety of welcome videos of staff and faculty, and has continued to keep the college social media pages updated with critical information, good news, and support.
Helping through retraining:
On March 30th, Governor Janet Mills signed an Executive Order, fast-tracking free Online Job Training opportunities within the Maine Community College System. “The order allows for greater flexibility to train workers online for critical jobs needed to address the effects of COVID-19”. Over the last two weeks, the Workforce Development team rallied with our counterparts on each of our campuses to identify, design, and deploy training in response to the Governor’s call to action. The first round of trainings is on the Maine Community College website, we are continuing to add offerings from each of the colleges.
EMCC submitted the first of our proposals, a Medical Terminology Certificate. We could not have done this without the assistance of Kim Campbell and Liz Russell; Kim worked with the Workforce Development to develop a curriculum on the Med Term, Liz helped us pull together the supporting offerings to round out this certificate. The design of these programs focusses on employment and educational pathways paired with rapid deployment. We are in the process of building our next three offerings. As we have additional information, we are happy to share with you how we are responding to the call to provide training opportunities in response to COVID-19.
A link to the Maine Community College Website can be found here:
https://www.mccs.me.edu/workforce-training/. We will add a direct link through the Workforce Development Tab on EMMC’s website. If you have any questions, please email Chris Winstead.
Facilities is helping us re-define how IT services are delivered on campus:
A huge thank you to the Facilities crew – Brad, Mike and Nate, in particular, for taking advantage of the quiet time on campus to knock out a few projects for us!
Reconfiguring Help Desk / Conference Room and IT office spaces:
A few walls coming down and a few walls going up are going to make a huge difference in our workflow and our ability to serve the needs of the institution and our students when we all get back together. These changes will allow us to establish a work-study staffed help desk that will enhance the support provided for students, faculty and staff and increase the efficiency of department operations while also establishing a second-tier support area and a common conference room for meeting with other departments, vendors, etc.
The help desk will provide on-the-job training, targeting aligned programs like CST for student employment. Help desk employment for first-year students would have a progression path to more advanced IT work-study positions as second-year students. Providing a separate location to triage common requests using trained work-study employees allows nearby (but out of ear-shot) professional staff to focus their efforts on more difficult tasks, while also providing a readily accessible escalation point for more difficult problems encountered at the help desk.
Having sufficient meeting space is also essential to the work of the department in serving the needs of the institution, as we seek to collaborate with other departments on data problems in new ways. Gathering small to medium sized groups together to solve problems is challenging, as this type of space is in limited supply on campus, in general, and within Maine Hall, specifically. Consolidate existing storage space allows us to re-claim under-utilized space for this purpose.
Creating a Disaster Recovery Site at Rangeley Hall:
Rangeley Hall provides a natural location to host a disaster recovery (DR) site for the Maine Hall primary data center. The DR site in Rangeley is being built out as a smaller version of the data center in Maine Hall. It is intended to host online (hot) stand-by servers and data storage equipment that would be regularly and automatically synchronized with the production equipment in the primary data center located in Maine Hall. In the event of a catastrophic event affecting the Maine Hall data center, this backup gear could be pressed into service to allow the College to handle critical computing workloads in order to maintain a level of basic operations until regular services could be restored at Maine Hall.
Rangeley Hall provides the ideal location to build out this DR site solution, as it contains under-utilized space nearby (but not too close) to the primary data center, connected to campus via private dark fiber and powered via different electrical sub-station from the primary data center. Additionally, there is a vault in the building that can securely host the media retention and rotation needs for offline (cold) backups. As an added bonus, in the event that a catastrophic event in Maine Hall affects more than just the data center (a likely scenario), there are potential classroom, office and other facilities similar to those in Maine Hall, already located in the building.
The facilities management team has been busy cleaning and closing buildings, all buildings were completed as of Wednesday, April 8th. The custodial crew has transitioned into summer cleaning mode and is focusing on stripping and waxing floors. The facilities team has also been plugging away at the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) report in order to assure that our student spaces are more accessible per ADA guidelines as a result of the OCR visit back in January.
Preparing for month end, year-end and next year:
The Business Office is busy working on March month end and also participating in a “hard close” which will provide us with projections for our FY20 budget. The budget process for FY21 is also well under way and many of you have participated in providing information so that the College can begin to prioritize spending as we move into the new fiscal year. We hope to provide additional updates on the FY21 budget in the coming weeks. The Business Office and Payroll Departments have been working on tracking COVID19 related expenses as well as any lost revenue and productivity. Tracking of this information is critical as stimulus funds through the CARES Act will be distributed to help offset loses as well as provide emergency assistance to students.
Continuing with Searches:
Two employment searches are also currently under way, one in Workforce Development and the other in Institutional Research. We will soon be hiring a Director of Institutional Research (previously held by Eleanor Miller) and a Business Development and Training Coordinator (previously held by Shaw Weeks) – these searches should be wrapped up in the next week or so.
Connecting through COVID:
Several creative folks are creating virtual entertainment programs that include guest Maine storytellers, stand-up comedians, Virtual BINGO, DIY experiences, and local authors doing readings of their work. We are hoping to connect local restaurants to the segments to offer easy takeout and delivery options as well.
Digital door prizes launched this week! For being virtually engaged, every week one student, faculty and staff member will win a prize. Prizes are things like $25 gift cards to Hannaford, pizza delivery to your home, park passes, coffee gift card and more fun surprises.
The EMCC Student Support Hub Challenge:
Similar to trying to fit as many people in a VW bug as possible, Nick and Mike would like to challenge our EMCC community to assemble the largest group possible ( it can include a mix of faculty, staff, and students) to all access the TEAMS Connect with Us” button together, and come and collectively say hello and offer the thing you are most proud of thus far in our new normal. Prizes will be given to the largest assembled group.
Groups must assign a team captain who will enter the hub first and report all of the members who will be visiting.
Finally, I’d like to end with a thank you for taking on this challenge without hesitation or question, for making the best of a hard time, for helping students cope with unknowns and new ways of learning, for demonstrating patience and understanding, and for looking out for one another.
I am at a loss for words at times as to comprehend and describe this temporary new normal. And yet, as you, I see so many great things that are happening – the video many of you contributed to cheer on our students – keep them coming! We will share more! The joy in celebrating Ethan Preble, EMCC’s Student of the Year and appreciation students share because of each of you….. Thank you.
I’d like to share a link to one of my favorite artists and songs. Natalie Merchant shared that she wanted to write a song that with a universal sentiment of gratefulness and thanks – well she did and I want to thank you……I’m grateful for each of you. Take care, be well, and wash your hands.