Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – July 24, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Hopefully this email finds you well.  I had hoped to start writing these updates again the first of August but recent feedback indicated it would be better to start sooner.  We had nearly 150 people participate in our College Forum Zoom session yesterday – thank you.  It was great to “be together” and I took some time to reflect on the first opportunity we’ll get to hopefully all be together again at some point.

Most important message in this email: Please find time to take care of yourselves and those close to you.  This is such an unprecedented and unpredictable time that focusing on what is most important can provide at least some semblance of peace and hope.  Please note the College Council will be sharing the framework for the next “coaching sessions” soon.  There is an emphasis on your well-being and your unique talents, skills, and experience.  We will use this as a foundation to begin creating a College Value related to inclusivity in order to achieve more equitable outcomes for all.  E.M. Forester noted that of our inter-personal problems exist because of our “inability to imagine the innerness of other lives.”  One thing we have in common, there are people we care about.  Please take time to do so as we embark on learning about the “innerness” of other people.

By way of update, here are a few noteworthy news items:

  1. Financial Update – because we will be facing financial uncertainty moving forward, we are more actively monitoring opportunities to be proactive with our investments/savings efforts.  Consequently, we are leaving two recently vacated positions (math faculty and culinary faculty) unfilled for the entirety of the 2020-2021 fiscal year.  I anticipate this trend will continue whenever possible.  Enrollment is not quite break even, which is better than the vast majority of our sister colleges across the state, but we must make more progress on improving our enrollments given the declining trend over the past several years.  We appreciate the innovative way people are finding to help students learn about the college and the opportunities we offer.
  2. Program Spotlight – Midwifery
    1. You may already know Vanessa Caldari is now the program director.  Vanessa has worked for the college for several years with meritorious distinction for her good performance.  She lives in Puerto Rico and has worked remotely since beginning at the college.  We are excited for her leadership of the midwifery program.  And, on a semi-related note, Vanessa’s son is planning to attend Southwest Tech this fall. 🙂
    2. We received formal notification from the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) informing us they renewed our accreditation for 6 years with a compliance report due in two years.  A special thank you to the many people involved in achieving this outcome.  Please stay tuned for more information on this program as we move forward.
  3. Return to Campus Handbook and Training
    1. Thank you to everyone who submitted feedback and/or questions.  The Handbook will be ready for distribution by the end of the month.
    2. Return to Campus training for Phase III will be available by the end of the month as well.
    3. A few highlights:
      1. General Education
        1. All gen-ed courses will be offered online this fall.  This eliminates a substantial amount of on-campus traffic which protects people and helps with logistical planning for offering required face-to-face courses.  Please note this is not intended to be a permanent solution but rather a temporary response to the recent trending increases of COVID-19 cases.
      2. On Campus Child Care
        1. We have moved the re-opening of on-campus child care from August 3 to August 17 and we will reduce capacity to approximately three dozen children.  Southwest Tech students will be given priority for enrolling their children first.  We are grateful to our dedicated child care folks who are so caring with the kids.
      3. Café
        1. The Café will have online ordering only.  They will deliver the food to you on campus, if at all possible, with limited pick up options possibly available.
      4. The Bookstore
        1. There will be a limit of 8 people in the Bookstore at a time, including staff, with clearly marked social distance indicators.
      5. On Campus Smoking
        1. The current policy and designated smoking spaces have not changed but we will be more vigilant about enforcing the current expectations in an effort to ensure routine travel routes.  Please remember to smoke in designated areas and be mindful of social distancing.
      6. Student Housing
        1. Among many safety measures being implemented, at least two apartments will remain open to be used as needed for quarantine arrangements.
  4. We have restructured some of our student success grants, explored reassignment of faculty workload, and invested college funds to make much needed progress towards meeting our Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action goals.  We will be seeking feedback and direction from the Board related to tangible goals to guide our actions from a broad perspective.  Please stay tuned for more updates as the Diversity Team has worked diligently to help make progress in this important area.
    1. Also, please note the Charge Forward program, led by Melissa Klinkhammer and assisted by a number of faculty and staff, will return the second year cohort as well as welcome a new group of up to 25 students.  This year’s new cohort will all be students of color who will receive scholarships, mentoring, case management, advising, and other supports.  We hope to see similar results from the previous year as nearly all students were retained.  As we learn more about ways to help students be successful with these types of investments, we will seek additional resources for more and more students.  My appreciation to those who are passionate about the success of the Charge Forward initiative and work so hard serve these students.
  5. Fundraising priorities for the 2020’s:
    1. Funding for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity – increase the number/percentage of students/faculty/staff of color
    2. Funding for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity – increase programming to sustain the conversation, learning moments, and policy development
    3. Create more endowed scholarships – offer the same amount of scholarships from endowment funding as is currently being provided by pass-through funds
    4. Create a student support endowment – offer the same level of support we are currently providing with annual investments
    5. Create operating flexibility in case the financial situation worsens considerably

We have circulated our campus re-opening plan with an emphasis on moving to “Phase III” (which means we are confident in our continual progress towards further opening the college but with significant safety protocol) for the start of the fall semester.  We are working through the feedback, both functional and process improvements, as well as considering the ongoing situation as we make preparations for re-opening.  Please note we will continue to prioritize essential in-person learning and services with recommended safety protocol.  It is amazing how intricate and complex the logistics are as we consider the many options.  The people working on the Operations and Policy teams are making amazing efforts to ensure the best possible results.  I am truly indebted to them for their service, expertise, and commitment – their work provides opportunities for everyone else to do what they do best.

Finally, the best part of my summer, at least professionally, has been working with Victoria Bonilla who is an incoming freshman having recently graduated from Fennimore High School.  Victoria presented to the District Board of Directors, Foundation Board of Directors, and Real Estate Foundation Board of Directors on July 13.  Her message was certainly the highlight of the evening.  Victoria is a person of color who will studying to be a police officer in our public safety program.  Victoria is very articulate, dedicated, and wise beyond her years.  She has graciously shared some of her “innerness” by talking about her lived experiences with me, members of the board, and others present at the meeting.  Victoria is committed to being a selfless public service provider who is an example to others like her.  I believe she is entering a program with like-minded faculty and staff who are similarly willing to serve the public admirably.  Please note we will continue to reach out to students to listen and learn from their perspectives in order to make dramatic improvements in achievement gaps through investments of time, effort, and influence.  If you have a student you would like me to meet, please provide me with a little background and contact information.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.


Jason S. Wood, Ph.D.
President of Southwest Tech

P.S. Kudos to you if you made it this far. 🙂  If you are so inclined, please send me a photo of you and/or your family or friends from this summer.  What did you enjoy doing differently this summer?  A sentence or two with a message of encouragement related to “Yes We Can” is appreciated.  I intend to use these in my welcome back to campus so to be included in the presentation they are due by August 6, please.

Posted in COVID-19, Update