Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – Feb 13, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

Please know I hope you are well.  As more of us are affected by the pandemic, may we remember to care for each other and care for our students.  The goodwill that comes from caring for others will help our strategies be more successful.  I do very much appreciate the regular reports of kindness and empathy being displayed for people, particularly so when we make the effort to care for someone new or unique.

An update from around the college:

  1. Beating COVID-19 in 2021:
    1. We anticipate moving from Stage 2 into Stage 3 of our COVID Response Plan.  See the brief overview with the various stages and key components of each.  More information and instructions will be provided as we consider when in March to make the change.
    2. There is no new information on vaccines at this time and we anticipate availability for faculty and staff by the end of the month or very early March.
  2. Leadership Development
    1. Re-Org
      1. The Student Services Leadership Team consists of Dan Imhoff, Kris Wubben, Chris Bowers, Danielle Seippel, and Melissa Klinkhammer.  Please note the Academic Advisors report to Kris Wubben.  We are grateful for the efforts everyone is making to have this new model help students outside of the classroom.
      2. We are still developing options for the Foundation, Business and Industry, College Effectiveness, and Grants.  I am grateful to the people who are exploring several innovative alternatives.
    2. The Chief Officers (Katie Garrity, Academic; Caleb White, Financial; Krista Weber, Human Resources; and Holly Clendenen, Student Services) are formulating elements of succession plans to create professional development plans for one or two people each.  The intent is to provide growth opportunities and internal partnerships.
  3. Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) Funding
    1. We have received approximately $1.8 million and nearly $400k is earmarked as direct aid to students.  Cora Schmitz is leading the process to distribute the funds to students this term, during the summer, and even into fall semester.
    2. We are planning to use the funds to cover the costs of lost revenues associated with declining enrollments/usage of services.  Kelly Kelly is helping calculate the losses and qualifying reimbursements.
    3. We are also considering options to partially subsidize the Charger 360 Technology program (laptops, software, support, hotspots, etc.) for another year. Heath Ahnen, Caleb White, and Katie Garrity are conducting an analysis of the program based on extensive feedback from faculty, staff, and students with an eye to the future opportunities these additional funds can support.
    4. We will probably find ways to expand closed captioning, offer additional mental health and wellness support, include more technology through remodeled classrooms, upgrade the air handling systems, offer technology training to faculty and staff, and increase campus sanitization.  Darnell Wiegman will help track the selected options and expenses.
    5. We will also try and provide additional direct support to students as funding permits.
  4. Budget and Enrollment
    1. Tommy Thompson, Interim President of the University of Wisconsin University System, resurfaced the idea of higher education consolidation with a specific reference to technical colleges in close proximity to regional UW campuses.  Morna Foy, Technical College System President indicated she does not support any proposal that includes the UW’s assuming control over any technical college.  I strongly support her stance.  Please know that we will always find ways to provide training and education that leads to local employment opportunities.  We do it exceptionally well and our business model is very successful.  The proposal is not in the UW’s budget request for the next biennium but we will monitor the situation and determine the best approach to remaining strong and viable long into the future.
    2. An initial review of our budget status for next year will be presented at the February Board meeting.  Stay tuned for more details.  We anticipate a very unique set of circumstances which will require input from many people as well as a collective resolve to maintaining our highest priorities. I trust we can do this well and thrive as we choose to innovate rather than stagnate, invest rather than divest, and achieve excellence with integrity.
    3. Enrollments remain down just over 5% and are still somewhat fluid with the unique end to last year’s spring semester.  If you know a student needs something, please say something so we can help before the problem causes them to leave classes.
  5. Proactive Considerations
    1. As we look to implement a new Enterprise Resource Planning system, simplification of complex faculty load calculations is necessary.  There are equity considerations inherently linked to the nuances left to interpretation by different perspectives.  Given the uncertain nature of the economy, a review of load can help achieve our priority of protecting existing benefitted positions.  Please note this initial review will bring together the perspectives of the deans, Human Resources, and finance.  Their analysis, including any possible options that may be considered, will be shared with faculty.  We will ensure faculty have an opportunity to provide feedback, develop additional alternatives, and help determine the best ways to move forward.  We may not act on the results, which would be fine, or we may find something that helps us improve.
    2. Universal Design (UD) is a framework created to account for the broadest and fullest participation of people while benefitting everyone’s success.  Applied in a higher education setting, Universal Design for Learners emphasizes flexible approaches to learning based on the person.  The UD concept applies to curriculum, lesson planning, assessments, instructional methods, learner supports, and more.  We will be providing opportunities for two or three people to learn more, possibly through certification, and then help additional faculty and staff apply the principles here at our college.  We believe this approach will provide substantial benefits to our diverse student populations resulting in higher achievement across the board.
    3. The Wellness Committee will be working on a way to celebrate our achievements over the last year.  Please mark May 21, the day before graduation, as an opportunity to be grateful for what we have accomplished.  We will look to find ways to safely see each other in-person, acknowledge everyone for their individual contributions to our overall success, and enjoy something fun…together.  😊
    4. Stay tuned for more ideas to help our students.  Several faculty and staff are exploring  innovative approaches to New Student Orientation and strengthening support for students/alumni with their local small business endeavors.
  6. Health Insurance
    1. The options being considered have been shared in a previous update and presented at the College Forum.  Another more complete proposal will be presented in the same way over the next month.  Feedback or questions are welcome.
    2. We are exploring ways for the college health care consortium to use reserves to at least help cover some of the increased price expected for the next year which is approximately 3% to 7% more than now.
    3. The four tier premium structure may see more of an increase in one of the categories and we are looking for ways to smooth the transition for the impacted employees if possible.
    4. Please remember to review what has been presented.  The next college forum will feature the various options and scenarios in more detail in order to seek input and feedback.  Please note we are trying to keep the continual rise of health care costs to a minimum which means we must find resources somewhere.
  7. Kudos to…
    1. Lisa Riley, College Effectiveness, who made an extra effort to help me understand her appreciation for the efforts on curriculum and assessment.  From her behind-the-scenes perspective, there are many, many people working to ensure the quality of our curriculum and assessment.
    2. Jen Lame for her leadership in achieving the distinction as the #1 Medical Coding Specialist program in the nation!
    3. John Troxel for his regular doses of humor infused into his work.  Kelly Kelly indicated in the attached Shout Out that John’s happiness and humor are greatly appreciated!
    4. Chantel Hampton for inviting Giulio Reyes, Holly Straka, and Demi Vetesnik to share their perspective and insights at the Café con Leche event.  She sent the attached Shout Out because these three new employees did such an excellent job!
    5. Justin Rounds, a new ag faculty member, expressed his gratitude for John Kvigne who has gone above and beyond to mentor Justin.  Thanks, John, for be willing to provide your years of wisdom and accrued insights to a new colleague!

In closing, please reach out with any questions or comments.  I care deeply about you and your families – if you need something, please let me know how I can help.  Let’s keep doing our best together!



Posted in COVID-19, Update