Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – September 25, 2021

Hi, Folks.

Students are the reason we exist.  Our most important purpose is to help our students achieve their goals.  Students are successful when they attend class, learn, finish their program of study, and better their employment situation.  We improve lives through excellence in learning.  You each have a tremendous impact on our students.  Thank you.

I love to learn from hearing people tell me their stories.  When I started at the college I spent time with each employee listening to what they did at the college, our key strengths, and the opportunities to improve.  The heart-felt and honest responses helped frame our work.  With the pandemic, I’ve missed the informal interactions.  So, since the beginning of the year, I set out on a similar listening tour…of our students.

Nearly a hundred current students, dozens of graduates, eight potential students who have yet to enroll, and a few people who had to drop out shared with me their personal insights about what they need to be successful.  More details will be provided in future forums, but for now, here is what I have learned is most important to our students and their success:

  1. Knowing someone cares and is willing to help
  2. Engaging in quality learning experiences
  3. Getting paid

Rather than expound on what I’ve heard on these topics so far, please feel free to send me your initial thoughts or impressions.  I am also interested if there are other priorities you think would be important to our students.  Who at the college is awesome at accomplishing one of the three areas for our students?

Now for an update from around the college:

  1. Pandemic Response – Ongoing Efforts to Return to Campus
    1. At our last forum, Cynde Larsen provided more information and resources regarding herd immunity.  Essentially we have a long ways to go before we reach that level.
    2. We have reduced the quarantine time for exposures from 14 days to 5-7 days if you are unvaccinated but have a negative test, consistent with CDC guidelines.
    3. The vast majority of data from credible and reliable sources indicates the vaccines are safe and effective.  We continue to encourage people to seek advice from their primary care physician when determining if they should be vaccinated for COVID, similar to the many other vaccinations that are available.  Your primary care physician can provide information about medical exemptions to the vaccine, if appropriate for you.
    4. I recognize the ongoing debates and intensifying controversy regarding specific pandemic response protocol.  Yes, there are times I doubt the effectiveness of specific strategies or various options.  I believe the price of potentially being incorrect about our current plan is not nearly as costly as eliminating our safety protocol and possibly being wrong.  Time will tell which strategy was the best approach.  For now, we are doing our best with the data we have to care for our faculty, staff, and students.  Our care for our people is what drives our decisions.  I may be guilty of errors in our strategies, time will tell, but the integrity of my intentions is pure.
  2. Project Rise:
    1. Our implementation is still on budget however it is likely we experience delays.  A more detailed update is located on page 105 in the packet for the Board meeting this coming Tuesday.
    2. Many people are experiencing substantial burdens due to the additional workload.  This is a difficult and complex project and we expect to have struggles.  With that said, please remember to take care of yourselves, especially when tasks are frustrating or timelines are tight.  Your health and well-being is more important than anything we do at work.  Reaching out to support colleagues makes a difference, especially with a positive word of encouragement or appreciation.  Afterall, it wasn’t easy for Spark and the aspiring orange frogs to build their homes in the trees…but it was worth it!  Project Rise will improve the student experience and we will get there!
    3. Because we are at a critical point in this project, the Exec Team will be discussing opportunities to focus even more intensely on our success.  What does that mean?  We will de-emphasize less important activities so people can participate in Project Rise or complete their regular duties.  Five specific examples of what we are considering:
      1. Excusing supervisors who are leads for Project Rise from Leadership Council meetings;
      1. Providing staff an opportunity to select out of the October 1 professional development day activities to work on Project Rise;
      1. Not holding in-service, or any other meetings on that day in January, but keeping the college closed to the public so people can work on Project Rise.
      1. Temporarily reassigning specific job duties of key individuals so they can focus on the project.
      1. Delivering meaningful care packages, first to those carrying the heaviest Project Rise loads then sharing with others, that help reduce time commitments and provide a boost of happiness.  Stay tuned for more details. 😊
  1. If you can think of other ways we can help support people through implementation of Project Rise, please let me know.  Again, we care about you and your well-being more than anything else. 
  2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity
    1. You belong at our college and we want you to thrive.  The Leadership Council will be participating in a legal training on Tuesday.  Our two primary college attorneys will be the guest instructors.  We hope to establish a mutual understanding of our legal obligations with respect to the culture we strive to foster.  After a presentation of the information, we will engage in scenario-based discussions to talk through each authentic situation.
    2. The legal training is a baseline for behavioral expectations.  Ideally we will exemplify the principles in our Respect Pledge and College Values.  In fact, I know so very many of you are striving to be good people in all you do and say.  Me too.
    3. Learning is an excellent way to improve.  The Executive Team recently completed a guided book read.  Chantel Hampton structured monthly conversations, activities, and additional resources for each chapter in The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias, by Dolly Chugh.  If you would like to do the same guided reading, with Chantel and me as facilitators, please let us know.  We will buy the book for you.  We will schedule 45 minute discussions once a month and read two chapters a month.  A starting date is still to be determined.  We’ll keep it open for about 15 people and consider additional offerings later.

In closing, please take care of yourselves by doing what is most important first.  I believe Southwest Tech is a great place to work.  We help many, many people improve their lives.  If you need something, please talk to your supervisor, HR, or me.  In the meantime, please do something you enjoy with someone you love. 😊



Relevant Quote: “We must learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or perish together as fools.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted in COVID-19, Update