Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – January 8, 2022

Dear College Community,

Happy New Year!  Academics is steeped in tradition including renewed starts.  As we begin a new year and a new semester, may we be favored with happy and healthy family and friends.  When we find ourselves amidst tough circumstances, which we invariably will, and we are stretched to our very limits may we choose to acknowledge our struggles and stresses with grace and humility.  And, in our interactions with others, may we demonstrate kindness, compassion, and integrity.

Because we are faced with constantly emerging crises, perhaps we can collectively resolve to follow the wise counsel of Ghandi when he said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”  I hope this year we can firmly resolve (as noted in our Respect Pledge) to be the reason our students, and each other, feels welcomed, valued, and loved.

As we continue to be our world-class best for our students, despite struggles and setbacks, may we have many bright, sunshiny days!  I sure love the story of the Jamaican bobsled team, even if Disney took many creative licenses!

Here’s an update from around the college:

  1. COVID
    1. We are working through the new guidelines from government and health organizations.  We acknowledge there is confusion due to complex nuances, various interpretations, and contradictory expectations.  Thank you for your patience as we work on simplifying our instructions for our approach.  We will have information communicated prior to the end of next week.  As we help students learn, we want to be safe and healthy and will continue to strive to do so.
    2. Thank you to Dan Imhoff for diligently leading the COVID-Ops team.  He has done a great job!  We are pleased to announce Kris Wubben as the new lead.  Kris will no doubt provide excellent leadership in this capacity as we learn more and more about how to sustain operations and thrive in this environment.
    3. When the pandemic began, the federal government enacted a requirement that employers provide up to two additional weeks of paid leave for people impacted by COVID.  That requirement expired a year ago.  As a college, however, we extended the benefit for an additional year through 2021.  Please note the additional paid leave for COVID ended on 12/31/21.  You may of course still use your Managed Time Off for absences from work, including to deal with COVID.  I appreciate the generous paid leave provided by the Board.
  2. Learning Academies and In-Service (Schedules attached)
    1. Learning Academies begin on Monday, January 9 with the Instructional Vitality Process for all faculty and staff.  We learn about student learning.  We plan for improvements.  We assess the results.  IVP truly impacts the core of what we do: helping students succeed – graduate, good job, and good pay.
    2. In-Service is on Tuesday, January 10.  I look forward to hearing the national anthem sung by John Kvigne.  It will be great to have Devin Hughes, our Orange Frog trainer from two years ago, join us virtually.  We will also learn about personal well-being, our Supply Chain program, Project Rise, Accreditation, and the businesses who hire our graduates.
    3. During the afternoon of January 10, you have the option of helping with special service projects: making meals for our students, assembling beds for families in need, or creating cards to share with family or colleagues.  I am grateful for the approximately hundred people who have signed up to help.  Please know we also recognize some of you simply need the time to catch up on work – please do so as we know how important your jobs are to our students.
    4. Finally, we acknowledge the wide-range of perspectives on the pandemic.  There is both an in-person and virtual option for you to select how you participate.  Participation is important, attendance is tracked, and your involvement makes a difference in the decisions we make.
  3. Project Rise
    1. Congratulations to the Human Resources and Payroll team!   The team has been working diligently with Anthology for over a year; on January 1st, SWTC’s new HR/Payroll system successfully went live!  We realize we are learning from the snafus that are part of this type of implementation and appreciate your patience and understanding.
    2. Please note we are delaying the implementation of the student module, and a few related products, until June 20, 2022.  This will provide more time to improve the quality of the transition to the new system.  Please stay tuned for details and updates.
    3. My continued thanks and respect for the many, many people who are deeply involved in helping with the implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning solution.  We are confident the efforts will be rewarded with more convenient access, improved service, and the ability to focus on people.  I expect the results of this implementation to greatly increase our ability to create stronger relationships with students through new or improved services across the college.
  4. Business & Industry Services will be hosting a Business Showcase on Wednesday, February 2, from 2-6 pm.  We will have speakers from around campus, tours, workshops, and roundtable discussions.  A volunteer sign-up list will be going out in the next week or two.  If you would like to be a part of the event, please reach out to Holly Straka.
  5. Finances and Enrollments
    1. We are beginning to build the budget which will be both complicated and complex.  Please note we are striving to address inflation, unfunded mandates, risk management (like cyber security scheduled to increase costs by 75%), health care expenses, fewer grants, conclusion of federal relief funds, mandatory compliance projects, continuous improvement efforts, etc.  The budget process includes opportunities for broad input and begins with each supervisor determining the best way to engage their teams.  Please check with your supervisor if you have any questions or ideas.
    2. Enrollments are up ever so slightly this year – less than 1% right now.  If you know someone who is thinking about college, please feel confident to refer them to our recruitment team of Kyle Bennett, Kaye Woodke, or Bri Williamson.  We will arrange a tour of campus, introductions to key people, and information about programs, scholarships, and other opportunities.  I would like to be notified when personal referrals are made so I can thank you for your efforts to help.
  6. My New Year’s Resolutions
    1. I am grateful for the people in my life who love me and the chance to love them too.  This year I resolve to better show my appreciation for those closest to me by spending more quality time with them.
    2. It is a privilege and honor for me to work at Southwest Tech with so many people who care about our students and are willing to help them be successful.  I am renewed in my commitment to kindly serve those who strive to learn and improve, especially those who have different backgrounds, beliefs, or behaviors.
    3. Spirituality and faith have helped me find peace, hope, comfort, and joy in good times and bad.  I resolve to better appreciate the opportunities to correct my mistakes and focus on using my talents and privileges to bless others.
    4. I have a few activities to help these resolutions become more regular habits but I have not created actual “S.M.A.R.T.” goals.  If you are so inclined, I would be grateful to hear about your resolutions and/or goals.  I appreciate knowing more about how others approach this tradition.  Feel free to give me advice and suggestions too.
  7. Kudos to…
    1. Demi Vetesnik!  Thank you for all of your good work on In-Service and the extra efforts you are making to care for and support the Human Resources team during the new module implementation. 😊
    2. Matthew Baute!  Thank you for your continued leadership on Project Rise.  Your talents are on full display and certainly benefit this project and many people. 😊
    3. Sarah Imhoff! Thank you for your dedication on the payroll process and implementing a new module.  I am grateful for your diligent approach to accomplishing the task at hand. 😊
    4. Scott Kennedy!  Thank you for leading our efforts to expand high-quality, experiential learning as we plan for remodels and new facilities.  Your enthusiasm and network will be instrumental to our success. 😊
    5. Holly Straka! Thank you for your work with Business and Industry.  We are grateful you are helping people access training to improve their skills. 😊

In conclusion, I am excited to note we will be taking a major step forward in communicating and committing to our Strategic Directions.  Please stay tuned for a draft proposal to be presented to the Board of Directors at their January meeting.  We anticipate focusing our efforts for the next three years on enhancing high-quality, experiential student learning, caring for our students and each other, and increasing our economic impact on local businesses and industry.

Finally, as always, please let me know if you have any questions, feedback, or ideas.  Take care and be well. 😊



Posted in COVID-19, Update