Keeping Our Promises
By Chad Dull, Vice President of Academics, Minnesota State College Southeast
Republican-Eagle, April 12, 2020
In the month since my last column, it feels like the whole world has changed. Last month I wrote about the network of support at Minnesota State College Southeast, and the way our staff and students take care of each other. I called that column "WE over ME," because that term captures the spirit of what a college like ours does in partnership with our students. At the time I was thinking of food pantries, emergency funds, and support services, but I was thinking of them in what we all thought of as "normal."
Unfortunately, we have all had to learn a new "normal" since then. We are all facing challenges none of us were planning on. MSC Southeast is no different. We are concerned for our families, our loved ones, our colleagues, and especially our students. That's why we want you to know we are still here and working to be partners in the dreams of our students and in the vitality of southeast Minnesota.
After an extended Spring Break, we re-opened as many classes as possible at the end of March. Because the safety and health of our students, staff, and communities is our first priority, we had to do so within limitations. MSC Southeast was already a leader in online and distance education, and now we had to capitalize on that history and strength. Our faculty did work in two weeks that I would have assumed would take months, if not years. They moved from classrooms and labs to teaching by videoconference, online platforms, simulations, and even filming videos with go-pro cameras. It is remarkable all the ways our instructors have found to keep students on the path to graduation.
The Minnesota State system made the difficult -- but wise -- choice to not allow face to face instruction until we are told it is safe. As a college with technical programs, not everything can be moved to alternative learning. This has meant we are working as quickly as we can to develop new opportunities, including accelerated options for when we can return to campus.
The changes weren't just in the classroom. Knowing that technical and community colleges serve students with barriers, we have kept our buildings open in the safest possible manner to allow student access to computers, Wi-Fi, and our food pantries. Our remarkable student services team reinvented everything they do to virtual formats in rapid fashion. They are available by appointment, by drop-in videoconference, and of course by phone and email. Our facilities team is working tirelessly to keep our buildings clean and disinfected, so if a student needs to access services, they can feel safe doing so. And our students have been our heroes as they so often are, by being flexible and resilient. It is an honor to serve them.
Minnesota State College Southeast is still here for our students and our community. As an institution of higher education, we have been designated an "essential" service by the state of Minnesota, and we will live up to that designation. You can still talk to an admissions representative. You can still learn more about programs and financial aid. You can still register for summer and fall coursework, because it is essential to help our students, their families, and our communities thrive. This was true before the crisis, during the crisis, and will certainly be true afterward. We take great pride in a culture of caring here that we refer to as #MSCSoutheastCares, and in these difficult days, it has been reaffirming to see that culture shine.
Our college is a promise to our students and to southeast Minnesota. Please know we are still here for you, working on your behalf, and keeping our promises. We can't wait to have you back on campus!