President’s All College Update: August ’20

26 Aug 2020

Welcome back students!

This has been such a strange year, along with a busier than usual summer, that it is almost hard to believe we are at the start of another school year! We have talked about fall and planned for these moments for months. I know this fall’s start is not going to look like years past. I will miss the surge of students filling our campuses, the sight of whole families moving in their student to a residence hall, and getting to witness the faculty and staff doing what they do best. I recognize that our choices to move lectures to remote delivery and provide labs in person is an investment in returning to more normalcy faster, so am embracing today’s “normal” with mask-wearing enthusiasm. While some of the routines may be different, there will still be new students that need welcoming, returning students to catch up with, and the spirit of being a Knight to create in our entire community. Welcome and welcome back, Knights! I am so grateful to have you here!

Student Supports and Resources

I always want to put in a plug for our wonderful student-support resources when the opportunity arises.

  • Hartness Library librarians are embedded in Canvas classes, have live chat on their website, and are available via texts and emails. They are taking appointments for in-person service as well with limited capacity and hours. Check out their website for details and contact information.
  • New students are enrolled in a First Year Experience class in Canvas, designed to integrate you into the college and rigor of our academics.
  • IT has also developed a course for learning successfully remotely, with links to a wide variety of helpful resources.
  • Student Affairs, and specifically Dana Mitchell, is planning weekly activities for students. She is rotating between in-person and online activities to engage students no matter where you are studying. Watch for her weekly emails each Monday!
  • The academic support services provided by our Center for Academic Success include tutoring, time-management skill development, TRiO mentorship, access and disability services and referrals for counseling.

Please don’t hesitate to utilize the services of these great resources across the college!

Updated COVID-19/Re-Opening resources

As someone who has been involved in conversations about fall and the safe reopening of the college for many months now, I recognize how much has evolved throughout the summer. That can mean sharing an update only to adapt those plans to changes in the guidelines down the road. Our go-to website location for all announcements is Past announcements aggregate as links at the bottom of that page. In addition, we have continuously updated the Student Resources page with frequently asked questions. You can find a review of the testing requirements and re-entry checklists for students and employees. You can even find graphics to download for updating your signature and a form to submit a selfie wearing your mask. There are a lot of moving parts to re-opening the college for the fall, but the most crucial component is all of you! We all have to work together and in accordance with the health guidelines of the Department of Health, CDC and Governor’s office to have a successful semester. We don’t want to fall victim to outbreaks like UNC or Notre Dame, which have closed those campuses for any in-person experiences.

Transformation Advisory Taskforce and Drafting Committee Update

I called for the formation of a Transition Advisory Taskforce (TAT) this spring. The goal of the TAT is, “to assist in the development of a plan to transition Vermont Technical College to a more sustainable institution able to withstand vulnerabilities exposed by the COVID19 virus and the Vermont State College’s financial challenges.” Ideas and recommendations were solicited from the Vermont Tech community, the broader geographic community and the Vermont Legislature.

The TAT reviewed over 400 ideas and recommendations, which were ranked and narrowed down to a set of implementation recommendations. The TAT forwarded multiple recommendations to a Drafting Committee (DC) to begin forming them into a plan.  The DC narrowed those in to four strategic initiative areas to bring back to the TAT for review and approval, they include:

  1. Consolidate programs; add certificates, minors, pathways and other credentials.
  2. Improve access: develop additional/alternatives delivery methods.
  3. Reduce physical footprint, consolidate usage and sell/lease unused assets.
  4. Assess performance in all resource areas and functions.

The Drafting Committee is now shaping the Project Charter to guide the effort and provide documentation and transparency to the process. Please continue to follow these monthly updates from the President’s Office to monitor this project’s progress.

Agriculture & Food Systems Transformation Update

The programmatic task force charged with a review of Vermont Tech’s agriculture programs and associated resources continues to form. The early meetings have been dedicated to sharing information about our current status, getting all the volunteers on the same page. The committee structure is taking shape, too, as sub-groups coalesce around distinct areas of focus, including:

  • Survey and research
  • Program model
  • Culture and curriculum
  • Dairy
  • Business case
  • Outreach and communication

These teams are scheduling meetings to begin their focused work. We will continue to update everyone through this communication as progress warrants.

VSCS Forward Task Force Update

The VSCS Board of Trustees has charged a 15-member VSCS Forward Task Force with reviewing ideas and developing recommendations to:

  • address program duplication;
  • ensure quality, financial viability, and access to programs;
  • clarify distinguishing characteristics of member institutions;
  • strengthen VSCS’s focus on core, high-demand programs that meet the needs of today’s students and the Vermont workforce;
  • identify sustainable strategies to deliver programs and provide student support in rural areas of Vermont; and
  • reconfigure the system in organization, finance, governance, and accreditation.

The VSCS Forward Task Force is working with an external facilitator and preliminary recommendations were presented to the Board on August 12, 2020. Vermont Tech’s representatives on the taskforce are Lit Tyler, Dean of Administration, Kim Hannon-Brobst, a Hartness Coordinator of Remote Access Services and selected representative of the Staff Federation, and Sarah Billings-Berg, Associate Dean of Nursing.

A report from Lit Tyler suggests, “We are keeping our students and workforce partners at the forefront of our discussions. Vermont Tech has a large non-traditional student population and we want to ensure that any restructuring or reframing of the VSCS keeps access, program opportunities, and workforce development central to our future. Many of our employer partners count on Vermont Tech for a pool of employees who remain in their community long-term. We want to maintain our presence in Randolph Center and at our other sites statewide. We are committed to making creative partnerships and forming relationships that are mutually beneficial and support our surrounding communities.”

Legislative Select Committee on the Future of Higher Education in Vermont

In addition to committees at the programmatic, college, and system level, the Vermont State Legislature has called for a Select Committee to, “develop an integrated vision and plan for a high-quality, affordable, and workforce-connected future for public higher education in the State.” The Committee has issued an RFP to work with a vendor in creating a study to address that mission. We are grateful that CCV President Joyce Judy chairs the committee and our own Devin Tingle is the student representative. Their timeline calls for a first interim report on December 20, 2020, with the final report and presentations the following December. We will keep information about this Committee updated through these monthly communications and any interim updates via email as needed.

Academic Schedules

The Academic Dean’s Office has worked tireless to aggregate each of the unique solutions for lecture, lab and clinical requirements into the academic calendar and course schedule. Mapping this has been a Herculean feat this year in a short amount of time after our July 15th announcement to move to a largely remote-delivery format for the fall. I am grateful for all their hard work and efforts on our students’ and the faculty’s behalf. We want to encourage students to refer to their schedules through the Portal often, up until their first day of labs on campus.

Campus Resources for Commuters during Lab Weeks

During lab weeks, we recognize that students commuting to campus will find themselves needing to log into remote classes in between in-person lab sessions. We have a few locations to facilitate your learning while on campus.

  • The Hartness libraries on both campuses are available by appointment (throughout the semester) for study spaces and computer stations are set up for appropriate physical distancing. Use this form to make an appointment.
  • The Clark Hall computer lab in Randolph Center (Rm 215) is open for student use (throughout the semester) and that, too, is arranged for physical distancing.
  • During lab weeks, Judd Hall in Randolph Center and rooms in 200 in Williston are dedicated, quiet, commuter study spaces. Students can contact Mary Cooper to make reservations for Judd or Caitlyn Clark for 200.

So folks know, these reservation systems help us with contact tracing, should the need arise. They are NOT designed to add complexity to your use of space on campus.

Hours are below.

Hartness: Randolph Center (all semester)

M-TH: 8 am – 8 pm

FRI: 8 am – 4:30 pm

SAT: Chat only 10 am – 2 pm

SUN: Chat only 12 pm – 4 pm

No in person weekend hours

Hartness: Williston (all semester)

M-FRI: 8 am – 4 pm

SAT: Chat only 10 am – 2 pm

SUN: Chat only 12 pm – 4 pm

No in person weekend hours

Judd Quiet Study Space (during lab weeks only)

M-FRI: 7 am – 6 pm

No weekend hours

200 Quiet Study Spaces (during lab weeks only)

M-FRI: 8 am – 5 pm

No weekend hours

Collective Responsibility with Responsible Measures

I can’t say it often enough, but we are all in this together if we are to keep the college open for any in-person experiences. PLEASE: wear your masks, get tested, practice social distancing, and wash your hands often. These are the ways we can limit the spread of this insidious illness. I wear my mask for you and hope you will do the same for me.