Campus Update from Dean Dees
Greetings from my remote office within the Dees home.
Like most of you, I’m now working remotely and learning to stay put. That’s a big change for me, because I’m used to being on the move! In my roles as dean of the Kent State Columbiana County campuses, as well as Interim Vice President, I spend a lot of time in my car traveling across northeast Ohio.
But, now, I’m home with my family and trying to make it all work from here.
I know that none of us ever imagined a time such as this.
When the COVID-19 situation began to unfold around us, Kent State was quick to respond. Like all Kent Campuses, we closed our doors on the afternoon of March 16 and pushed full steam ahead to keep our ships afloat. I am so incredibly proud of how the staff and faculty responded, wasting no time to put our classes and services online so that the students wouldn’t be left behind.
Everybody stepped up with a “we-have-to-do-this” attitude and all were willing to try new things and adapt. Our faculty and IT/technology staff worked closely in those early days to try new technology and adapt teaching styles. And, even now, they continue to try new things and to help each other in remarkable ways.
Teaching continues. Learning continues. Advising, tutoring, counseling, admissions and support continues – just in a different way.
I am not surprised, however, by how our local campuses responded to this situation. We have incredible people who want to see our students succeed. This is what makes me so proud of what we do in Columbiana County.
From the beginning of this crisis, everyone was focused on doing what is best for our students. We are doing everything we can to encourage our students to keep trying and to not quit.
We understand that this is just one aspect of our students’ lives that is changing. On top of worrying about keeping up with their studies, they now worry about their jobs, their partners’ or parents’ jobs, buying groceries, teaching their kids who are at home, staying healthy. We understand. Our students are surrounded by faculty and staff who will do whatever they can to help them get through this.
While deeply caring about our own, our campuses extended its support to our local communities, as well.
From day one, our allied health departments recognized the shortage of PPE for local healthcare workers and began pulling our stock of masks, gloves and gowns to donate to the Salem and East Liverpool hospitals. We also loaned hospital beds, a ventilator, bedside tables, sterilizing equipment and monitors to the facilities.
Several students received substantial packages from the Flash Food Pantry on the East Liverpool Campus at the onset of this stay-at-home situation. Since then, the shelves of the pantry were emptied and all food items (which filled a pickup and an SUV) donated to an agency in East Liverpool that helps area residents in need.
I can give no timetable for when things will begin returning to “normal” on our campuses. We will wait for guidance from Gov. DeWine, the Board of Trustees, President Todd Diacon and the scientists and then react accordingly.
This point in the academic year is typically a time of celebration on our campuses, a time when we recognize students with awards and scholarships, hold pinning ceremonies and host other yearend events, namely, commencement.
As the dean, my favorite day of the year is when I shake the hand of each graduate who walks across the stage to receive that hard-earned diploma. I beam with pride and love to hear the cheers from family members seated in the audience, knowing that, for many, this is a first for their family.
I regret that, as of now, I cannot plan to shake those hands or hear those cheers. But, our staffs are doing their best to put together Plan B to recognize our graduates in some way, some day. We really want to celebrate this milestone.
To that end, I recently traveled to the Kent Campus to personally record my message to the graduates that will be available to all on May 9. Those students who met all of the graduation requirements will graduate and receive their diplomas and all of you can virtually celebrate with President Diacon, Interim Provost Tankersley and myself during this recorded event.
While this is far from what any of us expected for the Class of 2020, I know from watching our people – watching them be creative, watching them be focused on helping our students succeed, watching them put differences aside and watching them put forth the extra effort – that we will figure this out.
Thank you for your continued interest in our campus and for your support of our “Students First” mission. Never have we been so challenged to fulfill that mission, but never have we demonstrated our commitment so strongly.
David Dees, Ph.D.