Outlook Magazine - Fall 2020

atherine P. Frank came to UW- Stout as its eighth chancellor on March 1, intent on leading Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University into the next decade and building on what she said was “the high-quality work and creative thinking exhibited by faculty, staff and students, as well as the strong, reciprocal relationships among the university, community and regional partners.”  Everyone at UW-Stout, she said after being named chancellor, has “demonstrated dedication to the university and exhibited true focus on ensuring student success.”  But within two weeks after arriving at UW- Stout, the university’s world was turned upside down. Frank sent out a COVID-19 memo to the campus community, stating that beginning the next day, March 17, only essential employees should report to work on campus and telecommuting would be the norm for all employees able to do so.  If that wasn’t enough of a challenging way to start a new position, the following day Frank had to announce that most students in the residence halls were going home and that “we will continue delivering our course content through alternative instructional delivery methods for the rest of the semester. This applies to all 2020 summer courses offerings as well.”  The complicated process to move students out of the residence halls would begin immediately, she said, and campus events with 50 or more planned attendees were canceled. For employees whose work was affected by the pandemic, UW System put in place an emergency policy allowing 80 hours of paid COVID-19 leave.  ADAPTING TO THE NEW NORMAL When the pandemic hit, UW- Stout and new Chancellor Frank hit the ground running K

Many more memos from the chancellor and senior administrators followed as the pieces of the “new normal” fell into place and the campus adjusted to a virtual world of instruction and work. Faculty and instructional academic staff focused on converting all course content to alternative delivery methods, while employees grappled with how to do their jobs away from campus. Microsoft Teams meetings became the new conference rooms.  Pandemic Planning Team created Even before the extent of the crisis became fully evident, Frank responded quickly. She immediately established a Pandemic Planning Team comprised of the Emergency Operations Team and faculty and staff governance leaders that met daily.   One of the key decisions involved whether to extend the length of spring break scheduled for March 14-22 because of the need to convert 57% of the current course content to alternative delivery methods. A consensus was reached that because of UW-Stout’s polytechnic mission, its long history of tackling serious problems through technology, and its e-Stout student laptop program, instruction would resume as planned.  “amazing,” adding, “It was not easy at all. Our faculty and staff worked hard and remained focused on student success. It confirmed for me that UW-Stout is all about responding to challenges and keeping students at the center of our efforts.”  Another obstacle that had to be overcome was internet connectivity, given the lack of sufficient broadband availability in some parts of Wisconsin. The forward-thinking  Learning and Information Technology Department anticipated the challenge and secured 130 cellular hotspots to help students and employees connect to campus.  More than 2,500 students had to be moved out of the residence halls safely and orderly.  A decision was made to Frank called the campus’s effort to transition to alternative delivery


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