Outlook Magazine - Fall 2020
would be provided in September. Many scenarios were discussed, and in the end the decision was made to offer a mix of in-person, hybrid and online course delivery options. It also was decided that no changes would be made in the academic calendar, which calls for classes to begin on Sept. 9. In an unprecedented feat of collaboration, the chancellors of UW-Stout, UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls announced their fall plans in a joint news release. In a June 8 memo to students and their families, Frank joined with Dean of Students Sandi Scott and announced: “While there will be many changes when you return to campus this fall, there are essential things that will remain the same: UW-Stout faculty and staff remain committed to providing an exceptional academic experience for our students, ensuring students receive the educational and personal support they need and fostering community and creative thinking that inspire us to tackle challenges and support one another.” Even though the most immediate concern was preparing for the fall semester, Frank made it clear that the university had to begin work on its next 10-year strategic plan. A virtual Visioning Session with external stakeholders was held on July 21 that encapsulated her goal of planning for “recovery, rebuilding and reimaging.” Issues that were explored included lessons learned from the pandemic crisis, what processes or policies should be maintained and what should be improved. “This crisis has shown us that we need to be more nimble, flexible and forward- thinking,” Frank said. “I hope we fully leverage this moment in order to continue to improve.” While the campus may never look the same once the pandemic has passed, one thing will remain: UW-Stout’s adherence to its three polytechnic tenets of career focus, applied learning and collaboration with external partners. Not even a pandemic can shake the university off that solid foundation.
hold Advisement Day virtually. One of the most painful decisions, however, involved commencement, scheduled for May 9. “Today I must announce the most difficult decision made to date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the postponement of the traditional spring commencement ceremony,” Frank wrote to students and employees. “We are doing everything in our power to hold a virtual celebration on May 9, 2020.” Due to the creative thinking and dedication of a large group of employees across many university areas, the virtual commencement came off with aplomb and signaled an important transition: recovery. Learning from the situation Almost from day one in dealing with the pandemic, Frank stressed the importance of keeping an eye on what important lessons could be learned from this experience and where gaps in policies, processes and planning existed. Attention was directed to how to prepare for a successful fall semester and how to plan for UW-Stout’s next 10 years as Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. “We will never look the same,” Frank has said repeatedly of the effects of the pandemic on the university, “and we shouldn’t.” By early May, a Recovery Planning Team was established to serve as the steering committee for the university’s recovery efforts. It meets weekly and has spawned more than 15 subcommittees. Spreadsheets were used to track all the issues that have to be addressed and monitored: how many students can safely be accommodated in each classroom and laboratory, how to safely house students in residence halls, how to handle testing and contact tracing in the event of a positive virus case, etc. Fall semester plans The biggest decision, of course, during early summer centered on the fall semester and what kind of instruction
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