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Provost details collaborative triumph over anxiety, seclusion

With more than 93 percent of Spring 2020 classes nearing completion through remote instruction, and a relative handful of students set to return May 11 to finish in-person labs or coursework required for accreditation, the college’s vice president for academic affairs/provost has issued a wide-ranging recap of faculty innovation and student initiative that both overcame educational challenges and served the broader community during the coronavirus outbreak.

The following was shared Friday morning by Michael J. Reed:

Pennsylvania College of Technology prides itself on delivering the highest-quality applied technology education for students to excel within their chosen fields. Students choose Penn College for the opportunity to work with industry and academic experts and to become tomorrow makers. Penn College remains steadfastly committed to our students, community and industry, and we will always work diligently to ensure our students’ long-term success.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges, and I want to share a few examples of how we are adapting and leading our students through these unique times.

Working through challenges provides opportunities to enhance growth and often sparks innovation. Challenge offers the potential to improve resiliency and strengthen character, and I am proud of how our faculty and students have embraced what is within their sphere of influence during these unprecedented times.

Faculty have been working diligently to discover new strategies to inspire curiosity and problem-solving while converting coursework to remote platforms. Our students have been helping one another persist while working in isolation. The college has adapted multiple procedures to ensure students’ success, and colleagues continue to provide tremendous outreach to the greater community in need. Your commitment and ongoing efforts are genuinely inspiring.

Below are a few examples of how our faculty and students are carrying our mission forward:

  • To enhance student learning, Chris Warren personally delivered construction and design materials to students around the Commonwealth, driving more than 500 miles in order to teach hands-on labs remotely.
  • Our graphic design student leaders and faculty have created an online forum to mentor and share concepts with new students and provide engaging interactions with alumni in the field.
  • Michael Dincher and Wyatt Forest, horticulture and forestry, completed high-climbing arboriculture labs, using GoPro cameras to deliver instruction.
  • Our Madigan Library team and Information Technology Services deployed multiple laptops to our students in need.
  • Shawn Kiser and dental hygiene faculty orchestrated a shipment of lab supplies to students to aid remote learning.
  • Our students and faculty are providing front-line assistance in hospitals and treatment facilities.
  • Eric Albert, manufacturing and engineering technologies, continues to generate face shields from 3D printers for health-care providers, and he also printed ventilator splitters in the event of a ventilator shortage. (WNEP story)
  • Spyke Krepshaw and web and interactive media students have been assisting essential, small-scale community businesses stay afloat by setting up online ordering systems. (WNEP story)
  • Valerie Myers, nursing, coordinated a large-scale collection of Personal Protection Equipment, providing essential protection to local nursing home facilities.

In addition, the college is exploring the feasibility of providing a voluntary, one-week, hands-on lab-skill review prior to the start of the Fall 2020 semester to help our students refine skills being learned remotely. The lab experiences will be offered to Spring 2020 semester students at no cost. More details will be provided about this opportunity once it is finalized.

Procedurally, the college developed an option for students to convert letter grades to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grades, modified scholarship criteria, extended course-withdrawal deadlines and created a mechanism for students impacted by the pandemic to apply for vouchers in order to retake coursework in 2020-21. In addition, academic-review guidelines have been appropriately modified in response to the current challenges. If you have not had a chance to review these responsive adaptations, I encourage you to please read the Modified Procedure Guidelines.

While this semester has presented multiple complexities, together we will continue to provide the best support and highest-quality opportunities possible for our students to succeed, both today and tomorrow. The pandemic and governor’s orders have driven us to finish more than 93% of all Spring 2020 courses remotely, and our plan remains for the few labs – and a small cohort of students who have specific accreditation requirements – to return on May 11 to complete Spring 2020 coursework.

Our students are providing excellent insight on their Spring 2020 experiences – positive ones, as well as areas for growth – and we will use these perspectives to inform our work in the future. We are a college of applied technology, and our plan is to return safely to normal operations, when possible. We will continue to keep you informed, and together we will make the most of these challenging opportunities.

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