Chatting with Dr. Karen Miller, Tri-C Provost, on resources for students during COVID-19, Post-Election, and the Latest Streams

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Chatting with Dr. Karen Miller, Tri-C Provost, on resources for students during COVID-19, Post-Election, and the Latest Streams

The Voice: Greetings Dr. Miller.

The Voice: A year later, and the pandemic is still lingering. How do you feel?

Dr. Miller: Tired, hopeful and ready for some normalcy just like everyone else. Excited to be talking about returning to campus!

The Voice: Have you received the vaccine? Do you feel comfortable recommending it to others? 

Dr. Miller: I did, and I am completely comfortable encouraging others to receive it.

The Voice: Do you think that the U.S. Presidential Election between Trump and Biden will have a huge impact on Tri-C? Were you surprised by the outcome? 

Dr. Miller: Each administration that arrives in office has its own agenda on a wide variety of economic and social issues. My hope is that our current leaders recognize the value community colleges bring not just to our students, but to the economy and communities throughout the country. It’s also great to have a First Lady who is a community college professor. What a great advocate for our students!

The Voice: During Trump’s time in office, what changes did you notice in America? How has his presidency influenced you? 

Dr. Miller: Our country has gone through so much over the past few years with economic uncertainties, a global pandemic and social unrest. These challenges brought immeasurable heartache and difficult times for many. I am proud to work at an institution that fully embraces developing a thoughtful and engaged citizenry through equitable access to higher education and meaningful dialogue that builds understanding. We offer opportunities for everyone in the Tri-C community to engage and participate in peaceful and respectful dialogue about important and sensitive issues. 

I urge students to take advantage of opportunities to be a part of this dialogue, especially through programs like the Jeffrey Tuma “We the People” Campus Conversations. These sessions offer a safe and productive space to discuss topics, promote active listening and respectful confrontation, and engage all of us in civil discourse. You can find upcoming events within the series at tri-c.edu/student-life/we-the-people.html.

The Voice: What would you like to see happen for education during the next four years, now that Biden is in office? 

Dr. Miller: The national community college movement is rooted in the principle of providing access to higher education for everyone. Tri-C has always embraced the foundational principle of access to education. 

Access, however, means more than just accepting any and all students who apply to study or get workforce training. It means identifying and removing barriers to enrollment, paying for college and dealing with food and housing insecurities — all things Tri-C students may encounter in addition to academic challenges during their journey to graduation. 

We know that these barriers are not unique to Tri-C students. Students across the country at community colleges, large universities and even online schools struggle with these same issues. 

I hope that we continue to see our local, state and national administrations work together to remove barriers for students everywhere. I think we are off to a great start.

The Voice: With new officials in office, have any new policies been implemented that will benefit or affect financial requirements for students? 

Dr. Miller:  One of the recurring issues for any administration is how to address the high cost of higher education. Right now, there are many discussions taking place about how to reduce student loan debt — not only for current students, but also for graduates struggling to make payments. 

At Tri-C, we are proud to offer the lowest tuition rate in Ohio. We always encourage students to contact our financial aid office to see if there may be grants, scholarships or other financial resources that can help reduce their out-of-pocket cost.

The Voice: What have you been doing to uplift yourself during these peculiar times? 

Dr. Miller: Aside from focusing on work and helping to facilitate a safe return to our campuses and buildings, I’ve been spending and appreciating time with my close family circle and my dog, trying to spend time outdoors, exercising and — more recently — watching March Madness.

The Voice: When I spoke with you last, you said that you have been tuned in to HGTV. Have you made any home renovations? Have you been binge-watching any new shows? 

Dr. Miller: Yes, I made a few large and small outdoor renovations to the house. That’s one advantage of the extra time at home! Still watching a lot of HGTV, sports and binging a little Netflix, including Bridgerton. 

The Voice: Have you picked up any habits during quarantine that you are trying to break? 

Dr. Miller: No, but I have picked up some good habits like walking more often and appreciating the time at home. I hope I don’t lose them when we get back to our new normal.

The Voice: There are many students who remain homeless at this time. What resources does Tri-C offer that could help them find a place to live? 

Dr. Miller:  Our Project GO! program is a partnership with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Ohio Benefit Bank, United Way 2-1-1 Greater Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. The goal of the program is to break down barriers to college completion, including helping students who may be homeless or have housing insecurity. I encourage any student with housing needs to contact Project GO! Through Student Financial Aid and Scholarships at 216-987-6000 L(Option 2). 

Additionally, we are aware that students may struggle with a number of non-academic issues and have created a list of community resources to help. This list includes resources for help with needs such as technology, health care, food insecurity and housing. Visit tri-c.edu/coronavirus and click the teal “Student Resources” button for more information.

The Voice: Do you think that it is too soon for the U.S. to return to normal operations and activities?

Dr. Miller: Everyone is eager to return to doing the simple, everyday activities we did before the pandemic, but we still need to be patient and cautious. Trust the scientists, and safely take steps forward as they recommend. 

The Voice: Are there any plans in place to reopen Tri-C?

Dr. Miller: Even though we had to move primarily to remote learning and student services, Tri-C has been open for business all along to provide critical services to the community. 

As we have throughout the pandemic, we continue to put the safety of our students, staff and faculty first when discussing when and how our campuses will fully open. We have had great success having on-site services available two days a week, which began last summer. Our Plant Operations group has done an exceptional job of maintaining and cleaning our spaces over this time to ensure the safety of those who come to the campuses. 

As we learn more about updated safety guidelines and as more people get vaccinated, we will provide updates about how we plan to expand on-campus hours and offerings. We will continue to work with and follow guidance from the governor’s office. 

Our goal for each semester, beginning with the upcoming summer term, is to bring back more in-person services and courses and expand our on-site operation as we transition to our “new normal.”

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