Dr. Karen Miller, Tri-C Provost, on leadership, resources for Tri-C students during the COVID-19 pandemic and … where’s Stomp?

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Author: Aymia Browder: Metro Voice Editor

THE VOICE: Firstly, Dr. Miller, how are you feeling? How has the coronavirus affected your life outside of the college? Have you been tested? If so, can you tell us about the experience of being tested?

DR. MILLER: I’m feeling fine, thanks for asking, so no, I haven’t been tested.  Obviously, like everyone else, it is tough being away from family and friends and having the ability to go out, but given the circumstances, I consider myself very fortunate.  I would love to be able to spend time with my 89- year old mother, but for now I’m good dropping off groceries once a week and knowing she’s healthy and staying inside. 

THE VOICE:  Tell me about the moment you knew the coronavirus would impact Tri-C.

DR. MILLER:  I think the moment I knew the virus would impact Tri-C was as I was attending a League for Innovation Board meeting in Seattle at the same time the state of Washington was just starting to experience the outbreak.  All of the college representatives that I was with were discussing implications to their institutions and beginning to respond and plan.  It was at that moment that I knew the College would be impacted.

THE VOICE: Who is inspiring you through this tough time — is there a role model for times like this?

DR. MILLER:  Believe it or not — and I’m not just saying this — Dr. {Alex} Johnson, {President of Tri-C}.  I’ve never seen anyone so committed to the institution, to the faculty, staff and students, and to the community.  He is focused on this crisis and how it affects the College 24-7.  He has more energy than any professional I’ve ever known.  I also am in awe of all of the doctors, nurses and first responders who put themselves in jeopardy every day and are away from their families to fight this virus.  They are heroes.

THE VOICE:  How are we improvising classes that rely on physical interaction such as recording arts, gym, and acting for camera/ theater?

DR. MILLER:  Thanks to the hard work of our very dedicated faculty and program managers, we have been able to transition the majority of our courses from an on- ground format to a fully remote learning modality.  I can’t thank our faculty and staff enough for the hours of work they put in to make this a reality, but their hard work was only matched by their dedication to making sure students were able to successfully finish their spring semester classes. With a few exceptions with some of our health careers programs, engineering, and hospitality, the majority of our courses and programs have made the shift.

THE VOICE: How will COVID-19 disrupt student loans, grants, work study and financial aid programs?

DR. MILLER: For spring semester, loans, financial aid and work study remain in place and are the same for students who complete the semester.  Students receiving federal work study as a part of their financial aid package who had remaining work study funding will continue to be paid through the rest of the semester.

We are working closely with guidance from both the state and the federal government to work with students and their financial aid through this unprecedented situation.  We have made many modifications to support those students who may have to unexpectedly withdraw, and the state and federal governments are also providing some relief in terms of financial aid consequences. We have also relaxed deadlines, eliminated fees, and removed some barriers and holds to registration to provide access for everyone.  However, in regard to financial aid, each student has a unique situation, so I urge any student in need of information and assistance with issues related to COVID-19 and their financial aid package to contact our financial aid office as soon as you can. For information on how to reach financial aid by phone, by email or by live chat please visit: Tri-C Financial Aid

THE VOICE:  Do you think that President Trump reacted to the coronavirus quickly enough?

DR. MILLER: Government at all levels – national, state and local – have been confronted with an unprecedented challenge in attempting to lessen the impact of the coronavirus in our communities.  The emerging effects of the coronavirus impacted individual communities and states at different times and in different ways.  Politics aside, while different levels of government have responded in different ways, everyone now seems to agree on the basic guidelines about keeping a safe social distance, frequent hand washing, and staying at home with the exception of performing essential activities and services.  I will say that I think Governor DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton have shown exceptional leadership and empathy during this time of crisis.  Now it is our job to follow the guidelines they have laid out, and keep everyone in our community as safe as possible.

THE VOICE: According to reports from IC, as of April 1, there are four Tri-C students who have tested positive for COVID-19. How is the college handling this and should students be concerned?

DR. MILLER: I was very sad to hear the news about Tri-C students testing positive for the coronavirus, and my thoughts and prayers are with them and their families for a full recovery.  Unfortunately, in the weeks ahead, we will likely hear about more students, staff or faculty testing positive.  In all of the cases reported, we have followed the guidelines of the CDC, alerted individuals that they may have come in contact with, deep cleaned and sanitized any areas of the College they may have been, and alerted local authorities as we have been asked to do. Given that the campuses are temporarily closed, and students, faculty and staff have not been on any of our locations or campuses for the past few weeks, we are no longer encouraging groups of people to come together for any reason and are encouraging all to follow the guidelines around “stay at home” and social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus.

THE VOICE: Does the college have any supports in place for students and their families who may be dealing with COVID-19?

DR. MILLER: We realize that this pandemic affects our students in so many more ways than just having to move to remote learning for all our classes.  Our team has compiled a list of community resources for students and their families covering topics on a wide range of places offering assistance with issues such as utilities, health care, government benefits, food access, and mental health.  Our students can find the list and information on all these resources here.  Students and families who are experiencing stress can also take advantage of our Help Is Here app with a number of resources to help manage anxiety and get assistance during this time.  You can find information about our Help is Here resources here: Help is Here.

THE VOICE: What’s the plan with student admission into the fall semester and next academic year?

DR. MILLER: Summer and fall semester registration is currently open, so our currently enrolled students don’t have to wait to sign up for the classes – please register as soon as you can!  As you can imagine, we are not the only institution of higher education in Ohio faced with the challenge of continuing to serve students while working remotely.  Our colleagues from around the state are working together to develop innovative ways to continue to recruit, admit and register students while we are all unable to have students at our facilities. Stay tuned for more information about placement testing for new students, but aside from placement testing, all other enrollment and registration functions can be done remotely from registering and paying to counseling appointments and new student orientation.

THE VOICE: What is your advice to the students transferring from face-to- face classes to online Blackboard classes?

DR. MILLER: I understand that for so many of our students, the switch from an in- person course to one offered through remote delivery has been very challenging.  I urge students to reach out to their faculty member to talk about using the technology, making them aware of any challenges they may have, and asking for additional time when necessary to complete assignments when faced with external challenges due to the current circumstances.  Take time to learn about the technology your faculty member is using, whether it is Blackboard or Zoom or other online learning resources. Our online learning department has created a number of resources our students can use to help you learn more about Blackboard which can be found on our student resources under Online Student Resources: Online Student Resources

Additionally, students can participate in our My Online Readiness Experience (MORE). MORE is an online tool designed to help student succeed in an online classroom environment. More information on MORE can be found here: https://www.tri-c.edu/online-learning/more.html

THE VOICE: What if students don’t have a computer at their home? How do we resolve that problem?

DR. MILLER: With the generous support of our Foundation, we are continuing to work with partners such as PCs for People and RTE3 to find additional laptops and technology for students in need.  Over the past two weeks, we have been able to provide close to 300 laptops to students in need.  We continue to explore partnerships and funding sources to assist students in need of a laptop or other technology.  Students can get more information by contacting the College’s financial aid office by calling 216-987-6000 and selecting option #2 or through the financial aid live chat for help on qualification for computers.

THE VOICE: Has coronavirus had an impact on the way that the school is being cleaned — will there be any profound change in the future to prevent any epidemic or pandemic that could take over Tri-C?

DR. MILLER: Our facilities continue to be serviced by our cleaning staff, and we are extremely grateful that they continue to work to ensure that when we do return to campus, we are coming back to properly cleaned environments.  During the time the campuses were still open, we increased cleaning in all of our public areas, computer labs and offices, made sanitizing wipes available to use between students in the computer labs, and had hand sanitizer available in all of our offices and public areas.  We also work with a vender that provides deep cleaning and sanitization as necessary.  We are doing everything in our power to keep the campuses clean and will continue these efforts once the campuses are fully open again.

THE VOICE: What did the college do to ensure the safety and health of the students during the H1N1, SARS, and Ebola epidemic?

DR. MILLER: Tri-C has long had emergency plans in place for many kinds of disasters, including things such as pandemics, severe weather, power outages, and building damage.  During each of the outbreaks you mention, H1N1, SARS, and Ebola, we already had a response team in place and a plan on how to best keep our students, staff and faculty safe.  We have a similar team and response in place with COVID-19.  Each of these outbreaks came with their own unique challenges, and we continue to learn new ways to improve our response with each event.  We have been able to take that knowledge and integrate it into our response to COVID -19, to better protect our students, staff and faculty, and to be a responsible partner in our own community.

THE VOICE: Now that salons are closed, how are you getting your hair done?

DR. MILLER: Just like many other women, I’m doing what I can myself at home.  We’ll see how that turns out 🙂

THE VOICE: Do you cook for yourself and if not, where are you getting your take-out?

DR. MILLER: My husband and I are cooking for ourselves for the most part.  We love to eat out, but it’s more important we stay close to home during this time.

THE VOICE: What music gives you peace at this time? Can you give us the top 5 off your current playlist?

DR. MILLER: Only five?? Wow.  I’ll go with artists instead of songs.  Anything Coldplay, Alicia Keyes, Justin Timberlake, John Legend and Jill Scott.

THE VOICE: Are you catching up on any binge-watching such as Netflix or other streaming platforms? Are you going to start binge-watching something?

DR. MILLER: Loving the Morning Show on Apple TV and I’ve started to watch Jack Ryan on Prime TV.  Since I’m missing all my Indians games, watching some of the Tribe and CAVs reruns and lots of HGTV along with the daily briefings from the Governor.

THE VOICE: Where is Stomp and how is he weathering the pandemic?

DR. MILLER: While you may not have seen much of Stomp lately, rest assured that Stomp is tirelessly, but remotely, working behind the scenes to support our students and our College during even though we are all staying at home.  Stomp takes the duties of a mascot very seriously, and stands at the ready to provide support and encouragement to anyone who needs it.  Just like the rest of us, Stomp can’t wait for the day when we can all return to campus so Stomp can get back to bringing people together to celebrate our students and their accomplishments – in other words, getting back to what Stomp does best!  Watch for him to show up occasionally in social media.

THE VOICE: After this pandemic blows over will campus life be forever changed? Will there be a NEW normal?

DR. MILLER: I believe we will all be living in a new normal for quite some time as things slowly reopen and recover.  Our teams here at the College are dedicated to continuing to keep our campus life not only moving forward, but thriving in the months to come.  It means doing the business of the College differently and providing more options to students…options that we had not even considered until faced with recent events.  Given the amount of change and growth we’ve experienced over the past few weeks and to come, we will be a more nimble, stronger institution able to provide even greater access to students as we move forward.

THE VOICE: What is your best advice for Tri-C students at this time?

DR. MILLER: My best advice for all students is to reach out to us if you have questions, problems, or need help, and don’t give up!  We’re all here to help you. Your faculty are ready to help you with questions you may have about your individual courses, you can make appointments with our counselors to talk about your academic plans, our financial aid advisors are here to help with you with questions you may have, and our enrollment centers continue to assist students will registration and payment questions and our Help Desk is here for technical questions at (216) 987-4357. You can find a list of student services and how to contact them remotely by visiting this link.

THE VOICE: Healthy students willing to volunteer, are there any opportunities for them to be helpful? What can we do to help each other?

DR. MILLER: We want our students to keep themselves safe by practicing social distancing and staying at home as much as possible.  That’s number one.  Aside from staying safe, one of the important things a student can do is to support their classmates by staying in touch and being available by phone, email or social media.  So many of our students may feel isolated and alone right now.  Reach out to fellow students in your classes, your organizations, etc.  Help connect them with resources.  Start study groups online within classes.  Offer to tutor or help another student in a class who may be behind or having a tough time. Talk a classmate through a technology challenge, or just touch base to check in with someone who might be going through a challenging week.  One of the special things about Tri-C is the genuine care and concern we have for the campus community.  Anything our students can to do emulate those same values with each other will go a long way. 

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