President’s Monthly Report
Welcome to the 2021-22 Academic Year:
Looking back and the year ahead
Prepared by Lisa Avery
As the LBCC college community prepares to launch its partial return to in-person learning and student services this fall for the first time in many months, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on the road we’ve traveled together and highlight some of our recent accomplishments and upcoming challenges.
Where we are today:
First, we are pleased to have ended the 2020-21 school year without major illnesses and outbreaks on campus. We do know that many employees and students have lost loved ones due to COVID, and that many have seen their employment and/or housing circumstances change during the pandemic. The college has taken strong leadership positions around vaccine awareness and workplace safety, and we appreciate all of those who have participated in these efforts. Rather than a series of false starts, we have used consistent messaging and flexible course offerings to help bring students back to campus this fall. Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate the public health situation locally and regionally, working with partner agencies to keep serving students safely.
Throughout 2020-21, our faculty, staff and students displayed incredible resilience and creativity as we all struggled to find a sense of normalcy in a changing and challenging context. I will not capture all of the examples, but a few highlights include:
● Nursing students (with support of faculty and administrators) provided outstanding help with the mass vaccination efforts in our counties.
● Faculty found creative ways to connect with students safely, maintaining our program excellence. For instance, the LBCC Choir, led by Raymund Ocampo, sang outdoors with special masks and portable heaters, while the Culinary Arts program kept us nourished with great takeout food prepared by students who needed to continue with their learning modules; thanks, Culinary team and Chef Josh Green.
● Student support services offered tutoring, advising and other support services remotely, and in some cases (such as tutoring) exceeded the number of students served pre-pandemic. Some of those services will actually remain remote due to popular demand and how well they served students in an online format.
● Our facilities and public safety teams kept the college open and running, performing deferred maintenance, additional cleaning, and added presence at a time when our buildings had far fewer occupants than usual.
● Managers and administrators worked to oversee a changing set of employee health and safety rules, doing so with compassion and efficacy in order to help the college continue on its vital mission.
● Our employee associations have been vital partners while we navigated the uncertainty of the pandemic. We are in close contact, and will remain so during the upcoming year, especially as COVID cases climb and as our return to campus expands.
● Perhaps most critical, our students and student leaders went above and beyond the call of duty to find ways to lead, grow and advocate. Their efforts helped us at the state level, where the Community College Support Fund stayed solid, with a slight increase to funding for Oregon’s 17 community colleges.
We have some challenges going forward. Our enrollment struggles have continued, and look to remain in place throughout the upcoming academic year. The full employment economy, with rising wages and even hiring incentives, is likely to challenge enrollment this year. Further, the ongoing uncertainty around the Delta variant and increased COVID cases has hampered community college enrollment throughout Oregon and the nation. On a positive note, LBCC’s Rebound Scholarship, offered to students who stopped out or dropped out of college last year, has already had an impact, with over 300 recipients awarded and enrolled. But given the challenges with male enrollment, we will need to make additional efforts in marketing and recruitment. This trend is also nationwide, and has the potential to severely hamper the economy in Linn and Benton counties if it continues unabated.
That said, I am pleased to say we are making progress in getting students and staff back on campus. Heading into 2021-22, we are preparing for a partial return to campus, phasing in our face-to-face offerings and services. Roughly 30% of LBCC classes will be offered fully in-person, a significant increase from last year. Hybrid offerings will compose 20% of classes, with virtual (20%) and online (30%) rounding out the remainder. Office staff are beginning to return, and we are taking a number of safety precautions to help minimize the chance of COVID transmissions.
We also have several innovative and exciting efforts underway for the year:
● LBCC Athletics have been approved to resume competition, and can host spectators again. This has been a long time coming!
● Construction on the Benton Center North continues, and we are on target for a spring opening.
● We’re in the exploratory phase of a possible bond campaign to support the LBCC Agriculture Center (on our Looney Lane property) and campus childcare, among other projects. After the legislature approved $8M in funding for the Ag Center, it is incumbent for the college to locate the same amount in local matching funds. Stay tuned for updates on these efforts; I’m excited about the possibility of a LBCC-OSU Vet Tech program which would be housed at the Ag Center (pending funding and the appropriate approvals, of course).
● Our search for a new director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion has gotten off to a great start and we hope to introduce finalists to the campus community next month.
● I continue to work with our local and regional leaders to help expand LBCC’s reach to all parts of our service area, especially emphasizing rural economic development. We will be stepping up our visibility in Sweet Home, Philomath, Scio and other underserved parts of Linn and Benton counties. The pandemic has threatened the economic viability of parts of our service area, and I will keep working to ensure that LBCC is a central factor in the economic rebound.
I’m so grateful to our dedicated staff, inspiring students, and the partners who continue to support LBCC throughout the community as we get through this time. Despite everything, I believe the future ahead is bright and am looking forward to watching the enduring impact of higher education in our region, thanks to all who support our mission.
Best wishes for a healthy and fulfilling fall term, and a great academic year ahead!