August 24, 2020
Hello from Calapooia Center! I hope your August is going well so far. As promised, I’m continuing my monthly college messages, which will increase in frequency after the academic year starts. Despite the heat and the pandemic, it’s been a busy month so far; here are a few updates for you.
Around the College
I wanted to thank all of you who have reached out to schedule time to meet with me. I have met with over 50 employees already, and have found these meet-and-greets to be very productive and enjoyable. I’m learning a lot about the college’s strengths and challenges, and getting a great sense of the culture. I’ve enjoyed meeting with faculty and staff who are newer to the college, and also those who are long-term members of our campus community. I want to again extend the invitation to talk, zoom, or walk together. There’s no set agenda, just a time to learn about each other and for you to tell me about the part(s) of the college you represent. If interested, please reach out to Amanda Kliever, and she’ll find us some time.
As I mentioned last month, the COVID Rebounding Team has been working on the college’s plan for emerging out of, and coping with, the pandemic. I want to recognize the great work of this committee: Chessie Alberti, Jennifer Boehmer, Stacie Braun, Ann Buchele, Sheldon Flom, Kristina Holton, Marci Johnston, Terrell Langley, Dale Moon, Kristi Murphey, Marcene Olson, Carol Raymundo, Scott Rolen, Marcy Shanks, and Amber Vore.
Due to the work of that committee, the LBCC Board of Education unanimously approved our Rebounding Plan earlier this week; I have linked our COVID information page here for your reference. As events and diagnosis rates change around our service area and the state, it is possible that we’ll need to update the plan, so please stay tuned. Along those lines, I wanted to keep you informed that we are trying to support employees whose child care arrangements have been disrupted by COVID. I don’t yet know what this might look like, but it is something my team wants to hear from you about. Our leadership team is acutely aware that we’ll all need to keep juggling and adapting to the new environment, and we’re trying to provide as much flexibility for students and employees as possible while still maintaining our core mission. Lastly, please check out this fun safety video from our talented and creative welding team (turn the sound on for a fully enjoyable experience).
Around the State
Earlier this month, I participated in the annual retreat for the Oregon Presidents Council. Meeting via Zoom was less interactive than our usual gathering, but productive nonetheless. After setting our priorities for the year, we established work groups and prepared for advocacy in the legislative session. Though the state’s resources will undoubtedly be constrained, I am hopeful about the year ahead and the possibilities for community colleges to emerge as leading entities in reviving Oregon’s economy.
Last week, the Oregon legislature had a unique, one-day special session. A recent summary provides more context; higher education was not a key topic of discussion and debate. Our funding for the current biennium emerged with relatively minor adjustments, giving community college leaders time to prepare for the long session, which is expected to include the possibility of major funding reductions to all agencies in response to COVID-related revenue shortfalls. I will be talking more in upcoming editions of this newsletter about the long session in advance of our advocacy campaign. For now, a summary of my message to legislators is restated below:
Now more than ever, community colleges are essential to Oregon’s educational, economic, and social well-being. Now more than ever, we need to bring resources to communities who have been devastated by the economic crisis, and community colleges are uniquely positioned to do so.
Around the U.S.
In early August, I spent several days in the American Association of Community Colleges summer retreat for board members. Usually, we meet for a week in warm and wonderful Washington, D.C.; the Zoom format was a necessary adaptation for this year. In addition to board members and AACC staff, we were joined by a number of policymakers from agencies including the USDA, US Department of Labor, and the US Department of Education. A highlight for me: Charlie Cook from MSNBC’s The Cook Report also spoke to the group, providing an engaging and data-informed set of recommendations for higher education leaders in terms of the sociopolitical context.
Periodically, I’ll share relevant articles with you in the Roadrunner Report to showcase key discussions in the state or national context. This recent Inside Higher Ed piece highlights the changing national enrollment context and features comments from several of my AACC national board colleagues (thanks, Javier Cervantes for the suggestion). Dr. Joe Schaffer, president of Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, vividly describes students as being in a “holding pattern” due to COVID. I think Joe’s “holding pattern” term also applies here in our service area; Linn-Benton credit enrollment for fall is still down 20% from last fall, but we are hopeful that once students finalize their fall plans, we’ll see that number change.
Around the House
Thank you to everyone who wrote with suggestions for local outdoor fun! I received a number of outstanding suggestions, and have added them to the family fun list. My newest local favorite activity has been cycling from Millersburg to Jefferson, across Ankeny Hill Road through the Ankeny Wildlife Reserve and back home via Jefferson. Afterward, I’m always hungry and thirsty! To that end, I’m wondering if you all have some suggestions on great local carryout restaurants. My family wants to support local small businesses, but we haven’t ventured out for much food due to COVID. If you have a favorite local/small restaurant that offers carryout, please share the info with me and we’ll try to check it out. This weekend’s family fun involves a possible float on the Santiam River, so we might work up our appetites and try something new.
I hope your weekend, whatever you have planned, is safe and enjoyable. Thanks for all you do to support the college and our community.