Dear Colleagues,

I recognize that 2020 so far has probably been the most unconventional year of your career and that it is looking like it will continue in this vein. In order to ensure the health and safety of all members of the WSU community, on Friday WSU administrators elected to transition to remote delivery of undergraduate coursework except in exceptional situations for the Fall 2020 Semester.

This announcement answered some questions and created others. I will attempt to provide clarity around the next steps we need to take in order to provide a successful learning environment for our students this fall.

The Budget – Enrollment Connection:
COVID-19 has the potential to impact WSU’s financial well-being. Loss in state of Washington sales tax receipts this past Spring contributed to a 10% budget cut request for WSU for FY21. Since our academic revenue is roughly equal parts state funding and tuition, any drop in student enrollments may require the need for more budget cuts in the future. As a college, let’s try to focus on what we can do to ensure that our students have positive and successful experiences during this challenging time.

Ensuring Excellence in the Undergraduate Student Experience:
As we make decisions about how to teach, engage with, and support our undergraduate students this fall, our primary objective must be to ensure that we provide a transformative educational experience for all undergraduate students – independent of the format by which we deliver the course. Halfway through Spring Semester, we were challenged to transition to remote learning in just two weeks- and we succeeded. This gives me confidence that we can do even better when classes begin August 24th.

Requesting Exemptions for Face-to-Face Engagement:
The WSU Provost has indicated that the majority of undergraduate education will be taught via remote delivery. Yet, we may request a form of face-to-face engagement if that delivery mode is essential to achieving the educational objectives of your course.

Within Voiland College, I expect that not being able to teach face-to-face (F2F) may be a concern for some of our laboratory, design, and studio courses. If you are teaching one of these courses, please work with your unit leader to develop a plan for what and how you would propose accomplishing in-person and what part of the course, if any, you could offer remotely. I’d encourage you to think about completely non-conventional engagement strategies. For example, you might consider bringing students together for F2F activities a few days during the semester while doing the majority of the learning via remote engagement. Try to focus the F2F activities on those elements that cannot be achieved via Zoom.

Requests for approval to teach F2F should be made via this form. Final Fall Semester plans will be published by August 1st. So, you’ll need to complete these conversations on Monday, July 27th, and have the forms submitted to the WSU Provost by Tuesday, July 28th. Feel free to reach out to me or Associate Dean Sivakumar if you have questions about this item.

Faculty: Reach Out to Your Students:
It is critical that we maintain communications with our new and returning undergraduate students as they transition to college and to remote learning. You play a key role in helping our students understand that we are here to help them, to build their confidence in learning in a remote format, and helping ensure that they know that we are working hard to provide them with very best possible Fall 2020 experience. Feel free to adapt the sample letter attached to this email (MS Word) to your personal style and share it with the students in your courses. You can get a list of student email addresses in your Blackboard account. We’ll share a new template each week for the next several weeks to help you maintain this connection.

Student Frequently Asked Questions:
For most students, academic advisors and staff are their first point of contact when they have questions. I know that a lot of questions have been coming all summer and they will only accelerate in the coming days. Thanks for all that you do to help the students feel heard and valued. We are working on a series of answers to common questions in addition to those already provided by WSU to help provide consistent messaging to our students. Look for this next week.

Provost Resources to Support Excellence in Education:
WSU Provost Chilton has indicated that her office will provide resources to support your transition to remote delivery – especially how to do this successfully for courses that are not lecture based. I encourage you to request finances to support hiring assistants to help with course development, for hardware, for access to on-line resources, and for whatever you need to make the transition successful. Ask for funding if it will help you succeed in ensuring a great experience for your students. Learn more about requesting funding support at the WSU Provost’s COVID-19 Fall Planning Web Page.

Remote Education Delivery Training Starts Aug. 3:
I know that many of you have spent time training on how to succeed in a remote delivery format. Additional daily training will be provided starting on Monday, August 3rd from our friends at AOI.

Graduate Education:
Lecture courses will be offered via remote delivery. For students completing research, we will continue to operate in our current, safe, and effective mode. Experimental researchers may operate on campus once they have laboratory plan that has been approved by the unit leader. Questions regarding the approval process should be directed to the unit leaders or Associate Director of Research Dave Field.

Teleworking:
Friday’s announcement relating to remote education for our undergraduate students should not impact your telework situation. If you have questions, please contact your supervisor.

VCEA Town Hall Wednesday, July 29, 3 pm: Join VCEA leadership for a town hall conversation on Wednesday, July 29th at 3 pm to answer your questions. You may pre-submit questions to Nelda Hume (Nelda.hume@wsu.edu) or ask during the meeting. Hope to see you there.

If you have got additional ideas for how we can continue to provide a world-class experience for our students, I encourage you to work with your unit director or one of the associate deans or me to see them implemented.

Finally, I want to say thanks again for your continued efforts to ensure that all members of Voiland College are successful during this transition. I’m continuously impressed with the compassion and empathy that you are showing your students and colleagues. Working together, I am confident that we will succeed again.

Go Cougs!

Dean Mary Rezac's signature
Mary Rezac (she/her/hers)
Dean, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Washington State University
Email: mary.rezac@wsu.edu
Phone: 509-335-5593
Twitter: @VCEA_Dean
vcea.wsu.edu