Dear Colleagues,

As we enter the Labor Day Weekend, I want to congratulate everyone for completing our first two weeks of a very unusual fall semester.

For many of us, these weeks have been filled with challenges, anxieties, and complications – sprinkled with bits of joy. Please don’t forget to utilize the many Voiland College and WSU resources available or ask for help when you need it. Always remember: Cougs Help Cougs!

I had the pleasure of joining the Voiland College Student Success Team in welcoming some of our new students to WSU at Voiland College’s Academic Kick-Off. The students were excited and had many questions about what college was going to be like, and how we can support them from a distance during this pandemic.

On the undergraduate front, we are learning a lot about how the student experience has been so far, including:

  • 70% of our freshmen and 50% of our upperclassmen will be living somewhere other than Pullman in the fall semester.
  • Students want you to specifically outline your expectations.  Do you want/expect them to attend class?  Have their cameras on? How should they ask questions during class? (chat, raise electronic hand, raise actual hand, yell?)  How should they communicate with you outside of class?
  • If you haven’t already (and according to the feedback from students, statistically, some of you haven’t), you need to figure out how to make your Zoom-based engagement more interactive. You could use break-out rooms and then have students report outs. You could call on a specific student to answer a question.  You could use a poll or the chat or the Q&A function in Zoom.  You don’t need to go overboard, but you do need to figure out a way to get the students engaged and to give you feedback on how it is going.  Ask a colleague what they’ve found that works or use WSU’s many resources.
  • Ask your students how it is going for them.  Let them talk in general terms and then, do what you can to make it better. For issues that are outside your direct control, please share what you are learning with Associate Dean Pressley and me.  We are working to try to resolve concerns at the college and university level.  VCEA will do a survey of the entire student body, but you are likely to get more candid and comprehensive information than we will see via the survey tools.
  • Hold your classes during the scheduled class times.
  • If you want to help your students work collaboratively using MS Teams, reach out to Chris Lacy on the VCEA IT team.  This could be valuable for courses with team projects. MS Teams is available for both structured and informal teams.  If a group of students wants this tool, have them reach out to Chris.
  • Tell your students when you’ll respond to emails.  You don’t have to do this in real time, but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to respond no later than your next regularly scheduled office hours.   Being able to predict behavior helps the students reduce stress.
  • Leverage others to help your students.  You are likely one of the primary points of engagement for your students, but you don’t have to solve all of their problems.  Feel free to ask for support or hand off a problem to the academic advisors in your unit, your unit leader, or the VCEA student support team (lead by AD Pressley).  Don’t forget about the tutoring offered around campus.  They are all here to help.
  • If students are having trouble with technology, send them to the VCEA tutoring team.  The tutors will help your students navigate the tools and reduce the need for you to support this.
  • If a student tells you that they have tested positive for COVID 19, please support them in completing their coursework on a schedule that works with their illness.  There is no need for you to share information about the student’s illness with anyone else.  Please do not forward information that contains identifying information about a student’s health status.

On the graduate and research front, work seems to be going somewhat more normally. We had record new research awards in FY20 and these new resources are supporting research activities in all VCEA schools and departments.  I appreciate that everyone is following the college’s Return to Work directive: if you can work effectively from home, then you should work from home. For those who cannot work effectively from home and who intend on resuming work on campus, follow the procedures prior to transitioning.

For those few who are on campus, you are the stewards and behavioral role models for our students. It is especially critical now to follow the principles outlined in your attestation- including wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, washing hands frequently, and not coming into work when you feel sick. Our buildings are closed to students, and with less people on campus, I recommend that you be aware of your surroundings, keep building doors securely closed, and report any safety issues immediately:

Facilities Requests: https://myfacilities.wsu.edu/default.aspx;

Non-Emergency Assistance: Call 509-335-8548;

Emergency Assistance: Call 911.

Please also let Darlene Neunherz, Director, Voiland College Facility, Operations & Safety Services,drussell@wsu.edu, 509-335-3783 know if you experience or become aware of any safety issues in our buildings.

I encourage everyone to attend the VCEA Town Hall at 12 noon on September 9 with WSU President Kirk Schulz and our new Provost, Elizabeth Chilton. It will be an opportunity to talk about the challenges we are facing as a college and as a university and find out what steps we can take to address them.

Be Safe 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