Stepping Up Virtually to Meet the Needs of Students

by Bonnie Gorman, Dean of Students

The campus-wide efforts to support our students in this new remote learning environment have been extraordinary. While it might have been a bumpy start, it seems like a rhythm has taken hold and people are adapting to our new reality. Evidence of this came from a student who wrote to me recently and said, “All of my professors have been tremendous and willing to make adjustments in the interest of alleviating any burdens, too; this is another testament to our incredible Husky culture! (#tenacity).” Indeed, support is being offered across campus in a variety of ways to meet the needs of students.

The University Senate helped students by adopting a Pass/Fail grading system for the semester. They recognized the challenges students were facing by the sudden move to remote education, including technology access, decreased contact hours with instructors, relocation, familial issues, loss of jobs, and the general anxiety associated with these uncertain times. This change allows undergraduate students the opportunity to change their grades to Pass/Fail, and also allows all Pass grades taken this semester to satisfy major, minor, and general education requirements, in addition to free electives. There are FAQs for the Spring 2020 P/F grade option posted to provide additional information.

In order to help students adjust and stay on track, Student Services moved to an online format—similar to classes—to provide resources. Counseling Services is currently seeing about 70% of their regular caseload. Michigan licensing requirements are such that counselors are not permitted to work with students who are in a different state. As a result, the case manager has been helping students find providers in their local communities. In addition, coaches are available in the Learning Centers and the Wahtera Center for Student Success. Academic advisors were available to help students through registration, and many are now following up with students who haven’t yet registered for fall. The Early Intervention Team is also active. If you have a concern about students, use the Report a Concern page and staff in the Dean of Students Office will follow up. 

We are also helping students in financial need through several emergency funds, including the Husky Assistance Fundthe Betty Chavis Fundthe International Student Fund, and the Graduate School Emergency Fund. More than 60 requests have been received and approximately $18,000 has been awarded to students in need. This is possible because of the generosity of alumni and friends of the University. If you would like to help, you can donate here

To help students stay connected and promote community, more virtual events are being offered daily. To name a few, Trivia Night is every Wednesday at 8 p.m., there is an upcoming virtual poetry reading, and clubs and organizations are also meeting—the MUB Board is planning a virtual Spring Fling for Friday. A virtual celebration is also being planned in honor of our May graduates. In addition, these students will be invited back to campus for a special in-person commencement ceremony on April 24, 2021. 

As we look forward, plans are also underway to welcome new students to campus. Michigan Tech will be offering incoming first-year and transfer students scheduled to start in fall 2020 an opportunity to enroll in a variety of online summer classes. Since high school was cut short for many of these students, they may welcome the opportunity to kick off their college careers and join the Husky family.

While Michigan Tech is known for its rich face-to-face experiential learning environment, what we have demonstrated in this shift to remote learning is that as an institution, we are agile. Most importantly though, we have shown that we put students first to ensure both their academic and personal success.