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Connections: The Core of the Central College Community

Central College Innovation During COVID-19

April 13, 2020

The world shifted pretty quickly — in fact, multiple times — in the past month.

So did the faculty, staff and students at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

From the moment Central’s leadership team decided to offer remote education for the remainder of the spring semester in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central community has engaged in inspiring work to find the best educational solutions possible to teach and care for our students. In about 10 days, our classrooms moved from physical hallways to virtual hallways in an environment filled with empathy and outreach.

Rethinking Education Models for Virtual Learning

Central College HeartsFrom coordinating internship workshops via Zoom to finding ways to socialize from afar, to studying remotely and offering tests on Blackbaud, the Central community has ripped up old roadmaps and found new paths to succeed in learning in order to better support each other.

Faculty members contacted majors, advisees and students in their courses, while simultaneously preparing for a March 30 launch to a remote environment. Some have offered to teach additional courses to provide new options for students returning from international programs. Others have taken on roles as workshop leaders and advisors for technology platforms.

Central has always been hardwired to care. That compassion continues to be witnessed in a COVID-19 world:

  • As we transitioned to remote education, 15 academic affairs staff and coaches reached out to all of Central’s 1,100 students to invite them to “spring 2020 re-orientation” Zoom sessions. The goal of this connection was to assess students’ well-being, concerns and technology needs. This group also will check back in with students periodically this semester to see how the transition is going and if there are additional needs we may have overlooked.
  • International program directors continue to provide language and cultural insights from a distance for those students who unfortunately had to return to the United States in the middle of their international semester. Similarly, many internships, both domestic and international, remain in place at some level in a remote environment.
  • Faculty advisors are meeting with students by phone or video chats to advise for course registration.
  • Tutoring and writing support are available through the afternoon, evenings and weekends.
  • Library resources and reference librarian assistance continue remotely.
  • Help lines have been expanded for students experiencing technical or software challenges.
  • Career planning and resume writing meetings are available. Central College Cares
  • In addition, we have developed the Central Cares Fund to help students experiencing extreme hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the program is to alleviate some of the anxiety students may be experiencing and minimize disruptions to their academic experience at Central.

We haven’t just focused on our current community, either. During this month of profound adaptation, we also have come together for future Central students:

  • Our admission team continues to work diligently with faculty and coaches to keep prospective students and their families connected to and interested in the college. The team began offering virtual visit days and virtual one-on-one visits with students and families at the end of March. Central continues to place a priority on the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. This unfortunate global health event highlights that social distancing and being socially distant are not the same. If distance learning is the only option, then Central will meet that challenge with care, compassion, grace and style.

A Central education remains lively, engaging, vibrant and connected because Central students and faculty are lively, engaging, vibrant and connected. There is no script for this moment we are experiencing and the whirlwind of emotions and challenges it has created. Yet there is one underlying theme at Central College. Community.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Mary E.M. Strey

Mary E.M. Strey has been vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Central College in Pella, Iowa, since 2011. Since completing a National Institute of Health-funded postdoctoral fellowship in molecular neurobiology, Strey has been a faculty member and administrator for almost 30 years.