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Mastering The Art of the Pivot

Kristie FisherBy Dr. Kristie Fisher

As you know, our world changed in the blink of an eye. We went from classes, social events and family gatherings to staying home whenever possible. As a society, we learned about the importance of social distancing in order to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19.
We had to learn the art of the pivot – and fast!

As a college, we are figuring out how to change course while serving our students to the best of our ability. Many of our students choose Marshalltown Community College, Ellsworth Community College, or Iowa Valley Continuing Education because of our hands-on coursework and focused instruction. We need to ensure that we are serving the students, while being mindful of the health of our faculty and staff.

I’m so proud of all our team members who rise to the challenge every day. When the pandemic hit, the Colleges were on spring break. Many cut their breaks short to develop a plan of action. Through regular conversations with the faculty and staff, we have been able to transition our coursework from in-person to virtual instruction. Some of our professors had never taught online let alone conducted classes with real time audio and visual instruction, so they learned to leverage technology and connect with students in different ways in the matter of a few days.

As you know many of our students are also enrolled in area high schools so we continue to collaborate with our K-12 colleagues to address the unique challenges for these students.

Our IT staff had to adjust to all of the additional traffic on our networks. They have implemented new technology tools, and they are helping faculty, staff and students troubleshoot from afar while keeping an antiquated technology infrastructure functioning. The major technology infrastructure upgrade funded by our successful November bond issue will not occur until summer 2021.

Our housing staff is assisting students who needed to remain on campus including some international students and students who couldn’t return home safely due to virus hot spots. They’ve worked with students to coordinate moving plans, and they continue to engage students who need to remain in student housing. The teams are developing a plan to issue refunds for unused housing and dining. The janitorial staff works hard to ensure the campus is cleaned and sanitized multiple times each day.

Because we are here to serve the community, we want to be as transparent as possible about the way we were handling our response, so we continue to post regular updates to our website. Information changes rapidly, but our teams are communicating timely information so everyone is able to make informed decisions for themselves and their students.

The spring term definitely doesn’t look the way we thought it would, but because our teams were able to pivot, we are still providing quality educational solutions and services to the people who rely on us. I can’t thank our teams enough for their hard work and dedication. In the long run, I think our colleges will emerge stronger and more vital than ever. Stay healthy!

Dr. Kristie Fisher is Chancellor of Iowa Valley Community College District, which operates Ellsworth Community College, Marshalltown Community College, Iowa Valley Grinnell, and Iowa Valley Continuing Education.

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