ESU held its All University Senate Meeting last Tuesday on Feb. 8.
This meeting is usually held monthly during the academic year. But because of the global pandemic, the meeting was held as a Zoom video conference call.
The program was hosted by ESU Provost Joanne Bruno along with Interim ESU President Kenneth Long and other members of ESU’s faculty and administration.
Long was among the first speakers. He wanted to recognize James Sheehan, who has taken over as Interim Vice President of Administration and Finance.
Sheehan has previously worked at Edinboro University, so he knows the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) well.
“He [Sheehan] has been a great addition and great asset to ESU,” Long said.
Long went on to talk about spring commencement. He said that ESU is planning outdoor ceremonies to honor its spring 2021 graduates along with those who graduated last spring, August and December.
“Unless there is lightning and thunder, we will have a May commencement or series of May commencements to recognize our graduates from those various times over the last year,” Long said.
Next, Long talked about the various fiscal and enrollment challenges facing ESU.
Long said that the current semester enrollment is down a little more than 11 percent compared to last year.
“This decline will add to our financial challenges compounded by COVID-19. So we do have our work cut out for us,” Long said.
Long said that there are 285 students living in on-campus housing this semester.
“We are testing 100 percent of our students and will continue to test 100 percent of our students weekly in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus,” Long said.
Long was optimistic about ESU’s plans to bring back face-to-face interaction in the fall.
“We are making provisions to bring back face-to-face instruction for the fall barring any unusual and additional strains of this virus,” Long said.
Bruno came back on-screen to say that recruitment and retention continued to drive how ESU delivers its academic programs.
The term “Flex-Fall” was coined to reflect that ESU will have to be flexible in order to successfully deliver face-to-face interaction in the fall.
Bruno said that ESU is considering suspending FYE (the First-Year Experience course) for the fall 2021 semester.
“This will free up very valuable FTE [Full-Time Enrollment] for our faculty and help our students complete the GE [General Education] program as well as to complete their majors,” Bruno said.
In its place, ESU is planning an alternative First-Year Experience for the fall 2021 semester.
Bruno said that fall 2021 is going to be challenging, but ESU is determined to transition to a new normal that is face-to-face.
Bruno said that ESU is doing a little bit better with retention. ESU’s retention rate increased from 67 percent to 71 percent.
Bruno also said that in a year-and-a-half, ESU will have to submit an audit report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
ESU is currently at the midpoint of a nine-year cycle. Therefore, a Midpoint Periodic Review Report will have to be submitted to MSCHE in a year-and-a-half.
Bruno said that the Provost’s Colloquium Series will continue this semester. Several lectures are planned where ESU faculty will present their latest research.
Karen Lucas was the next to speak. Lucas is the Vice President of Enrollment Management.
She talked about the challenges of online learning.
But ESU is working hard to recruit new students by making a number of scholarships available to prospective ESU students.
Some of these academic scholarships are exclusive to first-generation students or students who are the first in their families to attend college.
Lucas was followed by Cornelia Sewell-Allen, who is the Assistant Vice President for Inclusive Excellence.
Sewell-Allen talked about ESU’s continuing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus.
She said that ESU’s Strategic Plan includes more diversity and inclusion training for its employees and students. A series of workshops and training events are planned beginning this month.
Jennifer Young was the final speaker. She is a licensed psychologist and chair of ESU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
Young talked about stress and specifically how it has impacted the generation known as “Gen Z.”
Gen Z is a big demographic that includes people who are 18 to 24-years-old. These are ESU’s current students.
Gen Z also includes teenagers from 13 to 17-years-old. They are ESU’s prospective students.
“They are sometimes referred to as the selfie-generation,” Young said.
Needless to say, the global pandemic has disrupted the lives of Gen Z students.
Young said that 81 percent of Gen Z teens said that they have been negatively impacted due to school closures.
But Young ended her presentation on an optimistic note.
Despite numerous stresses which have been compounded by the global pandemic, Young said that around seven in 10 Americans (71 percent) are hopeful about their future.
Young said that the students who have left campus last March because of the global pandemic are not the same students who will be returning to campus next fall.
“The incoming freshman class will not resemble freshman classes of the past,” Young said.
“Our challenge as a university will be to meet the students where they are at and to come up alongside them in new and creative ways as they begin to navigate what has felt like a very uncertain future,” Young continued.
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