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Pitt CARES moved online

The COVID-19 situation is changing every day and with that comes new changes in communities, work and schools everywhere.  

To adapt to the changing situation, Pittsburg State has moved orientation for transfer and new students online.  

Pitt CARES is required for all high school graduates that will be going to PSU and is optional for transfer students.  

All activities for orientation will be offered in Canvas and must be completed by incoming students. Incoming students in Pitt CARES are also required to attend a live Zoom meeting on their Pitt CARES date to be eligible to enroll in classes for the fall semester.  

Student Success Programs began thinking about changes that would be made to orientation when the stay at home orders began.  

“Honestly, we began thinking about what our plan would be for Pitt CARES as soon as the stay home orders were established,” said Heather Eckstien, Director of Student Success Programs. “Of course, there were some things we needed to do like I had to move all my stuff home and be prepared to work from home, but I was immediately aware (that) Pitt CARES could be something that we would have to change…”  

Students will also have the opportunity to speak with their advisors via Zoom or phone calls on their orientation date.   

“On their CARES day… in addition to meeting with CARES leaders… that day there will be a time each individual student is assigned to… ‘meet with’ their advisors,” Eckstien said. “So, advisors will have the opportunity to reach out to the student. They can use Zoom, or they can actually call them on the phone to have that advising appointment individually. So, students will be given different times. So, this will be your advising time, and this is the advisor that’s gonna contact you… so they can meet and finalize their enrollment. So that will still happen on their CARES day.” 

On Saturday, August 15, a gathering for students, parents and families is planned on campus.   

“…On the Saturday before classes start that’s move in day and lots of families come and move their students to campus,” Eckstien said. “…This year it is our hope that we’ll have that going on, people will be moving in the residence halls…, but then we will also invite all new students and their families to come to campus that day… There’s no schedule that is finalized yet… but the thought is they will get to walk around campus, find their classrooms a little bit maybe, Go and see where the gorilla geeks are and pick up their student ID… They can drop off their immunization records that day… The academic departments and the deans have indicated that they wish to be a participant in there. I think of it more kind of like an open house for incoming students. The house is pretty big though, it’s all of campus… Then of course we would start on Sunday with gorilla warm up…” 

According to Eckstien, there are many new things that students can do now that orientation is online including modules in Canvas.  

“Well, typically when students are on campus it’s a full day event and we are still going to do things on their actual registered CARES date,” Eckstien said. “However, in advance of those days we are going to put some of the materials online and they’ll be able to do it… on their own time… so we will for sure be covering things like student financial assistance (and) university housing is going to be doing some things. We’ll be doing the help center, safety, the bookstore, paying tuition and fees and how that works, the Pitt state pathway which is… what we call the new gen eds. So, those things are all still happening.” 

There will be a few changes and losses to the traditional CARES day by transferring online. 

“What isn’t happening is we won’t be eating lunch in the dining hall that we usually do,” Eckstien said. “They’re not going to go use their coupon in the bookstore because we won’t be physically on campus, not that those things can’t happen in the future… Initially they’re gonna come to campus… and will be able to show campus off. That’s another thing that they don’t get to do. Pitt CARES… (being) face-to-face… (was) intentional. You walk to Whitesitt Hall and go get your picture taken for your student ID. There’s a purpose in that. One, they need to get their student ID… but the other purpose is now they know where Gorilla Geeks is located. So, if they need help with something and they’re on campus, and they’re like, ‘oh I have a computer issue’ or ‘my login isn’t working’ or whatever, they can always say that’s where you got your photo taken at Pitt CARES. Those are the things that students aren’t going to have the ability to do that during their ‘Pitt CARES’ day. But we will try to do some things in August on the Saturday before school starts that help them sort of explore campus a little bit if they choose to attend and meet folks. Because I think that’s probably the biggest thing that we’ll initially be missing is that when you’re on campus at Pitt CARES, there’s so many people who work at PSU and who are there that day and who are helping you to figure all kinds of things out. So, while we can’t include every single one of those people, we are trying to include the experiences electronically. So, Campus Activities is doing a session, it will be a module (on Canvas) … The library is also going to do a module because they are usually there, and Gorilla Geeks is doing something, and campus health center is doing something. So, it’s just a different means of providing the information but the information is still there.” 

Eckstien looks forward to seeing everyone, including all new students, return to campus in the future.   

“We are excited for these students to come to campus in August or before if we have that opportunity,” Eckstien said. “So, we hope that they will be excited about the difference that’s still good transitional programming and then we will get to campus eventually… and begin the academic year.”  

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