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PSU provost Howard Smith: ‘Stay the course. Mitigate the spread.’

Pittsburg State University provost and vice president for academic affairs Howard Smith briefed the media and had some important advice: “Stay the course (with guidelines). Mitigate the spread. Wear a mask… Practice social distancing… Wash your hands…” 

Smith held a media briefing for individual outlets on Wednesday, Sept. 9 and discussed various topics including the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, procedures for faculty and students who have to quarantine, the university’s response for degree programs that require hands-on learning such as education, nursing, and automotive technology, and the Pittsburg community’s response to COVID-19. 

“…We have to respond to this, because of the potential seriousness of it,” Smith said. “It’s forced us to do a lot more work about how we’re planning and a lot more of our work based on how we’re going to mitigate potential illness.” 

According to Smith, faculty that are asked to quarantine are instructed by Human Resources to quarantine in their homes or their place of residence and from there, they teach virtually. He also said that there is a similar process for students handled through the Bryant Student Health Center. Both groups have technological resources available to them through the Axe Library should the need arise. 

“We try to assist as much as possible in that regard…” Smith said. 

Smith also commented on the way the university is handling programs that require field experience or for which their programs are more hands-on than other programs on campus. 

“Student teachers in Crawford County are teaching remotely right now,” Smith said. “They’re assisting with classrooms… When you think about it, this is something they may run into if they go out into the field within the next year, so they need that skill set…” 

Smith himself is a former public-school educator working as a teacher in Shawnee Mission schools, a principal in Coffeyville, an administrator in the Blue Valley School District, and an interim superintendent of Pittsburg USD 250. In addition to his public-school teaching experience, he has served as an associate professor and chair at Emporia State University, and held several positions at Pittsburg State including chair and associate professor of leadership studies, interim chair of curriculum and instruction, and dean of the College of Education. 

Smith also offered advice to student teachers and other students going out into the field now or in the near future. 

“It’s not the same experience, but we’re doing the best we can..,” Smith said. “Take advantage of this time to learn, but also one of the biggest things you can do is show off what kind of responsible adults you’re going to be… If I were a superintendent today, one of the first things I would ask you would be, ‘How did you respond to this?’ …When you become a teacher in a classroom, whether you like it or not, you’re in a glass fishbowl and people are going to expect you to be better than whatever normal is… The best advice I can give you is that this is the time to shine so take advantage of it…” 

This year, Smith was also appointed to a national leadership academy based in Washington D.C, meeting entirely virtually and says that from his experience there, he knows that Pitt State is “doing the right things.” 

“Much like some of our students, we’re doing (everything virtually)..,” Smith said. “We talked about some of the challenges we’re facing right now… and it was eye opening… It was really good to recognize that we’re really doing good things here…” 

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