Officials at Pittsburg State University delivered a press conference in a town hall format on Sept. 15, 2020 and covered topics including the financial forecast for Pittsburg State such as tuition adjustments, academic affairs and adjustments to classes, and election politics and how that relates to Pittsburg State University.
PSU President Steve Scott, provost Howard Smith, and Shawn Naccarato delivered remarks at the town hall conference with Pittsburg citizens.
According to Scott, “We’re right on track” with tuition and enrollment financials, “I appreciate the work we’ve done…”
Smith believes the transition to varying delivery methods for classes this semester has been going well.
“We’re paying a great deal of attention to what it is we’re asking of people,” Smith said. “There is a lot on the table and there’s a lot on the plate… I’m proud to say we’re in week five and we’re in a building… It took a lot to get here. You look back to March 12 and what happened that day. They say that when you get bucked off the horse, you have to get back on it as soon as you can to get back in the saddle… We’ve come back to school, we’ve modified and in high quality still… Is it what we originally planned? No, but it’s high quality…”
According to Smith, Pittsburg State currently offers approximately 56% of their course catalog with face-to-face instruction methods, 20% via online methods, and another 20% with a hybrid delivery method combining face-to-face and online instruction. The remaining 4% encompasses individual degree plans.
“One of the things I think is important when you’re dealing with situations like this, particularly when you’re working with critical incidents and crisis management, is thinking about what’s the same,” Smith said. “We have a tendency to think about what’s different and it brings us through… a lot of stress is if you recognize what we’re doing that we were doing before…”
Smith praised faculty and staff that returned to campus and participated in additional training to help them deliver their courses in new formats. Smith also talked about the overall impact of COVID-19 on education.
“I think this is going to change us,” Smith said. “I think this is a tipping point where it’s going to cause us to look at who we are, what our purpose is, and how we do our work… Our mission and purpose will change based on our experience with this…”
Smith also said that in terms of enrollment, overall student numbers have not fluctuated to an extreme degree. However, he did point out that the number of incoming freshmen was lower as was the number of international students. He also talked about the potential spring schedule
“There is consensus that we need to move Spring Break out of the middle of the semester to mitigate, but the question right now is do we move it to the front end or the back end of the semester,” Smith said. “Probably in the next few weeks, you can expect that decision.”
Chief strategic officer Shawn Naccarato spoke at the panel about political engagement in relation to the university’s COVID-19 strategy.
“The truth is… the most important politics are local and if we didn’t have the commitment… to threading the needle, keeping our economy open, keeping people safe, and keeping students in class… we could be experiencing a very different reality right now,” Naccarato said. “… Our motto ‘Forward Together’ is more than a just saying… It has been a way of life.”
Naccarato is one member of the Crawford County Recovery Task Force that was formed during the pandemic to face issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to businesses and schools. The taskforce meets every Thursday and receives reports from public health officers, medical institutions, chamber of commerce officials, and other business officials. Naccarato has also been a member of the president’s council for nearly 10 years.
“When we get together, we can make decisions jointly,” Naccarato said. “Some of our colleagues say they wish they had that…”
Naccarato also talked about the relationship of political engagement to Pittsburg’s COVID-19 situation.
“There’s an election on November 3, an important election on the state level and the federal level,” Naccarato said. “You need to be engaged… You might see from time to time that we have a candidate on campus… Having a candidate on our campus… is not an endorsement. It’s us making sure that whoever that candidate is that we’re advocating for our students and faculty that if they are elected to federal office, we must have a federal stimulus bill addressing… state budgets. For those on the state level.., it has to include investment in higher education… You need to be engaged too… With this election, who wins and who loses?”