The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville board of visitors heard reports on the college’s efforts to continue to serve students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic at the boards quarterly meeting June 18.
Dr. Brian Shonk, vice chancellor for academics, shared how the college “turned on a dime” to begin offering all instruction remotely. He noted the college was well-prepared for the transition, having already built course shells for all classes that allowed for remote instruction to begin within 72 hours or less.
“As part of the University of Arkansas System, UACCB has access to Blackboard and Blackboard Collaborate, which allowed our instructors to conduct classes remotely in real-time. Every instructor is already required to keep their syllabus and grade book in the course shells built in Blackboard, so students were familiar with the platform as well,” Shonk said. “Students received a full semester of instruction. Their education was not cut short in any way, and students performed as well or better than they did last spring.”
Shonk added that UACCB maintained a grade scale rather than moving to a pass/fail model of grading as some institutions adopted during the pandemic. Students were given a great deal of flexibility within their classes including being allowed the option of withdrawing from a class at any point or taking an incomplete.
Faculty collaboration was key to the success of the transition to remote learning, Shonk said. Faculty members who had limited experience teaching online were enrolled in courses with faculty who had previously taught online courses. “It created a buzz for them to be able to see how their colleagues were conducting their classes. The collaboration that it sparked was amazing,” Shonk said.
Student support services such as the Student Success Center, the bookstore and the library remained open, observing CDC guidelines for social distancing, hand washing and limiting groups to 10 or fewer. Essential campus personnel such as the business office and maintenance also remained on campus to conduct necessary daily operations.
Dr. Anne Austin, vice chancellor for research, planning and assessment shared a report on the efforts of the Information Technology division during the transition to remote learning. Austin noted that IT personnel assisted faculty and staff who were working remotely to be able to have remote access to their office computers as well as enable their office phones to roll to their cell phones. IT also provided equipment including laptops and headsets to faculty and staff working remotely.
Gayle Cooper, vice chancellor for finance and administration, provided the board with a budget report. UACCB received a $237,000 cut in state funding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Cooper reported that UACCB’s revenues from tuition and fees were above projections and added the college received more funding in other resources including CDs than projected. He also said the cut in sales tax funding the college receives may not be as deep as anticipated.
Cooper noted that the college has remained diligent in its efforts to be good stewards of the funding it receives and reported that the only remaining debt for the college is $1.5 million owed on the newly constructed workforce training center. Chancellor Deborah Frazier added there would be no increase to tuition and fees in the upcoming academic year.
Continuing with the financial report, Cooper said UACCB received emergency grant funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed on March 27. Kristen Cross, director of financial aid, said more than $500,000 was provided to the institution to distribute directly to students. Funds were distributed based on the number of credit hours an eligible student was enrolled in during the spring semester. As of the meeting date, UACCB had distributed $351,450 to 499 students.
Looking to the fall 2020 semester, Shonk shared current head count and student semester credit hour numbers. As of the meeting date, 859 students were enrolled for the fall with 8,960 student semester credit hours. Shonk added that a new construction technology program and associate of applied science degree in management and supervision would be available this fall.
In other business, the board:
Observed a moment of silence for the late Dr. Tamara Griffin. Griffin, who served as the division chair for business, technology, and public service, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Kim Whitten, director of advancement, reported that the Tenacious Tamara Scholarship in Honor of Dr. Tamara Griffin had been endowed within the UACCB Foundation by Frazier, Griffin’s long-time friend. Frazier said she and Griffin were able to discuss the details of the scholarship before Griffin’s passing and that Griffin provided input on how she would like the scholarship to be awarded. The scholarship will be awarded to a non-traditional student enrolled in a business, technology, or public service program at UACCB with a GPA of 2.5 or better.
Heard a report on drive-through food distributions conducted by the UACCB Food Pantry from Jodie Hightower, assistant to the chancellor. The pantry began conducting drive-through distributions March 19. The pantry partnered with other areas of campus including student activities and the bookstore to conduct food distributions during other events for students. The largest distribution was May 7 when 28 households were served.
Recognized the strategic planning team and presented the chairs of the different committees with a resolution commending their efforts in developing a five-year strategic plan for the college.
Received an introduction to Zach Perrine, the new vice chancellor for student affairs. Perrine previously served as the director of enrollment services for the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College. He will begin in his new role on campus June 29.
Received an introduction to the following new campus personnel: Cheyenne Manuel, fiscal support specialist; Tiffany English, financial aid administrative specialist; Robin Milligan, payroll specialist; and Mandy Walker, controller.
Recognized outgoing board member Stacy Gunderman and commended her for her 10 years of service to the board, three years of which she served as chair of the board.
Voted to approve board members Casey Castleberry, Jesse Freiert and Karen Ryan who were eligible to serve another three-year term.
Voted to affirm officers. Dr. Maggie Williams will continue to serve as chair of the board; Casey Castleberry will serve as vice chair; and Ted Hall will serve as secretary.