By Jennifer Paugh, MIAT Canton Campus President, and John Willis, MIAT Houston Campus President
For college administrators, it is reasonable to assume that the last three months of the Covid-19 pandemic have been some of the most difficult of their careers. Long days and sleepless nights have been physically and emotionally draining. That said, we are and always will be committed to working together as one, united MIAT College of Technology to do what is needed to continue to deliver the career training that our students and employers who hire our graduates expect from us.
We are extremely proud to see how resilient and resourceful our faculty, staff and students at both campuses have been throughout this experience — first, transitioning within less than two weeks to a 100 percent remote instruction platform on March 30 and then re-opening our campuses over the last month to allow for small group lab instruction. We are operational now and for the foreseeable future in new and creative ways. And, most important of all, we are back together safely with the help of technology and strict health and safety protocols. We are better and stronger together because of this shared, disruptive growth experience.
Our journey to reopening both campuses with care, compassion and compliance is the subject of an article that we submitted for the current issue of Career Education Review, which was mailed recently to subscribers. Our article will also be posted online by editor Jenny Faubert in early July. We encourage you to access the Career Education Review Web site (CareerEducationReview.net) to learn more about what we and other article contributors are saying regarding our experiences with adjusting to life, work, and career and technical education in the “new normal.” We are especially grateful to Jenny for this opportunity to share our insights and perspectives with her readers, fans and followers throughout the United States.
Here is an excerpt of our 1500-word article:
Our new normal for now!
Technology has been, and continues to be, one of our best friends throughout all this. In this new environment, it is impossible to overcommunicate. We have worked hard at maintaining positive, ongoing communications in many formats with a steady stream of campus presidents’ video updates, Zoom video meetings, letters, emails, and regular social media posts to keep our students and staff informed and engaged. Recently, we invited our students to share photos and videos of their home office or study space to create a united video showing that we are all in this together.
With help from our Admissions team members working from their homes, we have created new virtual campus tours and learned how to maximize our virtual admissions interviews with prospective students. Response to these new approaches to campus tours and the admissions process has been extremely positive. We work daily to create touchless transactions in preparation for a seamless transition to daily life back on campus.
Also, during these challenging last few weeks, we have included employers, strategic partners, and elected officials in our plans for hybrid instruction models and new normal operations that must factor in social distancing, personal barriers, sanitation, and other safety measures. Our Program Advisory Committee members have been instrumental in providing information on best practices for re-opening that they are seeing in the industries we support. Additionally, they have provided invaluable feedback on how best to prepare our graduates working in a socially distant world that is important as we prepare the next generation of essential employees. These solid relationships within our respective communities that we established months and years ago have been immensely valuable.
By getting to know our elected officials and inviting them to tour our campuses months ago, we have secured support for our school. By briefing them on the efficacy of our workplace readiness programs, we have solidified our strategic role in training essential workers – particularly in the areas of transportation and critical infrastructure. We have communicated that we are resilient, that what we do matters to society, and that we are here for the long haul. Their support and guidance have been helpful as we have navigated these unprecedented times.
Adapting Our Campus Facilities for Health and Safety
Although we are continuing to offer lecture-based coursework remotely, our students must have access to and participate in hands-on labs at our campuses. This is a critical component for many of our courses to enable our students to master specific program objectives. Our governors as well as county and city leaders in both states understand that MIAT offers essential career training and have provided health and safety guidelines for modified on-campus operations.
Some of the protocols that we have implemented at both campuses include:
- Mandatory face covering and maintaining 6 feet of social distance as much as is reasonable.
- Groups of 10 or fewer allowed in hands-on labs for all programs.
- Removal of all chairs and tables from lunchrooms to minimize mingling.
- Installation of protective plexiglass barriers in common work areas.
- Zoning students and instructors into designated, color-coded learning areas for contact tracing in the event any student, faculty or staff member gets sick.
- Temperature and wellness checks daily for every person upon arrival at either campus.
- Sanitizing facilities, workstations, equipment and every hard surface on the hour between 6 a.m. and midnight as well as sanitizing everything again overnight.
Commencement ceremonies for Spring and Summer will be virtual – and creative. We are inviting staff, faculty and students to record personal video vignettes. These will be compiled and presented in a format that will allow students to share their messages of hope, excitement and thankfulness with each other. In addition, because it is virtual, we will be able to host a joint ceremony with our campuses that normally are over 1,200 miles apart. In many ways, this crisis has brought both campuses closer together.
We will continue to be vigilant regarding the health and safety of our 1,200-plus students in Michigan and in Texas for whom we are responsible — as well as many thousands of friends and family members who know and love them. Now more than ever, we appreciate your support and welcome your feedback. Please contact us at JPaugh@miat.edu or JWillis@miat.edu. We invite you to keep up with us on our Web site, MIAT.edu, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.