Q&A: CSUB, BC presidents share plans for future sessions during pandemic, offer words of wisdom to students

June 12, 2020 /

As both Cal State Bakersfield and Bakersfield College move into their summer sessions and plan for the fall, students are preparing themselves for a different type of schooling. Some classes will remain in person, some will be online, and others will be a hybrid of both formats.

Kern Sol News reached out to CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny and BC President Sonya Christian to see what the plans are for students moving forward during the pandemic.

Although school may be a bit different, both presidents say students will continue to receive a quality education as both schools are making efforts to provide support to students.

President Zelezny and President Christian share plans and words of wisdom for their students.

Q: How have Cal State Bakersfield/Bakersfield College transitioned during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: California State University, Bakersfield has transitioned brilliantly to distance learning, thanks to the innovation of our faculty and staff and the resilience of our students. When the decision was made in March to reduce the number of people on campus for safety reasons, we launched several methods of educational delivery, using platforms like Zoom, Canvas and other programs to meet the needs of our students. We also looked for new ways to offer resources, like library research, computer labs, clinical and behavioral health support, food assistance and more. In addition, we were able to check out Chromebooks, hotspots and other technological assistance
to hundreds of students, thanks to the support of many members of our community.

— CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny

President Sonya Christian, photo courtesy of Bakersfield College

A: On March 2, I initiated a transition plan to move instruction and student support services to an online environment to ensure continuity for students. On March 19, BC closed all physical campuses hours before Governor Newsom announced the Stay-at-Home Order. Following the physical campus closure, BC remained in community to ensure high quality instruction and support for students during a very difficult time. We hosted near-daily virtual forums to brief the campus and community, augmented by regular written and video communications, and my weekly blog (sonyachristianblog.com).

— BC President Sonya Christian

Q: How are faculty and staff preparing for the upcoming Summer 2020 term?

A: The transition to the summer semester has been smooth, thanks to the system already in place for the spring semester. However, as the summer continues, faculty and staff will further refine our approach to distance learning, fine tuning software, platforms and programs to ensure our students are getting the most out of their education.

— President Zelezny

A: BC courses and services will be online for summer 2020 will a few exceptions for courses that must meet in-person to fulfill program requirements. For example, an essential course this summer is in Nursing. As a part of their accreditation requirements, they need hands-on experience. You wouldn’t want a nurse to learn how to draw blood only
online, right? So, these courses will complete most work online or remotely and only complete essential, hands-on elements in-person. In spring 2020, faculty underwent extensive training to transition their courses to an online environment and our Academic Technology team continues to offer daily office hours and ongoing training for faculty to strengthen their courses as they head into summer 2020. You will also see this summer increased offerings for high school students who may not have access to summer school on their high school campus. To meet an increasing demand among those who are experiencing job loss, we have a suite of “Back to College” courses for students to reconnect with higher education and get the skills and experience they need to be ready to return to work.

— President Christian

Q: How does CSUB/BC plan to move forward when students return for the Fall 2020 semester? What precautions are you prepared to enforce, to keep your students safe?

A: California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White made the difficult decision recently to continue to limit face-to-face instruction at all 23 CSU campuses, including here in Bakersfield. Health experts are forecasting there will be at least two more serious spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. Because the health and safety of our students, staff and faculty is our top priority, the CSU will not take that risk. We will continue to offer educational delivery through alternate methods, mostly digital.
However, the quality of the education provided at CSUB will not diminish, and we encourage students to stay committed to their education. The world has never needed college graduates more than now.

— President Zelezny

A: In fall 2020, you will see a greatly reduced footprint on our campus with significantly fewer in-person courses. Our goal is to reduce the number of people on campus so we can maintain strong public health protocols developed by our Health & Wellness Center in collaboration with our facilities team and other leaders across campus. Those protocols include required face coverings, hand washing stations, maintaining physical distancing, and increased sanitation. This is a shared responsibility. For example, see the checklists below. Bakersfield College will continue to monitor and assess the developing situation and will update the summer 2020 guidelines for fall 2020 as the term draws near.

— President Christian

Q: In what areas do you think your school can improve in to better help your students achieve success?

A: At CSUB, our mission is to put the students first. We know that pursuing a university education is a big commitment of time, effort and resources, and we strive to do all we can to help students remain focused on their goals. The CSU offers a first-rate education that is reasonable for most families, and there are many opportunities for financial aid and scholarships. Other
resources, like healthcare, behavioral healthcare, academic counseling and advising, internships, career advice, athletic and club opportunities and more also are available. Still, unforeseen challenges may arise. When they do, we invite our students to come to us – faculty and staff – so that we may assist. Nothing is more important than keeping our students at CSUB!

— President Zelezny

A: COVID-19 illuminated the barriers we know exist for our students; for
example, issues of access to technology, stable internet, and other basic needs. BC immediately responded to address these needs by establishing a laptop loan program with the generous support of Greg and Mary Bynum, and has since developed an Emergency Fund. Moving forward, we are committed to ensuring each student has access to a laptop and will focus on growing the emergency fund for students in need. Please stay connected to us – even if at a distance – so we can get you the resources you need.

— President Christian

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell your students? Any words of advice?

A: Students, pursuing a college education is one of the best decisions you will ever make in your life. Whether we are on campus together or instruction is being delivered to your home, there will be times when you will struggle as you balance your studies and the rest of your life. But never doubt your decision to get a college degree. It is an investment that goes even beyond your own future: You will be a contributor to your community and an inspiration to those who come after you. At CSUB, all you need in order to succeed is the will to move forward. And we are here to help!

— President Zelezny

A: We know that education is the vehicle to a better life and will open doors for our students. There is no better time to focus on your education, so stay in school and stay on path. Be sure to meet with your counselor and connect with your faculty so they know what you need to be successful.

— President Christian

Featured Photo: President Lynnette Zelezny, courtesy of CSUB

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