Message from the Chancellor: Weekly COVID-19 Update 4.24.20

April 24, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff –

We began remote learning a month ago, and I continue to be so proud of everyone’s efforts — in these challenging circumstances — to continue learning and to support one another. Thank you for your resilience, your persistence and your courage.

I again want to acknowledge the passing of Dr. Clarice Ford, our beloved vice chancellor for student affairs. Many current and former students have shared how important Dr. Ford has been to their success and how her mantra, “Whatever it takes,” spurred them on when they needed it most. Her UIS colleagues and peers across the UI system and beyond are deeply saddened by the loss of a truly vibrant colleague and leader. We plan to honor Dr. Ford within the boundaries of social-distancing guidelines, and once we can gather safely again, we will honor her memory together on campus. I know Dr. Ford is cheering us on as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure student success. That was her No. 1 goal, and we will make her proud.

Other updates to share this week:

Academic Deadlines

Today is the last day for students to opt in for credit/no credit for courses and the final day to withdraw from half- and full-term courses. Finals week begins the week of May 4 – we can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Honoring Faculty – Via Zoom

The 2020 Faculty Honors Celebration took place Thursday, April 23, via Zoom. Seven faculty were recommended for tenure, 10 for full professor and five for emerita/emeritus status. Additionally, four faculty were honored with the following awards:

  • Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award: Dr. Donna Bussell, English and Modern Languages
  • Faculty Excellence Award: Dr. Heather Bailey, History
  • Spencer Faculty Service Award: Dr. Tena Helton, English and Modern Languages
  • Pearson Faculty Award: Dr. Atul Agarwal, Management Information Systems

Congratulations to all faculty who were honored at this special event!

May 9 Graduate Celebration

Our #UIS20 Graduate Celebration website is live and counting down to noon May 9, when we will roll out a special message and a few other virtual surprises for our 2020 graduates for Commencement Day. Students who are eligible to receive their degree should watch their email leading up to and on May 9 for important messages related to our virtual celebration. We continue to anticipate an in-person ceremony later in the year once it is safe to convene. In the meantime, we will celebrate our 2020 graduates virtually in May! Don’t forget to use #UIS20 on social media to honor and follow along with our 2020 grads.

Illinois’ Stay-at-Home Order Extended

Gov. Pritzker has announced an extension of our state’s stay-at-home order—with some modifications–through late May. This means we will continue to learn and work from home, just as we have since March 21. The full executive order will be released next week, and we will announce any additional guidance to students, faculty and staff if warranted.

Relief Grants for Students

As a reminder, UIS Student Affairs has started a COVID-19 Relief Grant program to assist students with expenses such as food, health supplies, cellphone or internet service and technology items like laptops and routers to support e-learning. Students are encouraged to apply today. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and are subject to approval by the Financial Assistance office. 

Leadership lived

  • Holly Thompson, associate professor of human development counseling, is experiencing something many working parents are during this pandemic: juggling home and work life. She’s also helping her students learn about a professional field—clinical counseling–that typically emphasizes face-to-face interaction in a world that has now practically eliminated in-person contact. Technology is helpful, and Thompson’s students are navigating the change in approach well. “Zoom isn’t so bad,” she says. “… There is energy in a room that technology can’t account for, but it will work in this situation.” Read her full story here.
  • COLRS and ITS continue to be among many shining stars at UIS as we’ve adapted to remote teaching and learning. If you look at their work solely by the numbers, they provide a clear window into how fortunate we are to have such supportive and talented staff in these two departments. As of this week:
    • The ITS Help Desk has processed requests for 599 faculty, students and staff needing assistance with devices, connectivity, hardware, etc.
    • A total of 833 students communicated their needs through a student survey instrument made available in March, or indicated that they were OK to move into a remote learning environment. Forty-nine indicated they had no means to access the internet, and 35 indicated they had no means to purchase a device. These 84 students were contacted individually by phone and/or email to solve each of their challenges.
    • Twenty-three students with special issues related to working in a remote learning environment were referred to COLRS. Staff have worked together to provide one-to-one assistance to each of these students and to provide the access or equipment needed to complete their coursework. Student Services staff have also been responding directly to requests and referrals about students.
    • COLRS has processed 224 one-on-one assistance requests from on-campus faculty related to moving into the remote teaching environment.
    • COLRS has processed an additional 312 one-on-one assistance requests from faculty who have previously taught online and who have had questions about making changes to teaching activities to better accommodate students who have limited/no access to the testing center, campus labs and other on campus services.

Thank you…

Finally, I’ll close this weekly message with a brief video shared today on UIS social media channels. I salute all who are serving on the front-lines and those serving our students during the COVID-19 pandemic. You are Leadership lived!

Be well.

-Chancellor Koch