President Crimmin Welcomes the Becker Community to the Fall 2020 Semester
Published on: August 24, 2020
Hello, Campus Community:
We’re excited to welcome you back—albeit virtually—for the fall semester. We understand your disappointment with the change to online learning. Students wanted to be in residence halls and back in classrooms; our faculty and staff were looking forward to welcoming students to our campuses.
However, rest assured that we are committed to creating an engaging and relevant virtual environment for all. Let’s also keep this in perspective. The fall semester is a little over 14 weeks long. Trust me, it will fly by! In that short time, you will complete a college semester—for some, your first, and for others, another step closer towards graduation.
While the sudden need to shift to online learning in the spring gave faculty and staff no time to prepare, they have been committed over the summer to ensuring students have a quality remote experience: in courses, through social programming, with enhanced student support, and by building opportunities to engage with other students. We are truly an agile and innovative community of scholars and dedicated educators dedicated to ensuring your success.
The start of the Fall Semester is a perfect time to share with you campus initiatives and updates that have taken place over the summer.
Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
In response to the murder of George Floyd and widespread protests in our nation that heightened awareness of the need and urgency to address issues of diversity and inequity, the College launched two virtual “Let Your Voices Be Heard” conversations with students in June. One was hosted by Rev. Prof. Michael Keating, who teaches Medical Ethics and Philosophy at Becker; the other featured Prof. Keating and Prof. Lynn Cormier-Sayarath, who teaches several diversity courses at Becker, including Understanding Diversity Online at the undergraduate level, and Social and Cultural Diversity in Counseling in the Masters in Mental Health Counseling Program. These conversations provided students with a time to process, grieve, and share their voices—and talk about Becker’s role in bringing about change.
In addition, I empaneled the President’s Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The goal of the committee is to engage in authentic conversations with faculty, staff, and students on the topics of equity, inclusion, privilege, and diversity on campus, with the intent of creating meaningful, measurable, and long-lasting commitment to change. There are four areas of focus: personal and professional development, hiring and retaining talent, student support and initiatives, and academic and curriculum innovations. In addition, faculty have created ways for our students to examine race and social issues, areas of injustice, civil discourse, and privilege, through course assignments, discussions, presentations, and project-based learning initiatives. I have asked our Criminal Justice faculty to examine the curriculum for ways to incorporate the complex, relevant current issues for policing and law enforcement within the context of community engagement and social justice.
It is vital that the living and learning environment we provide for our community is socially relevant and forward thinking, connected to and actively engaged with society as a whole, and provides an institutional culture and population that both reflects and embraces diversity. There is much that we can do in these areas, and I look forward to the outcomes of the Committee’s work as well as learning more about how faculty and students are engaged in activities to bring about change. One of my most valuable experiences on campus is visiting classes and observing firsthand the work our faculty and students are engaged in. I hope to be able to witness the work they do in relation to these topics this fall.
Updates: Online Learning and Technology
A number of online learning and technology updates can be found in the FAQs on this page. In addition, for the School of Design & Technology:
- Faculty and staff have been setting up a robust and rigorous academic structure for courses, along with convenient remote methods for students—including access to software and hardware used by courses and studio work.
- Faculty have been refining modalities of course delivery and are leveraging distance learning techniques and tools for both academic rigor and experiential learning.
- The School is leveraging a myriad of tools onsite and via the cloud to provide access to these software, and will continue to leverage existing and new distance learning tools. These include:
- Remote access to Adobe suite, Game Design tools, Audio toolsets, and general virtual toolsets
- Partnering with Microsoft for access to the Office365 suite (e.g. Email, Word, Excel, etc.)
- Leveraging Microsoft Teams as the primary method for both teaching and remote collaborations for all courses
For the School of Human & Animal Health:
- Faculty and staff have been working throughout the summer to ensure they would be prepared to shift to teaching online this fall. They have prepared for this scenario to ensure a positive engaging student experience in an online format.
- The Nursing and Veterinary Technology departments have secondary accrediting bodies that require specific changes in order to deliver them fully online. The following changes have been made in order to meet these requirements:
- Nursing will be utilizing an online simulation product, vClinical NurseThink, https://nursethink.com/vclinical, which is approved by both ACEN and BORN (our accrediting and regulatory bodies) to supplement clinical.
- Veterinary Technology programs will continue working with students in the 1000 and 2000 level courses to help them secure placements in veterinary clinics where they can complete their essential skills during the fall semester. Essential skills need to be completed prior to graduation, but not necessarily to complete each course. Additional details will be shared with Vet Tech students. Please send any specific questions to your advisor or the Director of Veterinary Technology programs, Roda Motta Motta@becker.edu.
- The Lenfest Animal Health Clinic will not be open to the public through December 31, 2020, to minimize health and safety concerns.
Finally, Becker understands students may encounter technology challenges with online learning or may be struggling to purchase books and course materials. To report technology challenges or to apply for assistance from the Student Support Fund, please login to Canvas, access the “ACAD-2020-ONL-2020FA-Covid19 Emergency Fund” course, and download and submit the Technology Challenges Form.
Updates from the School of Graduate & Professional Studies
The School of Graduate & Professional Studies (SGPS) offers both summer and winter intercession courses so traditional undergraduate students can catch up, or get ahead, in their credits. New student online information sessions were well-attended this summer and helped drive fall enrollment, especially in the graduate programs, which reached a record number of students this fall. Other recent initiatives include:
- Dual admissions agreements for the Business, Early Education, Psychology, and RN-BSN programs were signed with Mount Wachusett Community College, which make the transition from associate to bachelor degree programs smoother for MWCC graduates.
- Open Sky Community Services in Worcester was added as a partner in the SGPS Partners in Professional Excellence program. The total number of partnerships in the Professional Excellence program is more than 15.
- A contract to develop customized professional development workshops for Cornerstone Bank employees was signed, with the first workshop series slated to launch in October.
- An agreement was formed with Assumption University, which is ending its continuing education program, to transfer interested students to Becker to complete their degrees.
- Two new offerings were added to the IT bootcamp portfolio, which now includes cybersecurity, web development, digital marketing and UI/UX certificates.
In addition, SGPS is looking forward to offering a non-credit bearing online esports certificate this fall, a non-licensure MA in Mental Health Counseling track this spring, and a new spring entry point for MFA in Interactive Media students.
Updates from the Office of Admissions
- The Office of Admissions’ unique car parade tours of our campuses received both mention and praise in the July 30 Washington Post article, “Trying to Find Your People When All the People Are Gone.” The article focused on campus tours in the time of COVID-19, and wrote about Becker: “No college in the area matched the gung-ho innovation of Becker College in Worcester, about 35 miles outside of Boston, where prospective students can get a car parade tour. Participants enjoy a tour of both campuses from the comfort of their vehicle, while led by a Becker shuttle van, and connected via an audio link to hear professional staff and current student narration of the tour. The driving caravan first tours Worcester and then continues on to Leicester. To date, car parade tours have involved 68 families and registrants from 10 states.
- The Admissions team also launched self-guided tours, where participants can tour either campus on their own time. They register upon arrival on campus, then receive a digital set of electronic resources to guide them on their tour: updated campus maps, a “Hawk Walk” self-guided tour walking sheet with building information and fun facts, and video/ audio clips narrating each stop on their tour. All events are located at: www.becker.edu/campusvisits
- After reviewing initial industry reports and survey data from various vendor partners indicating that the next recruiting cycle students would continue to visit and make decisions based on virtual college experiences, the Admissions team initiated a partnership with Mass Interact. This vendor is finalizing a custom google tour for Becker College and will feature a “Streetview” style, google-operated, interactive virtual tour, complete with audio narration and aerial footage. The custom tour will go live in August.
Get Involved, Stay Focused, and Take Care of Yourself
There will be a number of virtual events held throughout the semester—through clubs and organizations, CASL, residence halls, and more. In addition, everyone is welcome to participate in alumni events; be sure to follow Becker Alumni on social media. I urge everyone to be optimistic, positive, and excited to participate.
For our students, focus on your classes, participate in our virtual activities, stay connected to teammates and coaches, and reach out to your advisor, counseling services, and others when you need them. You may be learning remotely, but our support and care for you have not wavered. We are there for you and dedicated to helping you achieve your goals.
- Treat this as a completely different experience from your spring semester. For example, create a new study/workspace at home. Change your scenery and find a way to reduce distractions.
- Create a weekly schedule. A consist and manageable schedule can help reduce stress and anxiety. Fill in your class times, schedule study, homework time, and work hours if you have a job outside your home—and be sure to include wellness activities and breaks.
- For our new students who are at home instead of living in our residence halls, challenge yourself to be more independent. Meals, laundry, and scheduling your time are all things you would be doing in your residence hall. I urge you to do those things at home.
- Participate in virtual activities. Your generation has mastered the art of developing friendships online. Join a virtual program, get involved in a club or organization, be involved with your teammates and coaches, and create connections within your classes. Don’t let the semester pass you by. These initiatives will make your transition to campus much smoother and more effortless.
- If you can safely gather with students nearby while following all local policies and guidelines, by all means do it! Small groups gathering outside, ensuring social distancing, and wearing masks are all possible and can be accomplished safely.
- Make sure you reach out to your advisor and your faculty. They are all here specifically because they want you to be successful. It’s literally in their job descriptions!
Upcoming Events: Convocation and Commencement
- A virtual Convocation for new and first-year students will be available for viewing by the end of August. Please check your email or the Student Portal for more information.
- A combined Commencement ceremony—for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021—will be held on May 8, 2021, in the DCU Center. This combined ceremony will in no way diminish the celebration and recognition provided to each class, and will feature those selected to be speakers at the Class of 2020 Commencement and the speaker for the Class of 2021. More details will follow.
In February 2020 (prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S.), the Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of a tuition freeze for the 2020-2021 academic year to help families and students manage the financial pressure.
With the College’s transition to remote learning in the spring, and the critical need to keep our community safe by continuing to engage online through the fall, it’s important to provide information about the College’s fiscal sustainability. Contrary to popular belief, remote learning is not less expensive for an institution; it is, in fact, more expensive. We lose revenue from room and board, but continue to pay rent for leased buildings, utility bills, and maintenance. We invest in greater technology needs and, in addition, provide funding for both the Technology Challenges and Student Support initiatives. Even without students on campus, grounds keeping and housekeeping services continue, and faculty and staff still need to be paid.
You are likely aware that many colleges and universities are facing substantial revenue loss, as enrollment remains uncertain. As a small, tuition-dependent institution, Becker faces similar challenges; we rely on stable enrollment to manage our finances and provide the financial aid our students need to be able to attend.
Our community is guided by a deep commitment to academic excellence and providing a supportive, engaging, and vibrant campus experience. This has required personal sacrifice from members of our community; faculty and staff—including myself—have taken a pay reduction this fiscal year, and all campus budgets have been adjusted to reflect an online fall semester.
Despite these serious challenges, ensuring our students achieve their academic goals is a top priority. We continue with a tuition freeze and have provided a free Ninth Semester for students who stay enrolled at Becker for the 2020-2021 academic year. More details can be found on this page. For our returning students, this means that if you are enrolled full-time this academic year, your tuition will be frozen at the Fall 2019 level for a third year in a row. That is far from common in today’s higher education market.
President’s Community Virtual Office Hours
Virtual office hours will be available for students and for faculty and staff. Once the schedule is finalized for the fall, it will be published in the Student and Employee Portals.
Spring 2021 Semester
Our Task Force continues its work—now directing its focus and planning to the Spring Semester. It is our desired goal to offer on-campus, in-person living and learning in January 2021. We will continue to monitor the level of COVID-19 in our communities and follow the guidelines of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and public health officials before making a decision.
As we move forward together, how each of us navigates the challenges will require ability, agility, patience, and positivity. Use this time to learn, grow, and connect with one another in valuable and meaningful ways. We are all part of an amazing Hawk Nation community!
Stay well and #HawksMaskup!
Nancy P. Crimmin, Ed.D.