Higher Education Industry Faces Coronavirus

Mar 17, 2020

Credit UNH

As colleges and universities across the state are sending students home for longer spring breaks and remote learning, we discuss how higher education institutions are preparing for the coronavirus. Are they ready to protect their staff and students from the outbreak? We'll talk with Dr. Michelle Perkins, Allie Reyes, Dr. Larissa Baia and Daniela Allee about what challenges they're facing as students leave campus and as they prepare for the coming months. 

Air Date: Wednesday, March 18, 2020. 

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Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy. and this is The Exchange.

Laura Knoy:
New Hampshire's colleges and universities, like everyone these days, have had to repeatedly adapt to the rapidly changing advice around Corona virus. At this point, most students are off campus, but for many it's still unclear when or if they'll go back. Meanwhile, at least two campuses have one confirmed case of COVID-19 among students or staff. Dartmouth College and Keene State today, how Granite State Higher Education is handling the coronavirus threat.

Laura Knoy:
And we'll be talking to many guests this hour. All of them remote as NHPR practices social distancing. I, too, am remote hosting for the foreseeable future. We'll start with Michelle Perkins, president of New England College and also chair of the New Hampshire College and University Council and President Perkins. Welcome to The Exchange. Very busy time for you. We really appreciate you being with us.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Oh, thank you. I appreciate your invitation.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I understand that New England College resumes classes remotely today. What are you thinking about as this new phase begins?

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Well, we're prepared and we have been meeting with over the last couple of weeks with faculty and staff thinking we might need to move to this phase. And we made that decision last week. And we already have a an online programs that we've been in the online world and not with our residential students so much, but certainly with their grad and adult program. So there's familiarity with the technologies and the mode of delivery.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
And so our faculty, full time campus faculty and part time faculty have been working to get their coursework up and running in a virtual mode, using either learning management system or and or zoom technology so that they can do asynchronous and synchronous education.

Laura Knoy:
Well, again, it all starts today. So we really appreciate your time. There's a big emphasis. President Perkins in higher education today on the benefits of students getting out of the classroom. Anybody who's been on a college tour has heard a lot about Real-World learning hands on learning internships. That seems to be a large emphasis in higher education today. How much is that going to be able to continue? President Perkins?

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Well, I think that's a question mark for us and probably everyone else. Companies are requesting students to study remotely. And I've heard that students and for employees to work remotely. And and so it's all a big question mark. I think it depends on how long this virus is around. And and and then we will deal with it. We do have a summer session at New England College. We're hoping. We're certainly hoping that this virus, we can have students come back. But if not, we're hoping students will come back in the summer and we can then resume more internship and real world learning.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Yeah. So that's a shift you've had to make. You and many others, I'm sure, in the past couple years trying to focus on getting out of the classroom. And now you're having to completely shift again and say, get in a room and get online.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Exactly. Exactly. But the students have been very mature and cooperative in this. And, you know, look, just like the rest of the world where we're doing the best we can to adapt to what is a situation that changes on a daily basis. And we are confident that we are moving into this new mode effectively and will be able to continue to deliver a high quality education.

Laura Knoy:
There are some students at New England College who are still on campus who didn't have that option to, quote, just go home. What are the restrictions for them?

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Well, we have stopped all activities on campus, all meet all meetings of any kind. Our classroom buildings are closed. We have some a small group of students still in residence halls. Largely these are students from farther away or from areas where the virus is particularly dominant. The New York City, Boston, even the West Coast, even we have students. Why? And so we are making it possible for them to stay for now and providing them with grab and go food. And so they are learning in their residents.

Laura Knoy:
All right. So some students probably said, look, President Perkins, I don't want to go back. To New York City, it's worse there and the conditions, living conditions are probably more cramped than they are in New Hampshire, so you're letting them stay. That's great.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Yes. And we had a number of institutions that had a spring break later than we did. We have an early spring break. And so they've requested students stay where they are. And I understand that. But our students have come back. So we also understood that there for some they're getting home would be very expensive and difficult proposition. So we're trying to accommodate all of our students and making them feel as comfortable as possible with where they are.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and I want to remind our listeners that you can join us students if you're a college student who is whose life has sort of been turned upside down. How have things changed for you if you work at a university? How are you affected again today? In exchange, we're looking at how New Hampshire's colleges and universities have had to repeatedly and rapidly adapt to changing advice around the Corona virus. We have Michelle Perkins on the line with us now. She's president of New England College and chair of the New Hampshire College and University Council. And President Perkins, I did want to ask you something out of that role of chair of the New England College in Higher Education excuse me, college and University Council. What are you hearing from other higher education leaders in the state? I'm guessing you all are in a similar boat.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Yes, we are.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
And we have had several phone meetings for having one this afternoon and sharing with one another what we're experiencing, what we're planning, what we're learning. And that has been very helpful. There's great collegiality in the state and great willingness to share and help.

Laura Knoy:
What about your faculty president Perkins? What are they saying and how are they doing?

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
They're doing terrifically. I met with them on Friday. Ah, academic leadership had met with them before and they were planning to move to a virtual online mode. And they were very confident, very helpful. We can do this and we'll we'll make it a really good experience for us.

Laura Knoy:
How are students and faculty keeping up their mental and physical health? I was looking at various college Web sites this morning and you know, not only is everything closed, as you mentioned earlier, in terms of, you know, libraries and and and classrooms, but also the gyms are closed, all the hangout spots are closed. How is everybody sort of staying mentally and physically strong?

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Well, that's a good question, although I think what's most important is during these times that so many people have been willing to to really go the extra mile and do whatever it takes. And there is an awareness of that and that that that it can can really lift spirits during this time. We're fortunate here in New Hampshire. Our students can get out and take a walk in the fresh air of all places to be right now. I think in the country where you can get out to a little nature is very helpful. And of course, we have key staff still here on campus. The maturity of our staff and faculty are working and all our faculty are working remotely, but the majority of our staff is working remotely. But we have key staff here to be able to provide support services.

Laura Knoy:
I'm wondering, President Perkins, what it's like for you as a leader to have to provide guidance to a large number of people whose lives have been upended, who had planned to, you know, invest in education and get that degree and get that education. And you're having to make decisions just day by day. And sometimes those decisions that you made yesterday may change today. How hard is it to be a leader at a higher education institution at this time?

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Well, this is a challenging period of time, that's for sure.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
But I think any college president who stands up for the job knows that there will be times when you're going to have to be there to make to make decisions, to try and be as wise and well informed as possible. And people depend on you. So that's what we're here for and we'll get through it well.

Laura Knoy:
And as a college president, you deal with the day to day. But it's also your job to think long term strategic planning. Who do we want to be as New England College? What do we want to look like in the future? Where should we invest other major projects? President Perkins, you just had to put in the drawer for now.

Laura Knoy:
Well, there probably will be. Again, we're trying. We're spending 24/7 adapting to this crisis and making sure our community is safe and sure move forward with education.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
I won't be making the fundraising trip I had planned. I won't be going to professional conferences.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
That's kind of on hold right now. We're not really soliciting our donors. It's not really something that we feel this wants to do right now. We are trying to accommodate our admitted applicants, too. Well, we're having a virtual open house this Saturday. It would be better to be able to welcome students to our campus. But it in this situation, I think we're going to give them a good experience or a sense of what NEC is all about. But it will have to be virtual.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Yeah. I was going to ask you about prospective students who maybe got accepted, wanted to visit or are still checking out colleges in New England. Colleges, so pretty. It's just it's a shame they can't come there. But you do your best, as you said. I heard I heard about a young man, President Perkins, who's set to graduate from college in Boston this year. And he just learned this week that his graduation will be virtual. Which, again, just that beautiful scene of a college graduation. It's just so sad to think about that not happening. Any thoughts yet on your end about graduation at New England College, or is it just too early to say.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Oh, we've been thinking about it and talking about it.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
And, you know, every week that this virus continues, obviously our plans for graduation, we're gonna have to make a decision. But we've talked about the possibility of moving it out into June.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
I think some other institutions have done that or doing it virtually. We were we're considering all options. And I think we'll wait another week or two and then make a decision then.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Well, last thoughts, President Perkins, that you just want to put out there for students, for professors, for staff. I mean, your cleaning staff, I'm sure, has been working overtime, can get a shout out to the cleaning staffs everywhere. But just last ideas or thoughts you want to throw out as everybody in your community embarks on this very different phase of their learning today?

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Well, we you know, we are in this together and we will get through it. This this will pass and we will reconnect and regroup and we'll move on. Our institution is very lucky that way. And we were founded by veterans of the Second World War. They had been through horrific experiences. They came here. They founded the college. And they moved on. And I think that spirit for us was on. And we will we will work together and we will overcome it. And every other institution in the state has the same approach. And I'm really proud of higher education and proud of the leadership that we have. And I'm confident that a few months from now, we'll we'll look back on this and say, we got through it.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Michelle Perkins, president of New England College. Chair of the New Hampshire College and University Council. My very best wishes for you and your community as you get through this very difficult time. And thank you so much for your time this morning.

Dr. Michelle Perkins:
Thank you. Thanks very much.

Laura Knoy:
Again, today in The Exchange, how higher education is adapting to the Corona virus from sending students home early to adopting online learning to the possibility of virtual graduation. It's been a big adjustment, as we're hearing, for colleges, students and their families. Let's hear your stories. If you're a student whose life has been upended. If you're a parent who has welcomed home a college student early. Let's hear from you. Your comments about just how your life has changed and how you hope that your college learning can continue. We welcome your calls today, Now for the student perspective on this is Allie Reyes. She's a U.N. H. Student double majoring in economics and finance. Allie, it's great to have you. Welcome.

Allie Reyes:
Hi. How are you?

Laura Knoy:
I'm fine. I'm hosting remotely as all college students are supposed to be studying remotely. So as President Perkins said, we're all in the same boat here. So are you still on campus there in Durham, Allie?

Allie Reyes:
Yes. So, absolutely so. I am a former foster child, so I don't necessarily have any immediate family to live with. So, yes. So it was kind of it was super stressful knowing I had planned for one week of spring break. And then I heard that we were also going to be shutting down the campus for additional two weeks. But you and age has actually been super great. They offered spring break housing free of charge. So anybody I think international students and especially me, I don't have to pay anything to be able to stay there for the week of spring break. And then I'm going to be able to stay there on campus for the two weeks of virtual learning that we have going on right now. Obviously, as the situation evolves, we're not sure if we're going to be going if we're gonna be pushing virtual learning out even further and keep doing it. But for right now, I am staying on campus. It's a little eerie. It's super. I mean, it's all I mean, the campus is a ghost town. Absolutely. A ghost town. Like I don't see anybody would ever I whenever I walk out on campus. So. Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Are they providing meals to go for you, Allie, at the the dining halls or are those shut down as well?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, absolutely. So. Right now there's only one dining hall open. It's going to be open for the spring break. It's going to be open for the two weeks, the two weeks following spring break laws possibly doing virtual learning. And that's Stillings Dining Hall. And so it's open from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and you're allowed to touch the food. So they have their workers with their gloves and stuff. And so you tell them what you want. They put it on the plate and give it to you or on the weekends we're using paper plates and paper utensils. I guess that just because they don't have the staff to man the dish room. So, yeah, they're deftly taking precautions.

Laura Knoy:
Well, must feel like being in some weird post-apocalyptic movie, Allie. I mean, are you in the dorm all by yourself or is there anybody else there?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, that is yeah. It's it's it's definitely creepy. So my I live in I live in the freshman dorm and it's huge. It's like 10 floors and. Yeah. There's nobody else on my floor. I don't hear the same people that I usually do. Like there's no hustle and bustle outside my door. Yeah. It's definitely it's weird. It's like yeah it's like being in a hotel like by yourself because there's just so many rooms. The long hallways. Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
Do you see the few other students who are also on campus self quarantining or are people hanging out at all together?

Allie Reyes:
So I don't see anybody hanging out. I think maybe the first day of spring break on like a Monday, I saw a couple kids playing basketball at the basketball court down the street from my dorm building. But other than that, I don't I haven't seen anybody else in my building. So, like I said, I'm almost positive that I'm the only person on my floor when I go to the dining hall. It's a little it's it's it's sparse. There's probably like a handful of kids there. I do see them like kind of there's a couple like fried groups that like congregate in the dining hall. But other than that, I don't see big groups of people and I don't really see anybody else.

Laura Knoy:
Are you lonely?

Allie Reyes:
A little bit. It's definitely I mean, just like being like I mean, I just turned 20. I was 19 of just.

Allie Reyes:
It's just it's I was never nobody has lived through a time like this. And especially to be somebody who's, quote, unquote, on their own. It's yeah, it's unsettling. And it's. I mean. Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
So you don't have sort of parents like I have a 20 year old son who is still on campus, although probably will be coming home soon. And, you know, he's able to talk to us every day and so forth. You don't really have that, do you?

Allie Reyes:
I don't. No. I don't have I mean, I do talk to family members, but, yeah, I don't necessarily have that immediate support system that's available to most kids my age.

Laura Knoy:
You know, and we have a couple more questions for you. But I also want to invite listeners to join us with their story. Questions, comments about higher education. How hard hit has had to adapt and adapt again and adapt again as conditions rapidly change. So hang on with us for a moment. Allie, because I want to bring Alex from Bretton Woods in to our conversation. Alex, go ahead. You're on the air. Welcome.

Caller:
Thank you. Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
What's on your mind?

Caller:
So, you know, we are in a partnership with them. And then in a partnership with the Mount Washington Resort . College and now we've seen a huge impact on our program going from, you know, having classes, you know, day in, day out and working to, you know, there's only two of us on property for the program. That's quite a big change in going from classroom learning to everything, including our culinary labs to being online.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, we learned how to cook online. At some point we have to put your hands on the food. Tell us a little bit more about your program, Alex. That's really interesting and what you had hoped to learn and how that's changed.

Caller:
So about earlier in the year, early or late last year, the Department of Labor signed on the contract with the Mount Washington Resort to do an apprenticeship program. We come out with a an associate degree of culinary arts. I've I've been this program now for almost a year and almost two years now. Almost done. And, you know, I've Cayman's programming. I want actually to possibly grow with, you know, at Mount Washington, it somewhere else in the mountains. It was quite a program.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Alex, yeah, go ahead. Did you want to jump something else in there, Alex?

Laura Knoy:
All right, well, we'll wish you the best of luck. And I think your call exemplifies. And we're gonna talk about this later when we go to Lakes Reading Community College, that for some students it's really hard to put their learning online. Some fields require a lot of hands on work and you can't just learn it by sitting at your computer and reading and interacting perhaps with others online. How about you, Allie? How has going online affected how much you've been able to work on your studies?

Allie Reyes:
Absolutely so. I mean, I always say I'm like, I mean, I chose you and I didn't choose an online college for a reason. I'm not necessarily the best learner online back. I graduated high school year early. So back when I was 17, I actually signed up for a couple of courses at SNHU and I just couldn't do it. Like the online format just wasn't for me. I kind of need that hands on. I need to go to the classroom and like here the person and be able to interact with my classmates. That's how I learn best. So it's I definitely foresee a little bit of trouble, especially I'm taking I'm taking a math class right now and math isn't necessarily my strong suit. And you and I just great, though. They have all these campus resources like the math lab or the math center. And so whenever I had homework or whenever I have homework, I usually go to the math center, obviously with the situation. The math center is no longer open. So it's a little bit worrisome as to whether or not I'm going to be able to get the grades that I want to. I mean, I've heard about other institutions doing pass fail in order to accommodate or in order to like kind of like empathize with the students about like that. It's a little bit harder to learn online, especially if you're like you went to an in-person institution for a reason. So, yeah, I'm definitely a little worried about grades and stuff just because I don't have that in-person experience or those in-person resources that I've been utilizing since the beginning of the semester.

Laura Knoy:
Sure. And I think a lot of students get academic supports and are worried that they won't be able to get that as quickly and as easily. And you. Right. Everybody learns differently. And some people really want that face to face interaction with professors and students. Have you been keeping in touch with any professors on campus that you're that you're close with Allie in terms of this?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, absolutely. So I don't I haven't, I haven't actually. I think I mean, I usually keep in touch with a couple professors that I'm just close with and that we just kind of go back and forth talking about academics and like the state of the world, but not any of my recent professors, not any of my current professors. We did have a zoo. Well, we did have a zoo meeting actually this Monday. My math teacher, she hosted a zoo meeting just talking about the format of the class. And a lot of teachers are making the decision as to whether or not their classes are going to be asynchronous or synchronous. My math class is gonna be synchronous or we're all going to be signing on at the same time and listening to a lecture. And she's gonna be I guess she has a setup where she can do what she does in class, which is project her or her her work. So that'll be nice.

Laura Knoy:
But yeah, we got a question for you, Allie, from Julie on Facebook. She says, For the U.N. H. Student, what measures for your safety and security are you seeing? Julia, thank you for writing in.

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, absolutely, so I do see that they're cleaning the bathrooms. That was that I was worried about. I mean, I am the only person on my floor, but I had noticed that they hadn't cleaned the bathrooms since camp is closed up that on Monday morning I came out of my I came out of my room, but I saw the wet floor sign on the bathroom. So that was that was good. I'm glad that they that they cleaned them. And so I'll be the only one using it now for from that one, hopefully. So I'm glad that the custodians and stuff are keeping up with that that they have. I'm so glad that they have people to do it in the first place. They know a lot of people are just stay at home. Oh, right. What else? Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
Well, in terms of campus security walking around, you know, if you happen to be walking around at night and there's no one there, I mean, you at UNH, and college campus do a good job, you know, with the blue lights that are there, the sort of safety stations. What about that? Allie?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah. So those are still there. And I think I've seen a few security people. I wouldn't say that I've seen more or less than I usually do.

Laura Knoy:
I wanted to ask you about your background a little bit more, Allie. You made reference to it earlier that you were a foster child. You lived in many different places when you're growing up, including the Sununu center. You had to work long hours as a teenager to save money, eventually get into you. And as I said earlier, now you're double majoring in economics and finance. So bravo for you. How does this background, Allie, shape your outlook towards your education, especially now?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as you've as you kind of touched upon, I faced a lot of setbacks and a lot of challenges. I just see this as honestly I just kind of see it as an interesting experience. I mean, this is I mean, obviously, the situation is horrible. But my heart goes out to anybody who is affected by this virus.

Allie Reyes:
But yeah.

Laura Knoy:
So kind of like you're saying, given what you've been through, you know, you're you're kind of hearty here. You're so emotionally prepared to deal with difficulty.

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, absolutely. I'm ready for it. Yeah. I mean, it's just another challenge. We'll get through it. And I have faith in you in each. I have faith in you and age that they will that they'll be able to work with us and everyone will get the education that they deserve.

Laura Knoy:
What have you and your friends been talking about, have you been doing remote hangouts, that kind of thing? It sounds like physically you're pretty isolated. But have you been talking to friends remotely?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, lots of lots of Snapchatting. A lot of text messaging, lots of Facebook messaging. I mean, honestly, I think that a lot of kids my age tend to go the humor route and make jokes about it, which is I mean, that's how some people cope. I was definitely guilty of that.

Allie Reyes:
And then my mom, she actually my biological mom, she actually works in a restaurant. And she she is out of work for at least a month because as you know, the restaurants are closing down. My boyfriend also works in a restaurant and he is out of work. So I have kind of like gone back on making jokes about it and making light of the situation because, yes, that is one way to cope with the situation. But at the same time, there's people's lives who are affected by this like greatly. I mean, as I mean, nobody these days has any savings. So when things like that happen, especially to a restaurant worker who has very little protections to begin with. It's it's definitely rough, but it's definitely super stressful, especially when it's people that you love.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. And I know that down the line, The Exchange is gonna do a program on the hospitality industry. Restaurant workers and how they've been affected, because as we've been hearing, it is especially tough for them given the bans on people going out to eat. I want to ask you just one or two more questions, if I could, please, Allie. And did you have any plans for this semester or summer that are now up in the air?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah. So I had taken some time off of work in order to focus on my studies during spring break was kind of my plan to jump back into the workforce. I'm a waitress or that's what I was doing previously. That's what I planned on doing during spring break. And so now obviously, all the restaurants are closed, so nobody's hiring. So that was a little bit of a setback. And this summer, I just hope that it's resolved so that I can go back to work and so that restaurants are not continued to be closed, which is obviously goes back to the importance of self quarantining and flattening the curve, because we don't want this we don't want this to go out for months and months. We want to nip it in the bud.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Allie, it's been great to talk to you. One last question. You're majoring, as I said, an economics and finance. How is that learning affecting how you look at the situation with those, you know, with that worldview?

Allie Reyes:
Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, two thirds of GDP is consumer spending. People are in their homes. They're not spending. So that's going to that's definitely going to the economy's going to take a hit. I mean, it's ah, I mean, it already has as we see the markets or the markets are crazy. I have a lot of networking with finance professionals that are working in New York City and their hours are crazy right now. They're in the office from seven to twelve. I mean, it's crazy right now. So, yeah.

Laura Knoy:
Allie, it's been good to talk to you and I wish you the very best of luck. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. That's Allie Reyes. She's a new NH student double majoring in economics and finance. She is on campus, as she told us. Coming up, we'll continue our conversation about how higher education is adapting to the Corona virus.

Laura Knoy:
We're going to hear from Lakes Region Community College about the special challenges for its students going online. And we'll keep taking your questions and comments. Stay with us. This is The Exchange on NHPR.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy.. Today, how colleges and universities in New Hampshire are coping with the Corona virus and the demands of social distancing. Are you a college student suddenly uprooted? Are you a parent suddenly facing the prospect of young adults at home who are supposed to be still studying? Send us an e-mail. We'd love to hear your stories. With us now on the line is excuse me is Larissa Baia. She's president of Lakes Region Community College and president by a. Really good to have you. Thank you for your time.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
Good morning. It's my pleasure.

Laura Knoy:
What's it been like for you to make major decisions that affect a lot of people's lives and their investments in an environment where the advice seems to be changing daily? I asked President Perkins's as well at New England College. I t's a tough time to be a higher education leader.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
It absolutely is. The last two weeks have been challenging. Our focus is always to respond to the needs of our students and support them in their goals. And so certainly keeping that at the forefront of our minds, but with an ever changing situation. And quite frankly, has made it difficult for sure.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Well, how is this different for community colleges in New Hampshire versus some of the private or public higher education institutions that we've been hearing about earlier, New England College, your own age and so forth? How is this different for community college students?

Dr. Larissa Baia:
Sure. So we are. Lakes Region is one of seven community colleges in the state of New Hampshire. And so we are all independent colleges, but we have a coordinated approach to our practices and our policies. And so how each one of us is really grounded in our community and in the region that we serve. So we're always trying to keep in mind the fact that most of our students are commuter students. We do have two of our institutions that have residential programs, mine included. And so those are some of the differences dealing with, for example, issues that our students may have needs at some of our four year partners, may not, for example, access to broadband Internet, making sure that we have quality technology available to our students, particularly those that are of high need. So that as we move our classes online or to a hybrid format, we're really serving our students to the best of our ability.

Laura Knoy:
We had a caller who couldn't stay on the line who wanted to ask you, President Baia, how colleges are helping students land their first jobs. Now that so much is remote.

Laura Knoy:
And if that will be a challenge,.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
I'm sure you know, it will be a challenge in the sense that we really don't know what's going to happen in the next two to three months for our students, for example, who are seniors and are were planning to graduate. Our goal is to meet that goal to the best of our ability. But we're going to be working one on one with those students to really help them navigate these uncertain times. If there's one thing I'll say, Laura, that we do well, we're a very small institution. We only have about twelve hundred students on our campus and online as well. And so our focus is really a high touch focus with our students. We provide really in-depth service, not just academically, but with regards to supporting them in their day to day lives. So our approach is going to stay consistent in the sense that those are conversations that we're really going to have individually with our students as to where they are. What are the programs that they're in? And then how we are able to work with those employers to make sure that we're helping them make the transition in a way that's successful for both our students and those employers that have high demand.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, that's interesting. So what does that mean, high touch with your students? Obviously, nobody's physically touching now. But just, you know, does that mean that you're offering students more support or different types of support than perhaps someone at a UNH or New England College?

Dr. Larissa Baia:
Yes. For example, we have a community covered on our campus which offers free food. We work with the New Hampshire Food Bank. And so any of our students, faculty or staff that have need for food, we provide dry goods on our campus and many of our campuses throughout the state do the same. So in our case, as our students are going to be either going home. Our students are currently on spring break. So for us to have campus housing at Lakes Region Community College, we are going to close our housing as of this coming Friday. But for those students that we know that either do not have a place to go or for those students that will be able to go home, but that we know that they need food support. We're working individually with those students to make sure that they're going home with as much food as we can possibly get get to them. And for those that we would be making exact exceptions for them to be able to stay in the apartments, we are going to make sure that we they have a supply of food with them for at least a two week period of time. So that we're a. Feel better about the decision? Should those students have to isolate and and not return? We know they're not going to return until April 5th. So we want to make sure that we give them the support that they need to be able to withstand that kind of time.

Laura Knoy:
Well, that's a lot to think about. President .

Dr. Larissa Baia:
There are many details here. And so we're talking about what is the food and security that they have. What is the access to technology that they may have? Currently, our campus is still open. And so we're trying to make sure that we have at least one life laboratory, computer laboratory open to students who may not have access to technology at home or may not have high speed Internet so that they can do some of the work. If we're moving work online, we need to make sure that our students have that technology and that access to be able to do that work. So we're thinking about those little details that that really will make our our program successful.

Laura Knoy:
I'm so glad you said that, because there's so much being said now about, quote unquote, just go online. But for your students President Baia that may not be an easy proposition.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
And we know, for example, that many of our students have access to smartphones, for example. So we have worked with our faculty and said to our faculty, make sure that the information, the content that you're delivering online is content that can be consumed on a tablet or on a smartphone. We do not want to have students have have the access to information that they actually cannot then retrieve just because of the devices that they're using to access that information. So thinking through some of those things have been some of the challenges that that we've been dealing with for the last two weeks. But we're really optimistic. Our faculty and our staff had spent a significant amount of time really working on these details. One by one. Thinking about who their students are, where they are in their semester, and really putting in the best plans that they can to make sure that the disruptions that we're going to see are as less as possible for our students.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Not all of your students may have laptops, but most of them have smartphones. So you have to make sure that the content is mobile friendly. Correct. Hang on the line for a moment. President Baia I do want to remind our listeners that you can join us as we talk about how higher education is adapting to the Corona virus. We've been hearing from students, we've been hearing from college presidents. And we'd love to hear from you. If you're a college student, just wondering what you're going to do, how your education's going to continue, we'd love to hear from you. Also, if you're a parent of a college student wondering what might be next for your student and your family. If I could ask you a couple more questions, President Baia, about putting your content online. You said in a recent message to students, quote, There may be classes that can not be completed online. What types of courses president by? Give us a few examples.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
Sure. So we have two manufacturer based automotive training programs. We have a GM program and a Toyota based program. Those programs require laboratory time and so are our faculty are being truly creative geniuses at this point. Coming up with with ways that we can ensure that the content that can be delivered online is delivered online. And at this point we're front loading that content as much as possible and then making arrangements so that we still have laboratory hours available for our students. But for example, instead of having maybe 20 students in a lab at the same time, we are switching schedules so that we have small numbers of no more than six students and a faculty member in a large laboratory to at any one time. We also have medical assisting students on our campus currently who are almost at the end of their lab requirements. And so we want to make sure that if we're able to provide that lab time, we're still providing that time. But we're doing so in a manner that is consistent with social distancing and that supports students so that they can complete the work that they need to do.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Because to get a degree in some of these fields to get that certification so that your future employer knows, you know, what you're doing, you need to have your hands on that equipment or that piece of h vac material. Or if you're a dental hygiene student, you need to get your hands on on real people.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
Correct. There there is some of that that can be done via simulation and some of that can be put online. But ultimately there is a component that requires you to put your hands on something, to respond to a particular circumstance or scenario that a faculty member has set up for. You are nursing programs, for example, that fit in that category? Are electrical programs fit into that category? And all of our community colleges throughout the state have a mix of. Variety of those programs, so we are all responding to those needs very differently across our colleges. But with the focus of trying to deliver what we can online and then to really think about what is necessary in the laboratory, what is the Hands-On component that that is really important and how can we still deliver that? Given the uncertainty that we have.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Well, right now, as you said, you have sort of hybrid and remote classes through early April. Do you have a contingency plan if this social distancing is continued? I also want to ask about financial aid and finance for students.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
Yes, we do have contingency plans. Certainly those are going to be as we put them in place. We may have to adapt them. And that's just the situation that we're currently in. But we are our focus right now is to make sure that our plans help students complete the spring semester to the best of our ability. And most of our classes that can be online at this point are so are I mentioned earlier that our students are on spring break as of Monday when classes are set to resume. Students who have a course that can be delivered online, at least in part, will have those courses be delivered online. The next step is to figure out how are we rearranging our schedules and utilizing appropriate space on campus to be able to do that laboratory work that is that will be required. And so that we can continue to do that in a manner that's consistent with the requirements that we have.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
We know that those plans are going to be in a place where we're going to have to reassess them as we go along. And we we have our faculty and staff working on those things now so that if whatever plans they've made for next week have to change drastically, that we have a secondary plan to look at that. And so really that that's how we're approaching this. But we know that we feel really comfortable about where we are currently. We are also working very well on trying to make sure that our students services that would have been done face to face. So to your question perhaps about financial aid or paying your bill, that those things are going to be moving remotely, but that those services are not going to be interrupted. So our next step, our first step was really the faculty piece of this and delivery of instruction and that what we're working on right now is making sure that our services, even though they may be moving to a remote capacity, that we don't have a gap in those services for our students.

Laura Knoy:
Well, last question for you, President Baia and again, it's been great to talk to you. I asked President Perkins this as well. Any word yet on graduation? When do you have to make that decision?

Dr. Larissa Baia:
We we will be making it soon.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
But no decisions have been made yet. We again, are going to try as best as possible to come up with some type of a creative response that would allow us to honor students and their achievements. But we haven't made a decision yet as to what that might look like.

Laura Knoy:
All right. Well, good luck to you, President Baia. We really appreciate you taking time out for us today.

Dr. Larissa Baia:
Thank you very much. Have a great day..

Laura Knoy:
That's Larissa Baia. She's president of Lakes Region Community College.

Laura Knoy:
Coming up, we'll talk more about how higher education is adapting to coronavirus. Coming up, a graduate student at Dartmouth College has been diagnosed with covered 19. We'll hear froma REPORTER in the Upper Valley about that. So stay with us. This is The Exchange on NHPR.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. tomorrow. How are you doing, parents? The kids are home for the foreseeable future. And given all the limitations on life these days, many kids and parents may be feeling frustrated or anxious or probably both. That's tomorrow morning, live at 9:00. So join us for that. This hour, how higher education has had to respond to the coronavirus threat and what that's meant for college students, educators, campus life. Let's hear your story.With us now on the line is Daniela Allie. She's in Egypt's Upper Valley reporter who's been covering how Dartmouth College has been reacting to the virus. Thank you, Daniela, for being with us.

Daniela Allee:
Thanks, Laura. Glad to be here.

Laura Knoy:
Well, overall in the Upper Valley, what's the status of covered 19 patients in general? Because there've been several cases there, right? Daniela?

Daniela Allee:
Correct. There are currently seven cases of over 19 in Grafton County, which is where the Upper Valley is.

Laura Knoy:
Seven cases and were some of those somehow connected either with the college or the hospital, Daniela. Just remind us.

Daniela Allee:
Correct. So the first the first two cases were connected to to the two general Dartmouth community. The first case, I believe, was a medical resident. And then that person transferred the virus to a second person. And from there, it's kind of been the first, second and third. The second patient was at a church service March 1st, I believe. And that is where the third person who has covered 19 contracted the virus. So it's kind of been person to person for at least this first few cases.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Really shows you how easy it is to to transmit this thing. One of the cases, as you touched on, Daniela was a graduate student at Dartmouth College. So what decisions has the college made as a result?

Daniela Allee:
Yeah.

Daniela Allee:
So the college has made it a number of decisions and that they announced yesterday that are kind of going a step further. Initially they had said the first five weeks of the spring term will be Raimo. Again, just a reminder, call Dartmouth College is on a quarter system. So they have a fall, winter and spring term. But now they have decided to go completely remote for the entirety of the spring term, which is about 10 weeks. They're also closing facilities like the college, gym, libraries. And also, importantly, research is being asked to be ramped down by March Monday, March 23rd through student research staff. Other scholars will have to be doing that work remote unless they've been granted a special exception by the college. And that can be particularly challenging for, you know, a molecular biology lab or people working with these tiny little cells or other other things that they need to be there in person for an end. I know you've been asking colleges about what their commencement plans are. Dartmouth has said that they will make a decision about their graduation by April 10th.

Daniela Allee:
And they've also limited events to 10 people or less. And events of 10 people or more should be canceled or postponed or made virtual. And one other detail I'll mention of what Dartmouth has done is that they have started to prepare one of their dorms to serve as a base for students who may need to self-quarantine. Currently, there aren't any students doing that on campus. But the college is preparing to have a space should that need arise.

Laura Knoy:
Well, again, you're joining us from the Upper Valley. Daniela and Amy wrote us in from the Upper Valley. She says, All three of our college kids are home. Our house is jam packed with all their dorm furniture. Amy says, I work from home and we have no dedicated office space. It's gonna be crazy here. Amy says, I was sad about the empty nest, but having three kids home who quite appropriately don't want to be here is tough. She says My kids are crushed. They miss their friends. It's so true. You know, social networks are so important to young people. On my own note, my son is still away. My older son is still away at college. Probably be coming back soon. In the meantime, I'm broadcasting from his bedroom, so once he comes back, I'll have to find another place. Thank you so much for writing in, Amy Daniela. Let's take a call. Chris in Lyme is calling in. Hi, Chris. Thanks for joining us in exchange this morning.

Caller:
Hi. I'm a former foster parent . And my husband and I did short term respite care.

Caller:
And to hear Allie talk about being alone on her dorm floor and her extreme bravery in just forging ahead and trying to deal with it, I still hear her emotions and I wonder how long she will have to endure this just being alone. I will be praying for her and her bio mom and her boyfriend to be able to have more contact with her.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Chris, thank you so much for calling in. And she's referencing again, Allie, who we talked to earlier, the former foster child, former homeless person, now studying at U.N. age, doing great. Very brave. And Chris, I really appreciate you sharing your sentiment. And I hope Allie at UNH is still listening. What about the loneliness factor, Daniela, that Chris mentioned? What are you hearing from the few people who are still, you know, rattling around Dartmouth College?

Daniela Allee:
You know, I think that's very much there. Dartmouth has allowed a number of students to stay on campus either for financial reasons or, you know, maybe their home life is precarious or they have medical reasons or for visa reasons. And while I haven't talked to the students in particular yet who are staying here on campus and students I have talked to who have left who said, you know, we're really going to miss just kind of being in community and seeing each other in class and in particular for a lot of these seniors. You know, not being able to potentially say goodbye in person to people that they have known for the last four years. You know, Dartmouth people form a lot of strong ties here. And I think in, you know, having kind of the downtown area with restaurants having to be takeout, only you kind of lose some of those spots to just gather and congregate and be with people. So I think as everyone in the Upper Valley and the state and the country is kind of transitioning to learning how to be in community remotely, I think that's the challenge of coming up for everyone that everyone's trying to figure out how to how to stay connected.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, those bonds you make with other people when you're young and you're in college, they're really, really strong emotional connections there and especially for seniors. I can imagine that that's that's wrenching. You know, you mentioned the general shutdown at Dartmouth and so forth. How much are people talking, Daniela, about the impact on that Hanover, Lebanon area since so much of the economic activity is focused on the college and in the hospital there?

Daniela Allee:
I think. I think that, you know, things are in flux right now, and I think people are still kind of trying to make that calculus because we, you know, during the summer we don't have the same number of students here. So I think businesses make those adjustments for those summer months. But, you know, it is a question of you can't you're not just going to see students going to the Dark Cowboy Cafe on the corner right across from campus to go get their cup of coffee or to meet up with someone. Are people going to lose on a Sunday morning to get their brunch? So I think, you know, as all businesses are trying to figure out what's next. How do you adapt? I think the same questions are happening right here and might be felt more poignantly because that population is going to be gone for the next 10 weeks.

Laura Knoy:
Lou from Lebanon wrote us a note. He says, You left out the medical resident who was told to self-quarantine and went to a party for Tuck anyhow, knowingly initiating the spread. And I know you've been reporting on that earlier, Daniela. But, Lou, thank you for reminding us to put that into the conversation. What else are you going to be watching going forward?

Laura Knoy:
Daniela Both in terms of Dartmouth and the Upper Valley, especially, again, since there have been more cases in that area,.

Daniela Allee:
I think, you know, just keeping track of, I think students right now also have a lot of questions about how financials are going to be handled now that they're going to be remote for the full term payments, I believe have been made. And so I think there are a lot of questions around that, too, to figure out also just general questions of how how does life kind of continue and what what steps are people taking either to protect themselves. Our businesses adapting. You know, we've seen several grocery stores in this area have a specific hour early in the morning for vulnerable populations who might fall under that. So the elderly people who might be immunocompromised to be able to go grocery shopping at that specific time. And that's been open to that particular group of people. So I think the question now is just kind of like how are we adapting?

Daniela Allee:
And as we're doing that in this period of uncertainty, what are some of the challenges that are coming up to, you know, in particular for vulnerable populations that, you know, might have? We're seeing a lot of issues with employment, low income employment, housing, you know, all of these other questions. And that's some of the issues that really, you know, coming into sharper focus.

Laura Knoy:
It's interesting. I had not heard about the grocery stores opening up early to allow people who are vulnerable to come in and shop. That's really interesting. Daniela, I'm sure we'll be talking to you again. Thank you very much for taking time out this morning. Thanks for that. Daniela Allee NHPR's Upper Valley reporter. And again, join us tomorrow. And The Exchange where we look at parents of the younger set, how you are coping and dealing, perhaps trying to work from home yourself with kids under foot who have not yet started doing their work online. That's going to be a challenge. We'll talk about that tomorrow, The Exchange. Thanks for being with us. I'm Laura Knoy.