As you are aware, we had hoped that we could welcome our students back to campus and offer face-to-face classes this fall. As most experts believe there will be a second wave of COVID-19 cases (or that we haven’t even exited the first wave), we have had to adjust to the pandemic to maximize the safety of our students, employees, and community members. As circumstances stand today, our fall semester may not feel drastically different than our summer. The best way to ensure the safety of our community is to minimize our person-to-person contact. Therefore, even though the fall class schedule lists some in-person classes, most classes will take place online with very few exceptions. A committee is in the process of developing our campus reopening plan which will be shared with you and presented to the Legislative Finance Committee and to the New Mexico Higher Education Department next month.
We will continue to follow the Governor’s recommendations. We need to be constantly aware of how dangerous this virus is. Main campus and the Santa Fe Higher Education Center remain closed to the public. If an employee must come to campus, please continue to follow the COVID-19 protocols established by our Deans and Safety and Security staff and adhere to the CDC, state and campus guidelines. Anyone with approval to be on campus is required to wear a mask. Please feel empowered to remind people that they must wear a mask. If there is an issue, contact Safety and Security or Human Resources. We must work together to keep our campus safe.
In addition to the uncertainty related to the coronavirus, we are still in limbo regarding our budget. During the special session, the Legislature provided a temporary fix to the financial shortfall and compensation for higher education was cut. Unfortunately, this means that there will not be a payroll increase for fiscal year 2021. However, when the session starts at the beginning of next year, we can expect a larger cut to our budget. Because of this, the bona fide financial emergency is still in effect. There are many uncertainties: the increase in coronavirus cases, the impact on enrollment, what the state budget will be, etc. We will keep you informed as we learn more.
Also budget related is the federal CARES funding. We received a little over $1 million, more than $600,000 of which went directly to students. As required by the U.S. Department of Education, the remainder of the funding has been spent on improvements to online teaching and learning, including Quality Matters training for fall and spring semesters. We invested in technology equipment and resources for students, faculty, and staff, including laptops, online tutoring, training for faculty, parking lot wi-fi upgrades, hotspots for student checkout, webcams, classrooms cameras, and security software.
During last week’s Governing Board meeting, our consultant Peter Winograd presented the work being done to update the college’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025. Although Dr. Winograd was hired to complete a five-year plan, it became clear in February that the world had changed with the pandemic. The timeframe for planning of any sort shrank from five years to the next few weeks, the summer and the fall. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Winograd worked with SFCC’s leadership to develop a Blueprint for 2020. The Blueprint was designed to help the college manage the crisis and plan for probable scenarios for 2020. The explicit tactical strategy was to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
The Blueprint is designed to be a flexible document that can change as conditions unfold. It is designed to address the challenges of the pandemic and its economic impact while acknowledging the trauma it has caused and continues to cause. The key goals of the Blueprint are: 1) take care of our students; 2) take care of our community; and 3) take care of our college. During the Board meeting, Dr. Winograd reported on the themes that emerged from the conversations with community leaders. Those themes include the need to increase our focus on workforce education opportunities for our students so that they can enter a career that will help them to move out of poverty and fulfill their potential. In addition, SFCC has to be willing to change by becoming more entrepreneurial; developing alternative funding sources beyond the state budget; and by addressing and eliminating systemic inequalities, biases, and prejudices. It is clear that the pandemic is not over yet and if the college is to survive, the administration, faculty, staff, and students need to face the challenges openly and with courage. Dr. Winograd plans to help facilitate the critical conversations that lie ahead and to help refine the detailed plans under each of the goals in the Blueprint. You can watch Peter’s presentation and the Governing Board meeting on SFCC’s YouTube channel and download the draft Blueprint on SFCC Connect.
Please join me in welcoming James Wysong, Ed.D., Dean of Arts, Design, and Media Arts and of Liberal Arts. Dr. Wysong is a community college graduate and has a strong background in community college education, both as a faculty member and an administrator. Previously, he was Dean of Associate of Arts for the Dale Mabry Campus of Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida. Prior to that he was a faculty member, department chair, and science program manager at the Brandon Campus of Hillsborough Community College. During his tenure as a faculty member, he served on many committees, including General Education, Academic Affairs, and the Campus and College-wide Tenure and Promotion Committees. He also served on the faculty union council, and was the vice-president and chief negotiator for the union. As a member of the administrative bargaining team, he remained active in collective bargaining, negotiating on behalf of the college with both the full-time and part-time faculty unions. As a dean, Dr. Wysong was successful in developing and managing numerous grants and initiatives focused on increasing the number of women and minorities in STEM, and in improving the retention, success, and completion of Hispanic students in college transfer programs.
I would like to thank and acknowledge the Virtual Commencement Ceremony Committee for coordinating graduation for the Class of 2020. This group put together a great program, figured out the technological details, and communicated the event in a short timeframe and with no budget. Our partnership with Que Suave radio and Santa Fe Community Television (Comcast 16) helped our students share their achievement with proud family and friends. We received positive feedback and look forward to continuing to honor our graduates however possible during this pandemic.
I also want to thank Culinary Arts Lead Instructor and Chef Jerry Dakin, Culinary Lab Technician Brian Erle, World Central Kitchen liaison Robert Egger, Dean Camilla Bustamante, Ph.D., former Food Services Director Behzad Dayeny, SFCC Foundation’s Deborah Boldt and Kelly Smith, numerous alumni and employee volunteers, and many others for supporting our partnership with World Central Kitchen to provide free, fresh meals to the community. Congratulations to the entire team for serving more than 50,000 meals. This was an auspicious initiative that required tremendous commitment and hard work from everyone involved. Thank you, thank you!
As a reminder, SFCC and the Higher Education Center will be closed this Friday through Sunday, July 3 through 5, in celebration of Independence Day. Please note that there will be no classes held or services available. Enjoy the long weekend.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay connected. SFCC – In This Together.
Becky Rowley, Ph.D.