You’ll find it at www.transcriptmag.com
To the Alumni, Faculty, Staff, and Students of Ohio Wesleyan University:
The Journalism program has a long, storied history and rich legacy on campus. The department’s newspaper, The Transcript, prides itself on being the oldest independent student newspaper in the nation, with its first publication dating back to 1867. As Journalism students, we have had the pleasure of studying and exploring the best practices for upholding our nation’s precious ideals of freedom of speech and expression.
In Ohio Wesleyan’s recent program review, however, it was decided that the Journalism major should be discontinued. While the Transcript editorial team understands the reasons for this decision, it is a devastating loss for our fellow students, alumni, and faculty. Yet these circumstances have only underscored to us the importance of finding a way to continue the Transcript’s rich heritage.
As Transcript editors, we would like to assure our community that we have been working hard on a plan for keeping this journalistic tradition alive. With the support of Professors Phokeng Dailey, Kyle McDaniel, and Zackariah Long, we have decided to reimagine The Transcript as an online student magazine that will publish a special themed issue at the end of each semester. While The Transcript will continue to post regular campus news to its site, this new model will support a greater variety of written and multimedia content from students with interests in Journalism, Communication, and other disciplines across campus. We will also continue our long-standing practice of editorial independence while still receiving support from Communication Department faculty.
The inaugural theme for the new Transcript in Spring 2021 will be “Social Justice at Ohio Wesleyan.” Our goal is to center historically marginalized voices on our campus and to feature perspectives on Social Justice from a diverse range of students, organizations, and academic programs. In light of this year’s momentous events, we feel this theme will be a fitting opening to this new chapter in The Transcript’s history.
We would like to thank our advisors for their guidance and support, alumni for their care and concern, and our fellow students for their flexibility and input. We hope that everyone finds the news that our student publication will not be going away reassuring. Lastly, we look forward to continuing to serve and work alongside each of you in the OWU community.
Claire Yetzer ’21 and Caitlin Jefferson ’22
Looking back on the past couple of months, it’s all kind of surreal, isn’t it? And now we’ve finished spring semester in ways none of us could have ever contemplated.
Ohio Wesleyan University students from all over Ohio, the U.S. and around the world had roughly two months on campus before the novel coronavirus shut us down and forced students and faculty to head into the uncharted territory of remote learning.
Living through a pandemic has been life-changing and it has uprooted us in unexpected ways. No longer did we have the normal daily regime – waking up, getting to class on time, attending extracurriculars, working, like it or not, for extra cash, or heading to a favorite study spot to start assignments left untouched until the 11th hour.
We were stripped of the options to run downtown for hot java from Delaware’s coffee shops, grab a smoothie from Pulp, complete workouts at Simpson Querrey Gym, or satisfy cravings for Asian cuisine at Typhoon, Amato’s pizza or a taste of Greece at Opa’s.
It was demanding to adjust to remote learning. Getting into a focused study groove from the comfort of home, struggling with internet access or making it to class on time while living in different time zones across the world was not easy. The inability to visit professors during office hours while struggling to grasp course content or just to chat was the strangest new normal.
But we adjusted to these unanticipated changes and so I say to faculty, staff and students, I am proud of us all for making it work, as challenging as it was.
Professors across departments, thank you for your flexibility with students. Thank you for being patient and understanding throughout this overwhelming experience and most importantly, thank you also for going through the stress of learning how to remotely teach.
Special recognition should go to faculty who lead students through complex projects or lab or art assignments without having access to OWU’s distinctive classroom equipment.
Fellow Bishops, I am proud to call you peers. Through unprecedented circumstances, you displayed great strength in handling these stressful situations. If you can manage your responsibilities through a pandemic, you know you can do anything.
Being abruptly evicted from dorms, attending classes from home and the uncertainty of, well, pretty much everything, is a lot to handle. But you hung in and made the most of a mind-boggling situation. My hope is this pandemic will make us all stronger. You must be grateful this odd semester is coming to an end. I know I am.
Seniors, please take a moment to reflect on your four years at OWU and be grateful. Recall the all-nighters, the questionable food at Smith Dining Hall, the dorm roommate you loved, hated or peacefully coexisted with, studying in peaceful and aesthetic Slocum reading room, the hands-on experience of a liberal arts education and the fun and craziness of it all. Recall the close friends and new friends from diverse backgrounds that you may not have met elsewhere.
To the Class of 2020, you deserve a better goodbye. I have faith you will get it one day.
Meanwhile, plan an awesome-as-possible graduation ceremony with loved ones. You earned it. Get as wild and extravagant as virtual ceremonies can with your family and friends without blowing social distancing boundaries. You earned your bachelor’s degree; you deserve the festivities.
For the rest of us, this may not be the farewell we had in mind, but I hope this year at OWU was memorable. I hope you’ll look back on OWU as a place of opportunity, support and growth wherever you go from here. I wish you nothing but luck, success and happiness and I hope to see you again this fall.
This virtual goodbye does not seem enough, does it? It feels like we said farewell in March without really saying the actual words. Nonetheless, on behalf of The Transcript and its staff, goodbye to all of our strong, hardworking faculty, staff and students. We’re all family you know.
Stay safe, Bishops. And don’t forget – wash your hands.
For Ohio Wesleyan’s Class of 2020, closure may be the most difficult of all achievements.
Lost for seniors was the last Day on the Jay, planned send offs from teammates, the final late-night snack with friends at Smith Dining Hall, memorable goodbyes from sorority and fraternity sisters and brothers, a final round of toasts at The Backstretch and just hanging out with close pals one last time.
These and other significant final traditions simply evaporated on March 13 when Ohio Wesleyan closed the campus for the rest of the semester to combat the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
The most important lost tradition of all? No May 9 commencement with family and friends to celebrate completion of all the years of hard work, culminating in a well-deserved college degree.
Below some members of the senior class reflect on their final days on campus and plans to celebrate that big day, or not, at home.
Senior Mahnoor Ansari, from Lahore, Pakistan who is still in Ohio, said she has no special ideas for marking graduation, at least for now. But she will earn a double major in pre-law and psychology.
“I don’t have any plans for celebrating,” she said. “I am sad that I’m not getting closure.”
Ansari said she misses the Treehouse, the environmentally-themed Small Living Unit, and its annual paint party, a tradition of glow paint and black lights, and the OWU women’s rowing team.
For Annabella Miller, from Wellington, Ohio, commencement day has lost its celebratory aura. She will graduate early after two years with a degree in pre-theology and minors in women’s and gender studies and psychology.
“Right now, I don’t have plans to celebrate my graduation,” Miller said. “May 9 will probably be like any other day for me and I will most likely work all day.”
To counter disappointment, at least a little, OWU is celebrating the Class of 2020 – for now – with a video and has urged all seniors to send in their photos for it. A real ceremony will be scheduled for later, when it is safe.
|“I think the best decision OWU made is making sure that us seniors still get an actual graduation ceremony. I’ve been looking forward to that day for four years and can’t wait to walk across that stage.” – Erica VanHoose ’20
“The video will be shown first on May 9, but please know this in no way is a substitute for your commencement ceremony,” the Office of President and University Communications wrote. “We are committed to not only an on-campus commencement, but also to a full weekend of celebration for the Class of 2020 at a time when we can do that in a safe manner.”
Some, like Amarii Johnson, an exercise science and Spanish double major, don’t plan to wait for the big party and will mark the day with their own festivities.
“I’m going to get lit with my family and my mom and sister just to celebrate being done,” Johnson said.
Johnson, home in Chicago, said like most seniors she is sad about the abrupt end to the school year.
“We didn’t have that time to really mentally prepare ourselves to end this chapter of our lives,” Johnson said. “I think OWU did the best that they can. They could’ve easily just canceled graduation but Rock (Jones) is trying his hardest to get us something even if it’s in the summer or closer to the fall and I really appreciate those efforts.”
Keionna Badie, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said she also thinks OWU has done the best it can for seniors under tough circumstances. Badie is a pre-law and philosophy double major and history and politics and government double minor.
“I think OWU has been one of the most understanding colleges for seniors during this pandemic,” Badie said. “I definitely miss my friends. We made plans to do things together to celebrate the end of senior year and I’m sad that we weren’t able to spend our last week’s together.”
Hope Poolos, a health and human kinetics major and psychology minor, said she too has struggled with the way school ended. She has also been challenged working alone from home in Sylvania, Ohio.
“Not being with everyone from OWU in these final weeks before graduation has been really hard on me,” Poolos said. “This was supposed to be our final time with friends and classmates and it is so hard to stay motivated.”
Poolos said she intends to don her cap and gown and have a cookout with her family, boyfriend and other friends on graduation day.
|“… I had a lot of pain and hurt just knowing that all of it went away so fast with the blink of an eye.” – Andrew McFarland ’20
McKenzee Martin, from Urbana, Ohio, said she too misses friends, classmates, walks on the JAYwalk and face-to-face connections with professors.
“I did not realize how much I would miss school until it was taken away from me so soon and I also, surprisingly, miss my dorm room,” said Martin, a psychology major and English minor. “Trying to stay focused and motivated during this time has been difficult for me and it has been discouraging not having my usual academic environment as well.”
Martin is not sure how she will celebrate commencement, but it will include family and friends and a dinner.
Andrew McFarland, a fine arts major from Mount Gilead, Ohio, said the suddenness of the semester shut-down was difficult.
“I know when I first heard the word about the classes being postponed and closed and everything else, I had a lot of pain and hurt just knowing that all of it went away so fast with the blink of an eye,” he said. “I’ve heard from many faculty and others that they had learned the information about an hour or so before we even did as students, and it just seemed jarring that way.”
McFarland said OWU has done a good job with room and board refunds and working to return items to students who left things back on campus. Graduation celebration plans are up in the air for him, he said.
“I haven’t put much thought into it actually,” McFarland said. “Right now, I have been stuck inside for the last few weeks with my girlfriend and it’s almost blanked on me that I’m actually graduating.”
Mickey Rice, a neuroscience and psychology major from Louisville, Kentucky, said she misses the daily activity of being on campus.
“I find myself getting antsy and stir crazy at home, which makes it especially difficult to do my school work,” Rice said. “I miss my roommate, my housemates, going to Smith late at night with friends, getting breakfast and walking to class together.”
Rice said she could probably “list off hundreds” of things she misses about OWU, but the senior celebrations would be at the top.
“I’m really sad to be missing out on the celebratory moments that I thought I was going to have,” Rice said. “My sorority and the Frisbee team do a number of special things to honor the seniors that I was really looking forward too. I’m so sad that we did not have that time together and that we could not celebrate each other in person.”
Erica VanHoose, an exercise science major and zoology minor from Marysville, Ohio, said she will never forget her time at OWU and all the friends she made.
“I miss not being able to experience the senior activities and the feeling of enjoying all the lasts of senior year before they are gone,” VanHoose said. “I think the best decision OWU made is making sure that us seniors still get an actual graduation ceremony. I’ve been looking forward to that day for four years and can’t wait to walk across that stage.”
Hailey de la Vara & Connor Severino
Ohio Wesleyan campus may resemble a ghost town, but that hasn’t ended university events, including the Golden Bishop, Dale Bruce and Phi Society awards, all held for the first time virtually this past week.
Virtual is synonymous with college life now and Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Google Hangouts are just some essential tools the university wields to keep the OWU community together.
For instance, over ninety participants joined the online chat Wednesday to honor students’ achievements for this year’s Golden Bishop Awards.
Some recipients included Brayams Ayala Ramos, honored with the Charles J. Ping Student Service Award, Paris Norman, awarded the OWU Spirit Award, and Carrisa Silet and Grace Ison, recipients of the Outstanding First-Year Student Award. The entire ceremony can be found here.
The Dale Bruce Awards ceremony, honoring OWU’s top 50 athletic scholars, was held Thursday virtually.
Michael Taylor, the assistant athletic director, said the event included pre-recorded videos of coaches giving awards and celebrating their athlete’s achievements.
“Our hearts truly go out to our senior athletes whom may never get the chance to play their so-called last game,” Taylor said.
The first-ever Phi Society Award ceremony was held Friday and will be posted on OWU’s website later.
Ali Mayer, coordinator of Student Involvement and First Year Programs, said many people pitched in to make it successful.
“There have been a lot of university collaborations to make these awards possible, “ Mayer said. “Also, tons of alumni have been invited, who wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise. Thankfully, we have Zoom and this is able to still happen.”
Fifteen awards were handed out at the greek event, including recognition for Mickey Rice of Kappa Alpha Theta as Sorority Member of the Year, Nevin Horne of Chi Phi as Fraternity Member of the Year and the Delta Gamma sorority winning the Chapter Academic Excellence Award.
Not only award ceremonies are being held virtually, said Dina Daltorio, assistant director of Student Involvement.
Her office posts a list of virtual events and encourages students and organizations to get involved and ask for help if needed. Some events have included things like “Movement Mondays” yoga classes, a resume webinar, TED Talks and other proceedings.
“We are striving to create a sense of community even though students are remaining in constant spaces,” Daltorio said.
Daltorio said she has done her best to adapt with the times, seeking ideas for virtual events through Facebook groups and chat rooms from other colleges and then adapting it to fit OWU’s ideals.
Fridays with Faculty has become a virtual regular and recently included Franchesca Nestor, assistant professor of politics and government, who let students vent political gripes related to the coronavirus.
Nestor said she designed the discussion to be open minded and friendly and available to all.
Other virtual presentations have included astronomy talks at the Perkins Observatory hosted by Don Stevens, its director.
Students have joined the crowd as organizers, too.
Mahnoor Ansari, a member of Citizens Climate Lobby student organization, hosted a movie night to stay connected to his peers.
“We are still connecting OWU and want people to know we care even though we may be thousands of miles apart,” Ansari said.
Alex Emerson and Peter Lujan
The coronavirus pandemic served up a double-dose of misfortune and heartache for 105 senior athletes at Ohio Wesleyan.
They not only lost all the comfort, support and rewards of being on campus and attending classes, but after four years of hard work and sacrifice their final season of competition vanished in a flash.
Not all is lost. Since the cancellation of spring sports, the NCAA announced it would grant senior athletes another semester of eligibility, but not without strings attached.
The organization’s rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period, but the NCAA is allowing athletes to apply so that they can play and have eligibility for another year, as noted in an NCAA press release.
The catch? Seniors must commit to return for a full academic year. So students would have to pay for another two semesters of school in order to take advantage of this extension.
Ohio Wesleyan is working with the NCAA and the NCAC regarding questions about athlete participation and eligibility. Student-athletes will receive updates and information as it becomes available.
Doug Zipp, OWU’s director of Athletics, said some may return.
“It is our goal that our student-athletes graduate in four years and then use their Ohio Wesleyan education and do great things,” Zipp said. “I have talked with a few seniors who are interested in considering a return to Ohio Wesleyan to take advantage of the NCAA blanket waiver, which provides an additional year of eligibility.”
But the situation clearly presents a dilemma for some seniors who can’t afford additional tuition or who have plans for after college.
For instance, Jaliyah Atkinson, a senior on the women’s track and field roster, doesn’t have the time to take advantage of renewed eligibility and said she doubts that OWU can reduce tuition because it has its own financial woes.
“I am not planning to stay a year for eligibility because I already have life plans set up that I plan to follow through regardless of the COVID-19 setback,” she said. “I also would not pay to come back to OWU to play sports. It’s way too expensive and I wouldn’t want the classes I would have to take affect my GPA.”
Senior Tyler Mansfield, a member of the women’s swimming & diving team, finds herself in a similar situation.
“That does not help committing students like myself who are missing out on a large chunk of their spring education,” Mansfield said. “I do not plan to stay a year for eligibility because I have applied and been accepted to graduate school in the fall.”
Zipp said if any students do plan on returning, they must take extra steps to make it happen.
“If a student-athlete graduates, they can re-enroll in a second baccalaureate program or be accepted into a full-time graduate program,” Zipp said. “Any student-athlete who is interested in exploring this option, we are working individually with them to navigate this path.”
Meanwhile, the athletes have not been abandoned, despite the unforeseen cancellation of all athletic competition, Zipp said.
“We are so very sad and disappointed for our student-athletes and specifically our seniors who seasons came to such an abrupt end,” Zipp said. “Our coaching staff has been in constant communication with our student-athletes, checking in several times per week, having team meetings, virtual workouts, educational sessions and academic check-ins.”
OWU senior Nick Braydich, a member of the golf team, said he will not return, but his buddy, senior Ken Keller on the golf team at Youngstown State University, probably will.
“My friend on the team is staying in the area and he’s psyched about the extension,” Braydich said. “He didn’t know if he would be able to play next year after he couldn’t play this season.”
Keller said he loves competing and is thankful that the extension gives him more time to practice his craft.
“The biggest reason I chose to use my extra year of eligibility is that I now have the opportunity to develop my game for another year,” Keller said. “I also did not want to miss the opportunity to compete in another conference championship since this year was canceled. It also gives me the opportunity to take more classes and compete in more tournaments. ”
The NCAA adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility and decided to return for an additional year.
Colleges were also granted the flexibility by the NCAA to give students the opportunity to return for 2020-21 without requiring that financial aid be provided at the same level awarded for the previous year, acknowledging the financial difficulty now stalking universities.
“The (NCAA) Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” chairman M. Grace Calhoun said in a press release. “Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.”
By Caitlin Jefferson and Katie Cantrell
A dreadful financial picture for Ohio Wesleyan grew increasingly more nightmarish with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
OWU’s deficit, once projected to be about $7.6 million, is now expected to surge upwards toward $12 million. And the university will have a cash shortfall by the end of the fiscal year on June 30 of about $2.9 million.
Uncertainty prevails for both this year and next year’s budgets, but it could be much worse next year, said OWU President Rock Jones in a Zoom interview.
“Some of that deficit was happening before the virus,” Jones said. “But the virus has compounded it and the concern about cash is not just the impact of the virus on this year’s budget, but more importantly the impact on next year’s budget, which we think will be significant.”
The coronavirus forced the nation’s campuses to close at a difficult and challenging time for higher education, which employs nearly four million people. Declines in U.S. population is expected to reduce enrollment, even as skyrocketing tuition and student debt have led some to question whether a college education is worth the cost, according to a recent story in the New York Times.
Jones said recently no one knows if students will return to campus in the fall. He said he spoke to other university presidents and Randy Gardner, Ohio’s chancellor of Higher Education, and all think it’s too early to know if students can come back.
Even if they do return, what would that look like? Would social distancing be required? Would dining halls be able to open? Would classrooms be only half filled?
“ … there could be a possibility that we would be able to have students on campus but only one student per dorm room,” Jones said. “There are a lot of scenarios that require attention and planning. Obviously, the best for us would be to know which scenario will be sooner rather than later so that we can plan for one scenario, not six or seven scenarios.”
Meanwhile, OWU’s administration is confronted with multiple financial challenges, including a loss of $60 million in endowment funds and summer camp and conference income and the need to refund $1.5 million in room and board to students.
In addition, OWU could potentially lose both the Ohio College Opportunity Grant and Choose Ohio First funding, said Cole Hatcher, director of Media and Community Relations.
Ohio Wesleyan has examined multiple strategies to help stem the loss of cash, including:
- Eliminating salary increases for next year
- Suspending contributions to employee retirement accounts temporarily
- Examining early retirement buyouts
- Reducing Jones’ pay by 15 percent and the pay of vice presidents by 10 percent for now
What is off the table for the moment is laying off employees, although those who have little or no remote work have been asked to use sick and vacation time. The university has also decided for now not to increase employee contributions for health care, but it is considering a reduction in contributions to employees’ health care savings accounts.
“With no salary increases we felt like it was very important not to increase employees’ share of the cost of healthcare,” Jones said. “The contributions to the health savings accounts, that were established two years ago, were never intended to continue at that level indefinitely.”
Faculty buyouts are definitely on the table with an optional early retirement program.
Eligible professors with 10 or more years of service and aged 50 or older can choose to participate and leave at the end of this academic year or next academic year. Faculty have until June 15 to make a decision.
“The point of this is to reduce the size of faculty since our student body is smaller, so likely in most cases there would not be a replacement,” Jones said. “But there could be a case where somebody is teaching something that no one else can teach that’s essential for a major that’s important.”
Meanwhile, across the country college administrators anticipate that students wrestling with the financial and psychological impacts of the virus may stay closer to home, go to less expensive schools, take a year off or not go to college at all, according to a recent New York times report.
|“It’s a difficult time but people are working hard and working together and we’ll do the best we can.” – Rock Jones
A higher education trade group has predicted a 15 percent drop in enrollment nationwide, amounting to a $23 billion revenue loss. In addition, universities may lose international students who may not be able to gain entry into the country in August due to travel restrictions. Foreign students, usually paying full tuition, represent a significant revenue source everywhere, from the Ivy League to community colleges, the newspaper reported.
At the same time. OWU has already received an “unprecedented number” of financial aid requests. Acknowledging these financial difficulties, OWU has:
- Cut student deposit fees in half and delayed the deposit deadline to June 1
- Delayed a planned three percent increase in student tuition
- Reduced summer tuition by one-third
OWU’s strategy to reduce costs is aimed at attracting new students and to ensure the return of current classes, said media Director Hatcher.
“Students will save $200 each from the lower deposit fee,” Hatcher said. “We are hopeful (these actions) … will help students and families who may be struggling in this time of economic uncertainty.”
The return of $1.5 million for room and board comes in the form of cash for seniors and credits for fall room and board to returning students. OWU is also hoping to see many students sign up for summer sessions, Hatcher said.
“We hope the reduction in tuition will make the summer session more affordable and accessible to a larger number of students and that enrollment will be higher than it would have been with the original tuition rates,” Hatcher said.
Decisions concerning next year will be made after a review of the results of this year’s programs and OWU’s Board of Trustees likely will discuss tuition for 2021-2022 at their October meeting, Hatcher said.
The U.S. government has provided some help for next year with the CARES Act, the largest relief bill in the nation’s history, which allocated $2.2 trillion to support people and businesses affected by the pandemic and the economic downturn.
Of that, Congress provided $14 billion for higher education, with $6 billion earmarked for emergency cash grants for students in financial distress. OWU is expected to receive about $1.6 million, with about $800,000 coming soon to be used for emergency student grants.
“We’re developing protocols now for how the money will be distributed to students … and it will be entirely distributed to students,” Jonessaid.
The balance of the relief money received by OWU can be used to reimburse the university for expenses, like the loss of conference income and the costs for refunding room and board, Jones said.
“We don’t yet know exactly the criteria for use,” Jones said. “There likely will be costs in the summer for faculty development if we are going to have to have some of the curriculum online in the fall, but we don’t know that now.”
Jones said the OWU community has rallied under grueling circumstances and he is hopefulfor the future.
“I appreciate the work that everyone is doing to help navigate all of the challenges relating to the coronavirus including the financial challenges at Ohio Wesleyan,” he said. “It’s a difficult time but people are working hard and working together and we’ll do the best we can.”
By Tiffany Moore
The coronavirus created many first’s for Ohio Wesleyan, but not all of them are bad.
OWU will still host its annual Student Symposium this year, but for the first time it will be online, opening it up indefinitely to a wider audience and giving students more room to show off their projects.
Typically, the symposium is a one-day event where students present their research projects live or on posters. But this year, they will get an opportunity to create a webpage that is scheduled to go live the week of May 4. OWU will train chosen applicants to create web pages using the university’s content management system.
The Student Symposium is used to showcase summer internships, theory-to-practice grants, senior capstones and other academic projects done by OWU students.
The website will be open to the public indefinitely, which is expected to boost the audience and offer an opportunity for prospective students to view student research projects, said Will Kopp, OWU’s chief communication officer.
“I think it will be something that OWU will be proud to show to prospective students and families,” Kopp said.
Students can create a webpage to show videos, photos, text and illustrations related to their research. Previously, about 40-to-50 applicants applied annually, including those applying for presentation or posters.
This year, 30 students applied, but that is a good number considering current circumstances and changes due to the virus, said Lisa ho, assistant director of international and off-campus programs.
“We feel very good about how many students were still willing to participate given the new format,” Ho said.
The research topics evenly cover academic disciplines such as humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. They are also well distributed between independent studies, class projects and grant-funded programs, Ho said.
Digital posters of research projects from previous years can still be accessed through the OWU library Digital Commons site, said Ellen Arnold, associate professor of history and manager of this year’s student symposium,
Arnold says she hopes students will feel proud of the work they have done while using the new online format.
“I hope that all the students involved will feel proud of the fact that such a wide audience will be able to see the results of their hard work,” Arnold said.
The symposium will be promoted to students, families and prospective students through email, social media and the OWU website. The site will also be linked from major web pages to draw in a larger audience, Kopp said.
Katie Cantrell and Peter Lujan
While the coronavirus continues to grind out grim news daily, bright spots do exist, including the efforts and results in recruiting the Class of 2024 to Ohio Wesleyan.
Financial deposits for fall semester continue to come in at an equal or better pace than previous years and new strategies to reach prospective students are working, OWU President Rock Jones announced in a faculty-wide email today.
“Even in this uncertain time, fall deposits are running ahead of or even with the previous four years, and 9% ahead of last year,” Jones wrote. “In addition, we are seeing success with new initiatives to create connections with prospective students.”
Last fall, OWU welcomed 420 new students. This year, many of the projected 450 high school seniors planning on visiting campus are now:
- Taking virtual tours through various platforms
- Attending online Bishop+ information sessionsand
- Trading instant messages with students, faculty, and staff
Jones said this week no one knows, including him, if students will actually return to campus in the fall. In an April 6 administrative report, he said national surveys show many students plan on taking a gap year rather than going away to school and international students may find it impossible to return due to travel restrictions.
“Students from the coasts may choose to remain closer to home, at least until a vaccine is developed,” Jones wrote. “There’s a lot of fear and apprehension out there.”
With millions in the country unemployed, families facing unprecedented financial burdens may not be able to afford college immediately. With OWU facing a potential deficit that could balloon to $11 million to $12 million and a loss of up to $60 million in other income, losing students is far from good news.
Prior to the spread of the virus, OWU was aiming to enroll 450 new students, even though the budget was designed to expect 415, Jones said.
“We are reviewing financial models and adjustments that may be required if enrollment declines, as well as the impact of our decision to cancel next year’s tuition increase,” Jones said. “The entire senior leadership team is focused on this work, as is the entire admission and financial aid staff. We now are looking at different budget models reflecting various enrollments for the fall.”
The overall admissions process has been altered only slightly due to the impact of the virus, Laurie Patton, director of Admission, and Stefanie Niles, vice president of Enrollment and Communications, said in a co-signed email.
|“But luckily we live in an age where prospective students can still experience Ohio Wesleyan remotely.” – Emma Neeper ’20
But virtual tours were developed earlier this year and launched several months before the pandemic struck.
“Students and families can take a virtual campus tour and design a customized Viewbook based on their own specific interests,” they wrote.
In addition, general information sessions are offered Monday through Saturday, along with the option to schedule individualized chats with an admissions counselor by phone, FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or other platforms.
Prospective students and their families can also access nine podcasts on various topics. And the school recently launched Bishop+, which is a series of topic-based information sessions hosted two to three times a week.
In further effort to gain the attention of potential students, OWU has stepped up activity on social media channels, like Instagram.
For a more unique and personalized touch, the school enlisted alumni and current students to write notes, and there’s the “Ask a Bishop” feature on the OWU website that allows students, faculty, staff and prospective students to chat online.
Meanwhile, tour guides like senior Emma Neeper, are still primed to help out and jump into interacting with potential students as much as possible.
“I’m still available to answer prospective students’ questions and to share my experience as a student here,” Neeper said. “I’ve also been sending out postcards to admitted students to congratulate them on their acceptance.”
It’s a new normal for Neeper who is still working for the Office of Admission.
“It’s definitely different than what I’m used to,” Neeper said. “But luckily we live in an age where prospective students can still experience Ohio Wesleyan remotely.”
Connor Severino and Katie Cantrell
Work remains consistent for some Ohio Wesleyan staff as they adapt to remote employment, but others must now use vacation time and sick leave to compensate for an insufficient amount of tasks and assignments.
When OWU sent employees packing to their homes earlier this month, it guaranteed all staff would receive two weeks full pay even if they could only do a limited amount of work remotely.
Last week, the university asked all staff, salaried and hourly, to use sick leave or vacation time for any hours not spent working during a normal work time. All employees are required to document the number of hours they put in each week.
In an administrative report last week, OWU President Rock Jones said that as the state’s shelter-in-place orders remain in place, the school will continually monitor OWU’s finances and decide later if it will need to implement additional cost-reduction measures.
“Our goal is to not engage in staff reductions through furloughs or layoffs prior to completion of the administrative program review,” Jones wrote. “However with financial pressure growing and with the need to preserve cash, it may be necessary to look to more immediate reductions on compensation costs.”
OWU, like many colleges right now, is reeling under the crushing weight of lost revenue with no end in sight. Nonetheless, the school is doing its best to map out a course to continue to help students and staff, said Cole Hatcher, OWU’s director of Media and Community Relations.
“The global impact in all sectors is astounding,” Hatcher said. “(We are) canceling the 2020-2021 tuition increase and cutting the cost of online summer-session classes for students, and working to avoid COVID-19-related layoffs and furloughs for employees.”
Hatcher said the transition to remote work was relatively uneventful.
“It actually has been a relatively smooth transition because the IT Department was very proactive and helpful about getting staff set up with access to shared drives and virtual meetings,” Hatcher said.
While the conversion may have gone well, not everyone has a full to-do list, said Joette Kugler, an administrative assistant for the education and journalism departments.
“If there’s not enough work we have to use sick or vacation time,” Kugler said. “It is easy for those who have built that up over the years, but not so much for the more recent staff hires.”
Kugler is not a fan of working from home and she said she misses the personal touch.
“I feel out of touch, not getting to see faces on a daily basis and having students walk into my office needing assistance,” she said.
Dina Daltorio, the assistant director of Student Involvement, agrees working remotely is a big adjustment, but benefits do exist.
“It is different not seeing students, staff and faculty every day, but now we just connect over phone and video calls.” Daltorio said. “Also, my commute has definitely decreased and I have been able to drink my coffee out of a mug and not a to-go cup.”
|“I feel out of touch, not getting to see faces on a daily basis and having students walk into my office needing assistance.” – Joette Kugler, administrative assistant for the education and journalism departments
Some employees, however, still do go to campus.
The mail room has three people handling as much of their work as possible remotely from home, but no more than one person will go to campus occasionally to quickly check on incoming mail. It’s kept to one to ensure social distancing protocol is observed, said Jill Kerins, manager of Print and Mail Services.
Kerins understands how some employees working from home likely have a less crowded schedule and maybe half the work load.
“I am at home as much as I can be,” Kerins said. “Work has mostly been keeping up with staff mail, but I now have time to work on other things such as web submissions and getting up to date on job descriptions.”
The work load varies from department to department. For instance, staff in the Career Connection office are busier than ever, said Meghan Ellis, the department’s executive director.
In an office that relies heavily on in-person communications, it’s been a big adjustment to move to web seminars connecting students with OWU alumni, who can offer life and career advice and showcase their own work skills.
“Surprisingly since all this started we have seen an increase in student participation within the department and the highest student career involvement among the GLCA (Great Lakes Colleges Association) schools” Meghan Ellis said.
Ellis juggles her OWU work with being a parent, teacher, chef, coach and babysitter for her two second graders.
But her OWU job is also critical because the entire staff is working alongside everyone in the community to ensure everyone remains safe and attended to, but also making sure students feel supported, Ellis said.
“I am just so thankful that I work with people who are open to all life and supportive of one another as one community,”she said.
To help display that support and keep those connections, media director Hatcher said he has tried to enhance the OWU Daily with a “Daily Dose of Fun” and a photo of campus or a fun meme “to help us all feel connected while apart.”