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Faculty Update: 

 

May 26, 2020

Dear Faculty & Staff:

 "In a time of uncertainty" 

I am sick of reading, thinking, and writing that phrase.  "In a time of uncertainty" suggests we once lived in a time of certainty.  Unless I was late and missed it, there was no time of certainty in my 60+ years.  The variables may be new right now, but we've always had variables and always tried to handle them well.  For us in higher ed, of course, as in most other professions, we don't know some of the fundamental things that control our work lives, such as whether colleges and universities in the city will be allowed to hold classes in person this fall--we believe they will--and whether we'll be able to provide a good and safe education and experience for our students under the conditions required to prevent the spread of covid-19--we are planning to do this and we believe we can. 

 "In a time of uncertainty" also speaks to our individual concerns about health and well-being.  I confess to being afraid of other people sometimes because they might be infected, of surfaces they may have touched, or what lingers unseen in the air.  As someone trained in literary studies, I'm used to uncertainty, ambiguity, and gaps where I expect meaning but cannot find it.  Reading a particularly difficult poem, however, I never wondered if I would catch something from it.  Confusion, perhaps, but nothing more serious.  Now the world seems far more frightening and confusing than my books--but then it always did, at least to me.

 Living and working during this pandemic, we are uncertain about much, but we are guided by a vast network of experts in public health, epidemiology, and virology whose knowledge is built on a foundation of observation, research, and practice over several millennia.  Expertise matters.  Learning from those trained and practiced in their fields--what we do and have the privilege to take for granted--is the invaluable experience we offer our students.  They learn from experts, and so do we.   

 I'd like to re-frame the conversation, then, from the absence of certainty to the existence of knowledge.  In a time of knowledge--neither absolute nor unchangeable, of course--we will provide the best education possible while protecting ourselves and one another from covid-19.  According to the current plans (always subject to change as circumstances and public policy dictate), we will return to campus in the fall, and we'll wear masks if we can, and wait in long lines for the elevators, people spaced appropriately.  We'll change how we teach because we must, as we admit fewer people in learning spaces throughout campus at any one time and find less crowded routes from room to room.  We'll change how we conduct department meetings, how and perhaps where we meet with students and colleagues.  We'll work with the certain understanding that present circumstances are subject to immediate change.  Should a resurgence of the virus force us to move off-campus again, we'll do that as we did in the spring, but with far more time to prepare.  

 Dr. Anthony Fauci said about himself in answer to Senator Rand Paul that he is not "the end all" when it comes to covid-19 or public health policy.  Neither is current scientific knowledge the end all about the coronavirus, but science is the best source of knowledge we have to succeed in the current circumstances, and we'll employ that knowledge to create a reasonably safe environment.  We will, therefore, adhere to public health guidelines no matter how cumbersome, and we'll adjust our teaching and work practice accordingly.

 PREPARING FOR FALL SEMESTER

Given that we are still in a pandemic, and that new cases are increasing in many parts of the country; given that many health care experts anticipate a resurgence of the virus this fall; given that we've already experienced the difficulties of moving courses designed for on-campus delivery to remote--given all present circumstances--I am asking all faculty teaching courses on campus this fall to prepare for existing social distancing guidelines in the Governor's "green phase."

 According to the recent announcement, the green phase will include the following:  

  1. reducing building capacity, 
  2. encouraging teleworking, 
  3. limiting visitation in certain high-risk environments, and 
  4. preventing large entertainment gatherings.

 For more on this, see the state website here https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-adds-eight-counties-to-yellow-and-17-to-green-on-may-29-remainder-to-yellow-on-june-5/  and here https://www.governor.pa.gov/process-to-reopen-pennsylvania/

To decrease the number of people at any given time in the academic areas of the University as well as elevators and stairwells, we must consider such possibilities as the equal redistribution of fall classes across all available class days and times.  As many courses as possible may need to be hybrids of in-class and online meetings to accommodate the need for fewer people in our classrooms.  In many classes, it may be impossible to have all students in the classroom at the same time, so exams may need to change.  As you know, many colleges and universities are considering an end to in-person classes at Thanksgiving, with classes and exams thereafter occurring online.  We should consider this possibility.

We also need to prepare for the possibility of a resurgence of covid-19 that might force us to take all classes remote once again.  No one wants to do this, but if we are forced to do this, we will, and this time, we'll be prepared in advance.  I therefore ask faculty to plan their on-campus classes this fall for teaching both in-person and online.  In this way, should the call come to immediately go remote, we will make a smooth transition to online classes that were prepared in advance and that closely mirror the on-ground version, thus minimizing the transition time and disruption.  

Online Support is preparing to assist you as you develop online versions of your on-campus classes.  I encourage you to speak with Online Support staff and participate in the training sessions to ensure your remote classes are effective and engaging. They will also help you develop hybrid courses--a combination of in-person and online--which will likely be necessary to meet lower building capacities under social distancing guidelines.  The online group, with input from the covid-19 academic planning committee and recent survey results from faculty and students, is creating a training and development schedule that will be available starting early-June to help prepare faculty for the fall. 

Over the next few weeks we'll have recommendations from the faculty-staff academic excellence contingency planning committee as well as the University's Covid-19 Task Force plan for operating in compliance with public health guidelines during the Governor's green phase. More on all of this will be coming soon.   

We don't know everything right now, but we do know that the ways in which faculty conducted their courses in fall 2019 will not work in fall 2020.  We know that all plans--including course design--must be flexible and hospitable to change.   

That said, while we are living with a lot of uncertainty, we are also living with an abundance of knowledge and a wealth of talent at this University.  It's not a question of whether we'll meet challenges of current and future circumstances, but how.  

 

My best,

John

 

 

 

May 13, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff,

 Today we bid farewell to the red phase of the Governor's reopening plan.  While this does not bring us back to full on-campus operations, it's a step closer, and more importantly, it's the hard-earned sign that the county is moving in the right direction as we continue efforts to prevent uncontrolled infection of the general population.  

Point Park Perspectives Q&A is now posted on the Human Resources website: https://www.pointpark.edu/About/AdminDepts/HumanResources/COVID-19StaffResrouces/PointParkPerspectivesQnA.  Great thanks to everyone who contributed to the answers, and to those who asked the hard questions that needed to be asked.  Special thanks to Lisa Stefanko, who produced this document.  

Contingency Planning has begun as the contingency planning groups--Academic Excellence, Managed Resources, Quality Student Experience, Community Engagement, and Diversity & Inclusion are meeting for the first time this week.  To clarify, these groups are asked to recommend innovative approaches to some of the challenges we are likely to face in the coming months, each group focusing on its area.  They are not responsible for a comprehensive University contingency plan.  That plan will require input from these committees, all academic departments, all major areas of the University (such as the Playhouse and Student Affairs and Enrollment Management), from students, and from administrative offices.  

 Enrollment Contingency Planning:  As you know, contingency planning throughout the University must account for varying levels of enrollment next year.  Since we won't know for certain what our enrollment will be, we must plan for a few significant variations.  Decreased enrollment will affect every corner of the University, from housing to the number of sections of a given course that we offer.  As we plan for the three scenarios and four levels of enrollment mandated by the Board of Trustees, we must take all these things into account and plan accordingly.  We also must plan for the safe return of staff, faculty, and students.

 University Safety is the focus of a new task force, the University's Covid-19 Task Force, led by Chris Hill, Vice President for Operations.  Among its responsibilities, this group will translate local, state, and federal law, as well as public health guidelines from the CDC and other health agencies into a recommended operational plan for the University, with the ultimate goal of maintaining a healthy environment for everyone at the University.

 Once this group has completed a draft of its report, that report will be reviewed by several groups and individuals, including the contingency planning committees and the planning steering committee.  Dr. Laura Frost, Professor of Biological Sciences, who has expertise in microbiology and immunology, and who has been a leader in academic innovation at the University, has also kindly agreed to review the report and provide feedback.  Once the plan itself is approved by the President for implementation, it will be made public.  With changes in guidance and public policy, the University's safety plan will change accordingly, so this will remain a living document for as long as necessary.

 More news to come next week.  Be well,

John

 

May 7, 2020
 
Dear Staff and Faculty,
 
My main goal for writing today is to provide an overview of the structure and process of contingency planning for the 2020-21 academic year.  As discussed by Paul Hennigan in his April 29 video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezzT21rizPA
Contingency Planning Committees
Tune in as President Paul Hennigan shares information about the summer terms, summer programs, and contingency planning for the 2020-21 academic year.
www.youtube.com
and then discussed in much more detail at yesterday's faculty and staff town hall, contingency planning will be a collaboration among faculty, staff, and administrators, and students will express their opinions through a student focus group.   As Lisa Stefanko said a few times at Point Park Perspectives yesterday, everything should be on the table.  We will evaluate the situation and decide which course of action to follow once we know that what challenges we are facing, but courses of action need to be designed now.
What we're planning for:
The Board of Trustees asked us to plan for three scenarios for next year.  
  1. On-campus, in-person learning and full operations
  2. Fall 2020 remote learning, and Spring 2021 on-campus, in-person learning and full operations
  3. Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 remote learning
Under each of those scenarios, we are asked to develop comprehensive plans for four levels of enrollment:
  1. 100% of our originally budgeted enrollment
  2. 10% reduction
  3. 20% reduction
  4. 30% reduction
Each of these reductions, of course, lead to a corresponding reduction in revenue, as presented by Bridget Mancosh at the meeting yesterday.  We will deliver comprehensive plans to the Board no later than June 30, 2020.
Contingency Planning Process
 
The planning process will bring together faculty, staff, and administrators in five working groups based on the University's strategic plan.  These groups are Academic Excellence, Community Engagement, Managed Resources, Quality Student Experience, and Diversity & Inclusion.  Each of these groups will have a focused area of responsibility with the charge to develop ideas and make recommendations to the Steering Committee.  the Committee lists are at the end of this email.
The Steering Committee consists of the following members:
Michael Gieseke, Dean of Student Life and President of Staff Assembly
Bridget Mancosh, Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations
Matt Pascal, Associate Professor of Mathematics and President of Faculty Assembly
John Pearson, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs
Lisa Stefanko, Vice President for Human Resources
The Steering Committee will receive recommendations from throughout the University and pass them to the appropriate committee as well as ensure that the committees are complimenting one another and not duplicating efforts.  The Steering Committee will also seek partnerships with our labor unions through the Labor/Management Committees.
 
In addition, administrative departments throughout the University, such as Student Affairs, the Playhouse, and Alumni Engagement and Giving, will conduct contingency planning in their areas.
 
The academic departments make up the third component of the contingency planning process.  Each department chair is developing course schedules for fall and spring semester based on each of these scenarios and enrollment levels.
 
All of this work will be gathered by the Steering Committee, which will then ensure that the comprehensive plan for each scenario is complete, with implementation and business plans, and then the University's contingency plan for the coming year will be submitted to President Hennigan.  He will, upon his approval, take our plan to the Board.
 
Timeline to Completion
April 28, 2020:  Point Park's Board of Trustees passed a resolution mandating University-wide contingency planning for the scenarios and enrollment levels described above.
 
May 6, 2020: Point Park Perspectives virtual town hall presented overview of planning process and addressed some questions, and the rest will be addressed in an upcoming message.  A survey seeking input was distributed afterward by email.  
 
May & June: Steering Committee meets weekly.  Planning groups meet and develop plans and recommendations
 
June 30, 2020: President Hennigan presents the comprehensive plan to the Board of Trustees
 
We will hold another Point Park Perspectives town hall around this time to discuss the comprehensive plan and provide an update on the fall semester.
 
Below are the lists of planning committee membership.  The committees will begin working in the next several days.  They will be supported by various members of the University who might provide insight and data.  
 
I have not had time today to gather answers to all the questions from yesterday's town hall meeting, but I am working on it and to have those to everyone in the next few days.  In the meantime, please contact any member of the steering committee if you have questions about this process or have a recommendation or information that might be useful to any of the planning committees.  
 
I'll be in touch soon,
John
 

Contingency Planning Committees

Contingency Planning Committees
COVID Planning Academic Excellence COVID Planning Community Engagement COVID Planning Managed Resources COVID Planning Quality University Experience COVID Planning Diversity and Inclusion
JW Tabacchi , Chair - Student Affairs Sydney Fulton, Chair - Institutional Research Brenton Wilson, Chair - Library Caleb Rodgers, Chair - Student Life Barbara Houston - Playhouse
Elizabeth Evans - Library Angela Sexton, Co-Chair - Registrar Nicole Martin - Enrollment Daryn Freedman - Athletics Vincent Rugani - Student Affairs
Todd Slater - Online Division Drew Martorella - Playhouse Jonathan Surmacz - COPA Annie Cassin - Student Engagement Britney Brinkman - Psychology
Barbara Barrow - Literary Arts Rebecca Lee - International Student Services & Enrollment Brandy Loechner - Procurement Sandy Ball - COPA  April Daras - COPA
Kim Bell - Literary Arts Steven Parker-Young - Registrar Ja Nel Orwig - Education Paige Beal - Rowland School of Business Tatyana Dumova - School of Communication
Sharon Brady - COPA Beth Moore - Counseling Center Lisa White - IT Robin Cecala - School of Communication April Friges - School of Communication
Dorene Ciletti - Rowland School of Business Lisa Kasper - Physical Plant Thom Baggerman - School of Communication Camille Downing - School of Communication Sandy Mervosh - Rowland School of Business
Damon DiCicco - School of Communication George Bromall - Rowland School of Business Sharon Brady - COPA Jenna Lo Castro - School of Communication Shawnda Gee - Financial Aid
Aimee-Marie Dorsten - School of Communication Amy Cesario - Rowland School of Business Damon DiCicco - School of Communication Jess McCort - Literary Arts  
Jan Glunk - Education Helen Fallon - Honors Jared Divido - NSET Karen McIntyre - Education  
Richard Gutkind - Education Angela Isaac - Rowland School of Business Laura Frost - NSET Susan Stowe - COPA  
Colleen Hooper - COPA Helena Knorr - Rowland School of Business Linda Hippert - Education Michelle Rutledge-Mostel - Media Services  
Tim Hudson - School of Communication Heather Starr-Fiedler - School of Communication Gregg Johnson - NSET Amy Kier - Center for Student Success  
Patrick Mulvihill - Rowland School of Business Kristin M. DeLuca - Center for Inclusive Excellence Judith Leifer-Bentz - COPA Sandy Cronin - Financial Aid  
Ashley Davis - Center for Student Success Andrew Conte - Center for Media Innovation Arch Maharaja - Rowland School of Business Maggie McCauley - Conference & Event Services
Sarah Guidi - Student Affairs Lauren Steiner - Alumni Engagement & Giving Lauren Irvin - Library Devin Ryman - Admissions
Megan Corder -  Alumni Engagement and Giving Pam Quatchak - Rowland School of Business Justin D. Delecki - Procurement
Molly McClelland - Center for Student Success Shawn Sweeney - Center for Teaching Excellence Tina Morton - Conference & Event Services
Laura Dulaney - Career Readiness Heather Jerricho - Registrar Jim Hardt - Business Office

 

April 30, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
 
As of today, I'll be sending these twice-weekly updates to all faculty and staff to ensure that everyone has access to information and to do my part to build a cooperative environment where we are all working together to meet whatever challenges and opportunities come our way over the next several months.  We may be forced by circumstances to be apart, but we need to work together now more than ever.
Planning for the Future
The University's coordinated efforts to plan for the future began formally yesterday with Paul Hennigan's video message to all faculty and staff, which you'll find here: https://pointpark.edu/StudentLife/HealthandStudentServices/StudentHealthCenter/covid/index.  In it, he announces the beginning of a University-wide planning effort, and includes an example of the planning methodology we'll use.  Relying on the current organizational structures of Staff and Faculty Assemblies, Academic Departments, University administrative units, Labor/Management committees, and other existing governance structures, we will work together to prepare for our future.  The comprehensive planning will be led and facilitated by a Planning Steering Committee:
Bridget Mancosh, Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations
Michael Gieseke, Dean of Student Life and President of Staff Assembly
Matt Pascal, Associate Professor of Mathematics and President of the Faculty Assembly
John Pearson, Provost
Lisa Stefanko, Vice President for Human Resources
Much of the work will occur through the existing committees of the Faculty and Staff Assemblies, and you will hear more about this soon.  Next Wednesday at 3 pm, President Hennigan will host a virtual Point Park Perspectives meeting for all staff and faculty.  During this meeting, we'll provide additional information.  Please look for an invitation from the President's office.  
Spring Semester 2020
Final course grades were due yesterday, and once the Registrar processes the grades, students will begin reviewing them and from May 1 to May 7, they will either accept each letter grade or opt for the P/N option. If students reach out to you seeking helping making the decision, please don't hesitate to refer them to the Center for Student Success, or Jonas Prida, Assistant Provost, who has provided a wealth of information on the P/N option here: https://pointpark.edu/StudentLife/StudentAffairs/COVID-19/studentResources.  This site also includes a short video in which Dr. Prida explains the option and how it works.

Reopening the Campus

We anticipate an announcement from Governor Wolf about the gradual reopening of the state according to his data-driven plan described on the Governor's website: https://www.governor.pa.gov/process-to-reopen-pennsylvania/  The University will continue to monitor the guidance from the Governor’s office and Public Health Officials, and we will determine the right time and process to reopen the downtown campus.   Additional information will be provided when the campus begins to reopen.

Resources and Information on the Future of Higher Education
Point Park University is one of thousands of colleges and universities facing challenges brought on by the pandemic most recently and the changing demographics we've discussed for some time now.  Please visit the growing archive of articles and resources to which the Center for Inclusive Excellence maintains links at this site: 
Faculty Tenure and Promotion
I'm happy to announce that the Point Park University Board of Trustees unanimously approved the President's recommendation to award tenure to the following faculty.  I'm equally happy to announce the names of those faculty who are being promoted.
 

Tenure and Promotion

Barbara Barrow, Ph.D., tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Virginia Chambers, Ed.D., tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Jessica McCort, Ph.D., tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Jason McDole, tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

John McManus, tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Samuel Muñoz, tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Aram Parsa, Ph.D., tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Matthew Pelfrey, tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Jonathan Trueblood, tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Mark Voortman, Ph.D., tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

 

Promotion

Aaron Bollinger, promotion to Professor

Michael Botta, D.S.S., promotion to Professor

Andrew Halasz, promotion to Professor

Sarah Perrier, Ph.D., promotion to Professor

Robert Skertich, Ph.D., promotion to Professor

Please congratulate your friends and colleagues who have achieved these important milestones in their careers as educators.
Online Partner Update

As many of you know, the University is in the process of selecting a partner to manage the marketing of our online programs, recruiting new online students, and enrolling them in our classes.  Our current partnership with Wiley Education Services (formerly The Learning House) is set to expire in April 2021.  The Online Division and Enrollment Management started reviewing potential partners in Spring 2019.  In Fall 2020, a broad-based committee was formed including faculty and staff to hear presentations from some of these potential partners.  Currently, we are still considering five of these companies.  We had hoped that their representatives would come to campus to meet with us and groups of interested faculty and staff, but the pandemic thwarted our plans.  To reiterate, the partner we seek will provide only marketing, recruitment, and enrollment services.  The University will own all the instructional design.  Moreover, the University will advise online students directly after April 2021.  As we continue to review proposals and reach new milestones, we will provide additional updates.

Provost Search 
Kim Bobby and Loren Anderson, the search consultants from AGB Search working with Point Park to recruit candidates for the position of provost, will hold virtual listening sessions for faculty and staff next Thursday and Friday, May 7 & 8.  The information and feedback they hear from participants will help inform the position profile they write, and they will use this profile to recruit candidates and prepare them for the search.  Please watch for the invitation from my office.  To keep these sessions manageable, we'll limit the number of participants in each session, but we will do our best to create enough sessions to give everyone an opportunity to participate.
We've almost it to the last day of April.  Thanks to everyone.  I'll write again next Tuesday,
Best wishes,
John

 

April 20, 2020

Dear Faculty,

 As I mentioned in my message last Friday, I was disappointed and frustrated when I read Matt Pascal’s message to administrators about the University’s future.  I also appreciate and respect the request he made to be involved in our planning.

 

The opening section of Matt’s message correctly stated that at the virtual faculty assembly meeting on April 6, Lisa Stefanko, Vice President of Human Resources, said that the University would keep mission support staff not approved for remote work, employed through the month of April.  Days later, the Federal government issued partial guidance on the CARES Act that changed the situation.  As a result, some staff not approved for remote work were furloughed earlier than planned.  In many instances, this was best for staff members financially because of the provisions of the CARES Act.  Lisa Stefanko has been an extraordinary advocate for the staff, and she and those in Human Resources have focused much of their time and energy working with those being furloughed, to guide them through the process of applying for unemployment, and also negotiating with health insurance providers an additional three months of University paid healthcare coverage for them.  When the CARES Act guidance trickled down from Washington, the staff not approved for remote work were her top priority, as they should be.  We should be supporting and thanking HR staff as they address hundreds of individual issues affecting members of our staff and faculty.

 

I’m disappointed that no one asked why the University’s actions differed from what Lisa told you at Assembly.  Instead, a widely distributed email cast aspersions on Lisa and the administration.  Please, if you have questions or don’t understand something, ask me or others.  If you don’t like the decisions I’m making, tell me.  If you have suggestions, send them to me.  To come out of this pandemic and era of incredible uncertainty in good shape, we need to work together, communicate in a productive and not accusatory manner, and assume the best of one another and not the worst.

 

That stated, and this is vitally important if you are not receiving the communication you need and deserve, that is wholly on my shoulders.  Faculty were not asked about the dozens of tactical decisions made every day since we first realized COVID-19 was going to affect our lives and the University.  This is the administrative work we do so you can do the crucial work of teaching.   You had the monumental task of moving your courses online, making every effort to fulfill Point Park’s educational mission.   

 

As we move into longer-term planning, I welcome your help.  Federal guidance on the pandemic changes daily.  Federal, State and local information and circumstances change rapidly. The decisions that these circumstances require change constantly.  I will, therefore, commit to continuing my written communication with full-time faculty at regular intervals--every Tuesday and Thursday for as long as we continue to work remotely. I will seek and welcome your input, whether sent directly to me or through the Assembly governance structure. Matt and I will keep our lines of communication open and talk frequently over the summer. 

 

 The Future of the University.

 

As we do routinely with academic programs and administrative functions of the University, we will assess our response to the pandemic.  Only through assessment and thoughtful reflection on the information gathered will we know how to improve on our efforts as we look to the future.  I ask faculty to do the same.  Assess your efforts to make the unexpected and unprecedented transition from on-ground classes to online and your continuing efforts to work with our students as they continue their education at Point Park.  I sincerely hope we never have to live through this again, but if we do, we need to use whatever we can learn from this experience and be even more successful.

 

Given the current public health crisis, no one knows what will happen in the next few days let alone next fall and beyond, but our first and best plan is to be fully open and operational in downtown Pittsburgh together with our students on the first day of the fall semester.   This will be Plan A. However, to be responsible to our students and everyone who works at the University, we need to plan for every reasonable—if uncomfortable--scenario.  Having spent the last several weeks managing the immediate needs of our transition to remote teaching, learning, and work, we are now at a point when I fully expect to turn our attention to planning for the future, whatever may come.  We will plan for several scenarios, which we will begin to disseminate soon.  And yes, I would greatly value your help.  There’s a sea of variables we have to consider and then reconsider as each variable changes over time.  The University needs collaborative planning, which means all of us working together to ensure the University remains on its innovative, ambitious, lofty, and mission-driven path.

 

The suggestions Matt included in his email are among the many suggestions University administrators here and throughout higher education are talking about.  We are fortunate that colleges and universities in the region and throughout the country are sharing information, ideas, and asking difficult questions together. Point Park is not facing the many circumstances that arise from the pandemic alone.  Over the last several weeks, we’ve received innovative ideas from many of you, and I hope you’ll continue to think creatively about how we can be well prepared to offer our students an excellent education.

 

Finally, to suggest that we are returning to the past as a University is wholly incorrect.  In my first convocation talk to faculty when I arrived in 2016, I said, “With all due respect to the past, my eyes are on the future of Point Park.”  That was true then, and I feel it even more powerfully now.  We are not returning to the past, regardless of anyone’s fear or hope that such a thing is possible.  Over the last several years, we have grown and changed as a University. All of us are constantly learning from our successes and failures.  Let’s move forward with mutual respect and faith in our ability to succeed.  We live and work in difficult, challenging times.  Right now, we all need each other as colleagues, friends and as a collective, caring community.  I have to believe our accumulated wisdom will see us through.  Stay safe and be well.

 

Respectfully,

John

 

Dear Faculty,
As you work hard to finish the spring semester successfully with your current students, the good people in Enrollment/Admissions are recruiting the incoming class of 2024.  I want to believe we will welcome new students in August personally as they gather for the first day of orientation in the PNC theatre.  Until then, faculty and staff throughout the University have accomplished much and will continue to get our common work done.  Here are some updates:
  1. In just over two weeks, with the help of Student Affairs staff, 932 students moved off campus, most returning home where they are completing their semesters online with you.  Eleven students remain on campus.
  2. To do our part in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the University buildings remain closed except for essential personnel.  We all must have advance permission to enter for any reason.  Jordan Nofziger (jnofziger@pointpark.edu) in Human Resources will assist you if you must come on campus.
  3. Keith Paylo, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, is reaching out to 888 graduating students and department chairs, seeking input on how we might honor our graduating students virtually, at least for now, and to express our hope that we will have an opportunity to celebrate their graduation in person at some point in the future.
  4. Point Park Online and Online Support have been working with faculty during the first weeks of remote learning, and in particular, they are helping students and faculty navigate the instabilities of Schoology, our learning management system, that are caused by the incredible spike in demand during peak times of the day.  We believe that Schoology staff have stabilized the system, and hopefully, you will not experience the same problems you may have experienced this week.
  5. As you know, all courses offered during Summer Term 1 (courses beginning in May, regardless of duration), will be offered remotely.  Please visit our ThinkSummer webpage here: https://www.pointpark.edu/Admissions/ThinkSummerCoursesAtPointPark.  The Center for Student Success staff is reaching out to students who could benefit by taking classes this summer, and we are marketing our summer program to current students.  I'm hoping that our summer classes will have good enrollments and that having gained more practice, our students and faculty will be more comfortable in that learning environment.
  6. Faculty Assembly is meeting virtually on Monday.  If you haven't seen the invitation from Matt Pascal, please check your email and attend the meeting.  The first part of the Assembly will be a Q&A with me and other administrators regarding COVID-19's impact on our work.
  7. The last month has been difficult for everyone, and perhaps none so much as our students, many of whom moved mid-semester, transitioned to online learning (some for the first time), and they are coping with unexpected issues where they live, ranging from internet connections to illness.  If you suspect any of your students are in need of the University's assistance, please use Finishline to report your concerns.  Sarah Guidi will contact the students directly.
  8. Please make every effort to post grades by the deadline, April 29, 2020.  This is especially important this year because we are giving students a one-week window from May 1 through May 7 to review their earned grades and then opt for the Pass / No Credit option.  
As you've probably noticed, I am writing less frequently now that the President is sending a daily message to the University community.  If you have questions you'd like me to answer or concerns you'd like me to address in my communication or to ask others in the University to address, please send them to me.  
 
Finally and always, thank you for your extraordinary work in these difficult times.  Wishing you well,
John

John H. Pearson, Ph.D.

Provost and Senior Vice President 

March 25, 2020

Dear University Community:

Thank you for completing the University’s first week of total remote education.  We will continue to answer questions and share information that is important to you.  You are all doing remarkable work. Keep it up!

Here are today’s announcements:

ON AMENDED GRADE POLICY PASS/NO CREDIT OPTION FOR SPRING 2020

The Center for Student Success and Dr. Jonas Prida are hosting a webinar to answer questions about the University’s Pass/No Credit option. The webinar will be from 11 a.m. to noon Monday, April 6, 2020. Look for more information on the webinar and how to register in an email coming soon from the Center for Student Success. Please take advantage of this opportunity.

ON RENTAL TEXTBOOK RETURNS

If you have rented textbooks and are wondering how to return them, not to worry. Click here for information.

ON RESIDENCE HALLS

We appreciate the organized approach residence hall students and their families have used over the last week as move out continues.  We strongly encourage any student remaining in the residence halls to move out as soon as possible.  All students, with the exception of those with University approved waivers, must leave the University residence halls no later than Friday, March 27, 2020. More information can be found here 

ON STUDENT WORKERS

We know students with work arrangements including Federal Work Study, Apprentices, and General Student Workers have questions about their awards. Currently, there has been no disruption. The University is working on information for you and will have something in the coming days. Thank you for your patience as we work to get you accurate information. 

#POINTPARKTOGETHERAPART

As we support one another and adjust to the changes, Point Park University has created a virtual home for sharing student, faculty and staff experiences and virtual engagements at the hashtag  #PointParkTogetherApart

Videos, photos and online messages are welcome from students, faculty and staff as we adjust to this new, temporary norm.

Let us see what your work-at-home environment looks like and the pets helping you adjust; pass along some tips on how to stay efficient and focused, and seek advice from the Point Park community. 

Stay calm.  Stay home.  Stay safe.

Thank you

Paul Hennigan

 

Dear University Community,

We are into week two of Point Park University remote educational delivery and University operations -- THANK YOU!

I know it has not always been easy and we will continue to face challenges. We have made some difficult decisions to mitigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic risks.  With each decision, the University continues to follow the directives set forth by the CDC, federal, state and local Governments and is fully complying with all government regulations and guidance. 

Here are today’s important reminders and updates:

On Amended Grade Policy: Pass/No Credit Option for Spring 2020

As a temporary measure that reflects the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic on our lives, work and education, Point Park University will offer all students the option of converting letter grades earned in current spring 2020 courses to Pass/No Credit at the conclusion of the semester. Once faculty post letter grades for the spring 2020 courses, students may choose to convert grades of A, B, C, or D to Pass; students may choose to convert a grade of F to N, which means No Credit (see the Student Handbook, page 60, for the University grading policy). Neither the Pass nor the No Credit grade will affect overall grade point average. Students should consider this option carefully by consulting the guide located here.

 To be clear, the process will work like this:

  • Students and faculty complete the spring semester.
  • Faculty post letter grades through the University Registrar's office.
  • Students will have seven days beginning May 1, 2020, and ending May 7, 2020, to select the Pass/No Credit option for one or more grades.
  • Students who do not wish to convert any grades to Pass/No Credit do nothing and the earned grades will stand.
On Residence Halls

Students must leave the University residence halls no later than Friday, March 27, 2020. More information can be found here.

On Changes to Daily Operation of the University

Only those positions essential to the health and safety of the University will be permitted on campus. This move ensures the safety of the workforce and complies with government mandates.  The University continues our uninterrupted business operations remotely. Please review the details of the plan and what you should do to comply with this important change. This plan goes into full effect no later than Monday, March 23, 2020. Click here to review the plan.

On Graduate Hooding and Commencement

The University announced on Thursday, March 19, 2020, the postponement of Spring Graduate Hooding and Commencement ceremonies scheduled for April 25, 2020. Graduating students will be contacted soon by their schools and respective programs regarding ideas and suggestions for a virtual commencement for each school or program. The University will also continue to explore options for a University-wide, in-person, Commencement ceremony for the entire class of 2020 when conditions allow. 

If You Purchased Regalia for Commencement

If you purchased regalia for commencement on line via Oak Hall website or in person from the Campus Barnes & Nobel Bookstore, click here for information on returns. 

On #POINTPARKTOGEHERAPART

As we support one another and adjust to the changes, Point Park University has created a virtual home for sharing student, faculty and staff experiences and virtual engagements at the hashtag #PointParkTogetherApart

Videos, photos and online messages are welcome from students, faculty and staff as we adjust to this new, temporary norm.

Let us see what your work-at-home environment looks like and the pets helping you adjust; pass along some tips on how to stay efficient and focused, and seek advice from the Point Park community.

Point Park will continue to follow our plan to keep the University functioning for our students. Please continue reading these official communications, which will be sent via email and posted to the University website – that is the official source for anything related to the University.

Thank you

Paul Hennigan
President

Dear Faculty,

As you may be aware, Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close as of 12:01 am Saturday, March 21, 2020.  Colleges and universities are not exempt.  However, as the order allows, we will continue to house students temporarily and continue operations onsite to maintain the facilities.  All other personnel who are not required for the safety and welfare of students should not come to campus for any reason after that time--12:01 am Saturday.  If you need anything from your office, please make the trip there today.  After midnight, faculty and staff will not be allowed into the facilities.  

After midnight tonight, if you need something from your office, please contact Jordan Nofziger by email at jnofziger@pointpark.edu at least a day in advance, and he will make arrangements for you to visit your office.  This procedure will remain in effect until further notice.

Thanks, 

John H. Pearson, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President
Office of the Provost
Point Park University
201 Wood Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1984
Office: 412.392.3942
Fax: 412.392.4720

Dear University Community:

As we continue to see new governmental directives during this COVID-19 pandemic, I want to assure you that Point Park University is fully complying with all government regulations and guidance.

We have successfully transferred to remote education delivery and University operations are being done remotely as much as possible. For the students who live in our residence halls, I want to thank you and your families for the way you are handling the move-out procedure in what I know is a very stressful time.

For anyone who is approved to be physically on campus in any form, I would ask that you continue to be careful and practice social distancing measures at all times. Hand sanitizers are full and located at all key entry points to our campus.

UNIVERSITY GRADING POLICY

The University's academic leaders have been in discussion about amending the academic grading policy temporarily to address concerns and issues provoked by the pandemic and the resulting move to remote delivery of Point Park courses.  A decision will be made over the weekend and announced Monday morning. The current academic grading policy can be found on page 60 of the Student Handbook, here.

Point Park will continue to follow through on our plan to keep the University functioning for our students. Please continue reading our official communication, which will be sent via email and posted on our website – that is the official source for anything related to the University.

Thank you.

Paul Hennigan

Hello faculty -

We've almost made it through the "first" week of all online courses and to the weekend. 

We hope everyone who is new to online education is starting to get their sea legs.

Point Park Online has a couple of quick updates:

  • Trainings for next week.  We need your input. Please let us know what you need help on for next week - CLICK HERE TO CHOOSE
  • Virtual drop-in office hours will start next week.  We will start Monday through Wednesday with office hours from 9-11 am and 1-3 pm.  You can find the "office" by clicking into Big Blue Button - http://bit.ly/b3ppo and entering the password - ppoguest
  • ECB-100 – Building Your Temporary Online Course materials – CLICK HERE (Great weekend reading with most recording trainings, etc.)
  • Remember, help is only an email away - onlinesupport@pointpark.edu (Please note that we will monitor the email over the weekend but response times may take a little longer)

Hopefully, we all can take a little breather and enjoy part of the weekend.

Best-

Nelson Chipman
AVP, Point Park University Online
online.pointpark.edu
412-392-4306

Dear Faculty,

Tomorrow, students return to class, and we join a nationwide experiment hoping to slow the spread of COVID-19.  With most colleges and universities in the country, Point Park will take all classes into a virtual environment, and although I know it doesn't help, I want to again commend your efforts, patience, and commitment.  This is hard work.  

Earlier, Paul Hennigan sent out a number of University updates.  My correspondence is aimed more specifically to you and your work as faculty.  The next few days will be critical as we engage students remotely and do our best to meet the learning outcomes for each course we're offering.  Please do not hesitate to call on the good people at Online Learning and the Center for Inclusive Excellence if you would like help with your course as you take it online.  Write onlinesupport@pointpark.edu.

Student Engagement in the Online Classes.  Please, if you believe one or more of your students are not showing up to the online class, not completing assignments, not acting engaged, contact Sarah Guidi through Finishline or, if you don't access to Finishline, email her at sguidi@pointpark.edu and she will contact the student.  I hope you contact the student, too. 

Synchronous class sessions – If you choose to hold synchronous, live virtual sessions with your classes, please note that you must hold these sessions during the same day and time as your corresponding on ground classes.  This will be important for students who may have other synchronous classes to attend.

Online student attendance – It is important to know that students are in their online courses and proceeding in their coursework.  If you are holding synchronous sessions, you can just take regular attendance as you do in your face-to-face classes.  If you handle your courses in an asynchronous manner (in asynchronous courses, students do not meet together online), you can check attendance of students by their participation in discussion boards, submission of assignments, etc.  If you would data about student participation, you can check on this through the analytics function in Schoology.  If you need help using analytics, please email onlinesupport@pointpark.edu.  Lastly, active work in online classes is an important measure for the Department of Education, which stipulates that students in online courses must participate actively in their courses with multiple log-ins per day or per week, depending on how you structure the course.

Change Management.  Every day, the guidance from local, state, and federal health and other government agencies changes in response to the developing pandemic.  The University must adapt and change accordingly.  Sometimes we will make a decision on Monday and then change it on Tuesday.  This has already occurred, and I'm sure it will occur again.  Every day, President Hennigan's task force on COVID-19 meets twice a day to understand the news and guidance and then act accordingly.  Please rely on University messaging for up-to-date changes in policies and procedures.  

Meetings.  The CDC recommends no meetings with more than 50 people.  The White House recommends no meetings with more than 10 people.  The fact is that meeting with one other person can lead to transmission of COVID-19.  While most people prefer in-person meetings, at this time they aren't safe and I strongly encourage you to work with all students and colleagues by phone or online.  This is for your own health as well as the students'.  Many of us fall into the higher-risk categories as defined by the CDC, and it is incumbent upon us especially to follow the guidelines of social distancing strictly.   I will work remotely whenever I can, and I recommend that you do the same.  Committee and Department meetings can be conducted remotely through the Office 365 Teams conference call function.  

University Business & Operations.  The University continues to function, and much like the temporary transition to remote learning, some if not most offices will be functioning remotely.   Please call and/or email any office you wish to contact rather than showing up without checking first to see if the staff are on site.

Library Update to Previous Announcement:   Given the very recent updates about the public health crisis nationally and in the city, all requests for Library items must be submitted online.  If you need a book, play, etc. please log into your Library account (https://pointpark.bywatersolutions.com/cgi-bin/koha/opac-user.pl) and place a hold on the needed item. Email notifications will be sent when items can be picked up from the Library.  All reference transactions will be conducted online.  

Those are the announcements for today.  I will stay in touch in the coming days.  Until then, I wish everyone luck tomorrow, and please stay safe and healthy.

 John H. Pearson, Provost

Hello faculty

As all classes are back in session today, we just wanted to send a quick note to say good luck, have some fun, and that Point Park Online is still here to support you.

Here is a list of support options for you:

  • Schoology tutorial videos – A sweet playlist of short videos to help you and students if needed – CLICK HERE
  • Recordings of the virtual training sessions from the past week – CLICK HERE 
  • ECB-100 – Building Your Temporary Online Course materials – CLICK HERE
  • Online Instructor Resource Center (when you’re ready for the next level) – CLICK HERE
  • Email support for questions on online instruction, Schoology and delivery tools – onlinesupport@pointpark.edu
  • Request a virtual one-on-one session appointment to work through questions or issues on instruction, Schoology, Big Blue Button, Teams, etc. - SET UP YOUR ONE-ON-ONE APPOINTMENT

Annie, Todd, Anthony, Naomi, Chase, Alison (now in IR) and myself have been impressed with your work, attendance in the sessions, and support of each other as well as your patience as we all figure this out.  We all wish you the best for today and tomorrow and the next day. ☺

Keep on the lookout for some follow ups on future trainings sessions and virtual drop in office hours.

Take care-

Nelson

Dear Faculty,

Today we announced the suspension of face-to-face classes on Friday, March 13, through Tuesday, March 17, 2020.  All classes will resume through remote learning on Wednesday, March 18; we will not hold face-to-face classes through the remainder of the semester.  During these next few days when we have no classes, please work with the staff in Point Park Online to convert your classes to an appropriate platform. 

This is a difficult and challenging time for everyone at Point Park, in Pittsburgh, in the US, in the world.  Relatively speaking, here we are fortunate, and I hope our good fortune continues.  The pandemic may instigate decisions every day, and we will keep you informed of these developments, so please check your email and the University’s website regularly. 

The University will remain open, and we will complete the semester so that students earn course grades and the academic credits for which they registered.  Please continue to rely on our great Center for Student Success if you have student concerns, and report those concerns through Finish Line.  The Center for Student Success will communicate with students regarding their virtual contact information, and they will continue to work with students and faculty.  Student Affairs staff will also be in regular contact with students. 

Thank you for remaining level-headed as we all try to address a situation that is continually changing.  I expect many of you have questions that are specific to your discipline.  Faculty in the Conservatory, please work with your chairs and Dean Breese if you have questions about how you’ll manage your classes.  Everyone, please watch for a message from Nelson Chipman regarding faculty support services available to you.   More soon.

Thank you,

John

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Dear faculty -  

Now that the University will be delivering the remainder of on-ground classes in an online modality, the Online Learning Division is here to help.   

Our group has compiled a series of resources that will help all faculty either new or experienced with online teaching get situated in delivering their courses for the rest of the semester in an effective and seamless way.    

Our initial guidance includes the following: 

  1. In order to stay organized, Online Learning has a dedicated support email to handle your questions and requests – onlinesupport@pointpark.edu. We ask that you please utilize this point of contact, as this account is connected to the entire team and will be constantly monitored. 
  2. All faculty are enrolled in our Schoology LMS course - ECB-100 - Building a Temporary Online Course (link here).  This mini-course will take you step-by-step through the things you need to do to develop and deliver course materials, including tutorials on using the Schoology platform.  
  3. The included below infographic serves as a quick reminder on initial things you can do to transition your course to the online modality. 
  4. Online Learning has a variety of University supported tools available for virtual class sessions.  If you would like to continue to hold your class sessions on the same day and time in a synchronous session, the University offers Big Blue Button within Schoology, which serves as a web-based conferencing system. 
  5. Online Learning will provide live webinar training sessions starting Friday on using Schoology, building courses and using Big Blue Button.  Please be on the lookout for the email with the date and time information.

We know that moving your on-ground classes to the online modality may be initially challenging, so please reach out with any concerns.   

Additionally, during this time, we will continue to provide outreach and will add further trainings and webinars, such as on grading and providing feedback, as we move further into this new territory. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding at this time and look forward to getting back to the business of instructing students. 

Best- 

Nelson 

COVID-19 Updates

To the University Community:

From the onset of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Point Park University has followed the guidance of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect the safety and well-being of the Point Park University community, which remains the University’s highest priority.

At this time there are no confirmed cases on the Point Park University campus or in Allegheny County; however, the virus continues to spread globally.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a pandemic, a term the WHO warns not to take lightly or carelessly because, “if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over”. (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen)

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the virus and its transmission, the University will take further action to protect our campus community. 

To continue to respond to this unprecedented, rapidly changing situation and provide a safe campus environment, while ensuring uninterrupted delivery of educational instruction, effective March 12, 2020 Point Park University will implement the following measurers: 

The University will cancel in-person classes on Friday, March 13, Saturday, March 14, Monday, March 16, and Tuesday March 17. Classes will resume on Wednesday, March 18 with instruction delivered online or in alternative forms for the remainder of the spring semester. Faculty will receive further instructions and guidance from Provost John Pearson and his team later today.  Students will receive information from their faculty.  For those students involved in internship, cooperative education, and student teaching, please adhere to schedules provided at your placement sites.  A decision on commencement activities will be determined at a later date.

  • The residence halls will remain open to students.  Students will also have access to dining services, libraries and campus facilities.  The University will continue evaluating this situation as it develops as it relates to University operations and facilities.  Students should continue practicing all recommended social distancing and public health and hygiene measures the University and the CDC have recommended in all campus facilities.
  • Staff should adhere to the guidelines from the CDC on social distancing measures as well as hygiene steps to limit or prevent exposure and transmission of the virus.  Further information will be provided to staff by Lisa Stefanko, Vice President Human Resources today.
  • Athletic events will follow the guidelines in accordance with the NAIA and the River States Conference. Student athletes will receive further guidance from Keith Paylo, Vice President of Student Affairs.
  • Decisions regarding outside events throughout the University and all scheduled performances at the Pittsburgh Playhouse will be reviewed daily and on a case-by-case basis.  The University has been in communication with local arts organizations and will continue to follow best practices.  The production of Pippin will continue as scheduled.  Dean Breese will meet with the cast and company of Pippin prior to the Thursday, March 12 performance to discuss future contingencies.  All University and Playhouse events and performance schedules are subject to change.

We instruct our campus community to continue to follow the CDC guidelines on best hygiene steps to prevent exposure and transmission of the virus (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fabout%2Fprevention-treatment.html).  

We will continue to provide enhanced cleaning services in high impact areas of the campus with the greatest degree of foot traffic as well as provide increased hand sanitization stations in these areas with instructions for proper hand sanitization techniques.

We instruct all faculty and staff continue to alert the University Human Resources Office if you have recently returned from travel to affected areas and to take necessary precautions defined by the CDC. 

While the course of events surrounding the virus and its transmission remains uncertain, I am confident that the Point Park community will work together during this period of uncertainty to support the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

All members of the Point Park University community should check the University website homepage and Point Park University email accounts regularly for updated information and instructions.

 

Thank you.

Paul Hennigan