TURLOCK, Calif. — It’s a brave new world at Stanislaus State University as it and the rest of the California State University system address a new normal for the fall semester during the coronavirus pandemic.
Barring certain exceptions, fall semester at the CSU will mostly be done virtually. The CSU was one of the first to announce plans for virtual courses in the fall.
It’s a move that keeps people on track to get their degrees, but it’s also one that irrefutably changes the college experience. Student will pay a full tuition for only a portion of the college experience.
With a pandemic, limited college experience, and so much more in flux, it begs the question, “Why bother with college this year?”
Ellen Junn, Stanislaus State president, acknowledges that a lot of the college experience has been put on hold for now. She says things like games, performances, art exhibits, student groups, and relationship building are as much a part of college as the courses, but, despite the pause, she's rallying her students forward.
Junn says the last thing students should do now is postpone their dreams.
“If you want to move on your future career, the last thing you want to do is withhold or postpone your progress to getting a college degree,” said Junn. “So, we would say ‘Do not stop!’ We are excited that you are aspiring to get your degree. Come, and we will meet you and work with you.”
The pandemic disrupted the flow of spring semester, but the university’s early planning for a virtual fall semester now gives it time that it didn’t have before.
“It should be better certainly than what happened in the spring, because that happened so suddenly and the faculty were scrambling,” Junn said.
Junn says the CSU was one of the first and one of the largest organizations to make a decision like this, but the timing was imperative.
Many students are close to graduating and the future of fall semester was a critical factor, both for students looking for a university to attend and for faculty trying to piece together a lesson plan for the fall.
As the university gets its bearings, it announced at least six different types workshops, seminars, and mentoring programs. Hundreds of these programs have been announced and hundreds of students have already signed up.
Good news for the campus doesn’t end there. Junn says classes normally held in their 196-seat classroom would likely be too big for a Zoom format, so their goal is to find ways to reduce the size of those courses, possibly into small breakout discussion session with part-time lecturers.
“It is [a] very brave new world,” Junn said. “It is very different, but it is something that I think is kind of cool and maybe fun to experience. And hopefully, it’ll be for a short time and until we can come back to the normal experience.”
That normal might also be a bit more stable at Stanislaus State than at other campuses.
Stan State is a small commuter campus of about 10,000 students. Of the usual 700 dorm residents, about 120 are still around, but they’ve been socially distance to at least one per room, Junn said.
While their students might come from campuses with varying virus levels, Junn says most commute about 30 miles to campus, so they’re not worried about the campus’ future as individual counties handle virus issues.
“Our campus and our county is not a hotspot like L.A. or certain parts of San Francisco, right? Where the incidents of COVID[-19] death and confirmed cases continues to rise, so it’s a safer place from that standpoint,” said Junn.
Furthering the point, Junn says the campus’ enrollment and registration have still been strong.
“We are not showing significant declines whereas other campuses that are primarily getting students from outside of their region that are a little more isolated — Humboldt or Chico, some of those places that are harder to get to — some of them, they are worried about what might happen to their enrollments," Junn said.
When things do become safer, she says their students should be able to feel safer around the campus. For now, the new normal will be virtual courses for fall.
“We know that it’s going to be different, but we promise you [that] we’ll be reaching out and connecting and trying new things to keep you engaged, keep you motivated, and keep on progress to get that degree,” Junn said.
FOR NEWS IN YOUR COMMUNITY, DOWNLOAD OUR APP:
►Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Daily Blend Newsletter