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Staff members’ adaptive response to COVID-19 helps students persist

A number of teams quickly developed new methods of reaching out and continuing service throughout the pandemic.

By Doug McPherson

June 10, 2020

Aerial photo of JSSB and AES building.Metropolitan State University of Denver staff, faculty and students continue to adapt and persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic.

While faculty focused on the move to remote instruction, staff members doubled down on student support and operations, improving and adapting services and developing efficiencies and innovations that might even become standard operating procedure post-pandemic.

For example, in just days following the campus closure, the Admissions Office, which includes the Transfer Admissions team, developed and implemented many “impressive and important” changes, said Vaughn Toland, executive director of Admissions and Outreach.

“(The team) showed tremendous flexibility, dedication and creativity,” Toland said. “It’s simply astounding.”

Those changes included adding virtual capabilities (without the need for Zoom or Microsoft Teams) to campus tours for prospective students, Admissions presentations, one-on-one meetings, chats and events for transfer students. Admissions also added “text-your-counselor” technology that includes text blasts to students. Facebook and Instagram student takeovers let current Roadrunners answer prospective and new students’ questions, and the admitted-student Facebook group allows incoming students to connect.

Stephanie Allen, director of Advising Systems, applauded the advising community for quickly developing virtual advising sessions for new student orientations. “Advisors and the new-student orientation team collaborated and communicated extensively to make that work,” Allen said. “After each orientation, advisors adjust to make it better. Our advisors want the best experience for students, and while this is a huge change, they remain positive.”

Allen added that when advisors noticed a mid-March lull in students scheduling advising appointments, advisors created outreach campaigns using the Student Success Collaborative Navigate system.

“I can’t say enough positive about how great the advisors did in transitioning,” she said. “We really have an excellent advising community.”

Financial Aid and Scholarships also added several changes to improve services to students, including online appointments, a retooled web page and new systems to bolster operations.

“Financial aid is often one of the more confusing processes, so we really wanted to focus on responsive and timely assistance,” said Thad Spaulding, executive director for Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Spaulding says one of his favorite changes was the shift to remote counseling appointments.

“It helps students and families to have a dedicated person walk them through the process,” he says. “It’s the best alternative we have to actually sitting down with them.”

Meanwhile, the Center for Equity and Student Achievement programs are now 100% virtual, thanks to collaboration between Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion and Student Affairs staff, said Cynthia Baron, Ed.D., associate dean for Equity and Student Engagement.

Juan Gallegos, director, Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion, added that the virtual engagement site can be easily embedded in syllabi, Canvas, social media and existing pages.

CMEI also joined Information Technology to expand the University’s calendar to include virtual events, and it has been working with those who shifted to online programming by sharing resources and best practices to improve user experience and student outcomes.

Does your team have a COVID-19 success story to share? Contact to share the details.

Topics: Access, Administration, CMEI, Excellence, Financial Aid, Inclusive leadership, Student Affairs, Student Success

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