The Opening Plan for Central State University

By Jack Thomas, Ph.D., President
Central State University

Opening Plan CSU Cares for YOU
As we navigate through the COVID-19 global pandemic, popular questions being asked to higher education leaders are; will school resume in person sessions this fall? Will classes be online or in person? The short answer for Central State University is “Yes,” we will have classes this fall, and we have decided to offer classes in-person as well as online. We established an Institutional Response Team (IRT) comprised of a cross functional internal team that is in constant contact with local and state health officials. In coming to our decision, it is important to be clear about what drove us to our decision, what our plans are, how we came to determine the plan and how we intend to execute and manage that plan. Lastly, and even more significantly, we must be prepared for the dynamic environment that we find ourselves in as it may require that we have a detailed contingency plan should there be a drastic change with the COVID-19 pandemic cases.

The global pandemic has been a constant dialogue since March of 2020, shortly after I was named the 9th President of Central State University. My predecessor convened the IRT and immediately, the team began assessing and planning for CSU.

Why we decided on this plan?
We believe that CSU’s preparedness provides a safe place for our students. We also realize the importance of providing a remote solution so that all students can join and continue their education journey.
Higher education is a proven game changer for individuals. When we look at who CSU serves and their individual backgrounds, many are first generation and from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The data and our experiences show that our students greatly benefit from getting a college education. Given where the economy is, it is important that we position CSU to enable these individuals to begin or continue their education journey.

Forty-five percent of our students come from Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Chicago and Detroit. When you review the COVID-19 cases in those locations in comparison to Wilberforce, OH, the risk is significantly less than in those major metropolitan areas. Our rural location works in our favor and positions CSU to be a safer location away from the more aggressive COVID-19 presence in their home cities. Our rigorous plan, frequent testing and cleaning processes will support a haven for all our on-campus students.

What is the CSU Plan?
In fall 2020, CSU will offer students the options of both residential and virtual learning.

For students who prefer a residential college experience, CSU is offering classes using a hybrid-cohort model that combines live, in-classroom learning and remote learning through synchronous video.  To maintain social distancing and assure safety, in hybrid courses, students will alternate attending in-person and through video conference according to their assigned cohort.  For students who prefer to study fully online, CSU is offering classes in two formats.  Some online courses will use the University's online learning system to deliver all instruction asynchronously while others will meet remotely using live, synchronous video conferencing.  With the option to study either in residence or fully online, CSU provides students with choices and the flexibility to begin or continue their education in a format that fits their needs.

Contingency Plan Should the Virus Get Worse
The hybrid model is designed to make an immediate and flawless shift should COVID-19 get out of hand and universities will have to go back solely online. The IRT will continue to meet to monitor developments related to COVID-19 response and will update reopening plans accordingly. Specifically, the IRT will:

  • Maintain membership and participation on statewide COVID-19 response teams
  • Share information and resources with local governments, townships, city officials, and health departments
  • Develop and provide COVID-19 specific training and workshops to faculty, staff, and students
  • Communicate operational plan changes and emergency response procedures to the campus community  

Resource Plan
The Identification of Resources Will be Key
CSU has and will continue to launch a series of targeted strategic fundraising plans that will be specifically supporting technology infrastructure and immediate student support needs. Additionally, we have begun soliciting in-kind support for necessary supplies to reinforce a safe environment for the campus community. Our areas of focus for these efforts are:

  • Technology infrastructure
  • Immediate student support needs
  • University academic support
  • Health and safety supplies

The Cares Act Funding has been beneficial for CSU. CSU used Cares Act funding to refund spring room and board costs, to provide additional financial aid for students attending summer school, and to implement critical technology upgrades necessary to support on-line and hybrid learning models. It is imperative that such support continues so that we can continue our education process.

As we continue to navigate through these unchartered territories, CSU can not only focus on survival, but rather, we must focus on thriving and elevating the institution and fully embracing every growth and learning opportunity that these unique circumstances present us. That will require our leadership to be engaged in strategic and critical thinking, our students to be vigilant and stay focused on the pursuit of their education and determine the best way to engage, and our community and stakeholders to support CSU as much as possible as we all work to provide the world with the talent that CSU has been providing over the last 133 years.

Central State University, located in Wilberforce, Ohio, is a regionally accredited 1890 Land-Grant University with a 129-year tradition of preparing students from diverse backgrounds and experiences for leadership, research and service. The University fosters academic excellence within a nurturing environment and provides a strong liberal arts foundation and STEM-Ag curriculum leading to professional careers and advanced studies globally.


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