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President's Corner

A bi-weekly column from the Office of the President

Completing the Semester at a Distance

May. 04, 2009 1:24 PM | Author: Dr. Steve Shirley, VCSU President
Dr. Steve Shirley, VCSU President

Dr. Steve Shirley, VCSU President 

With much cooperation, persistence, and hard work by the entire community and beyond, Valley City has been fortunate to avoid catastrophic loss of property or damage from the flooding Sheyenne River. No doubt there have been some losses, inconveniences, and disruptions, but there has been no loss of life and no widespread/city-wide flooding. At Valley City State University, we are currently engaged in the important work of finishing this academic year online and at a distance while Valley City moves into recovery mode.

It is important to note that VCSU is completing the Spring Semester via distance-based and technology-based methods, and that we have NOT canceled the semester as had been stated in some media reports. The spring semester continues at VCSU; it is simply occurring at a distance rather than on the physical campus. It is also important to note that the VCSU campus is completely dry and safe. We did not take one drop of water due to the outstanding efforts of local, state, and federal entities along with work by our dedicated facilities services staff. Due to its location in the 500-year flood plain, our campus has, however, paid a temporary toll due to the contingency levees, evacuation orders, and other flood preparation measures.

Fortunately, VCSU is in an excellent position to complete the semester despite the fact our students will not be on campus the final few weeks. Because our students attend a laptop university, they each have computers equipped with the latest software and configured to work well in a distance-learning environment. Our online learning management system allows our faculty to teach courses, and allows our students to learn, in ways similar to their on-campus experience. Many of our faculty routinely use these assets in their on-campus courses, so for them, this transition is almost transparent. As part of the flood preparations, our IT staff has worked diligently ensuring all necessary technology services remain available as our students complete the semester.

To be sure, the face-to-face classroom interaction is important in the educational experience and will be missed as we complete coursework at a distance. Our students departed campus for Easter Break believing they would only be away for a long four-day weekend. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and our students were not able to return for the final few weeks to enjoy springtime on campus, say goodbye to their friends and professors, and routinely end the academic year in a fashion we normally take for granted. We look forward to seeing our graduating seniors back on campus for Commencement which will occur in the VCSU Osmon Fieldhouse on Saturday, May 16. Additionally, we look forward to seeing our returning students back on campus this summer and in the fall as those semesters will occur uninterrupted as scheduled.

Adversity often brings out the best in people, and I have seen our faculty, staff, and students, as well as the rest of the Valley City community, demonstrate this every day for the past month. We have seen the very best in all of our citizens throughout North Dakota and Minnesota all spring in fighting and winning the flood battles. At VCSU, we are rising to the challenge of completing the semester without benefit of an on-campus presence. At the same time, we are committed to providing a quality educational experience for our students. I am confident in our ability to succeed. This is an exciting time at VCSU, and a wonderful opportunity for the university to demonstrate its capability in creatively and successfully doing the important work of educating our state's students during this unprecedented event. If any campus has the ability to meet these challenges, it is certainly VCSU!
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