In his first State of the College address since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Daemen College President Gary Olson praised the campus community for their resiliency throughout the crisis and emphasized the college’s fiscal stability.
The virtual presentation covered the president’s traditional spring and fall addresses as the college looks forward to welcoming students back for in-person classes for the upcoming fall semester scheduled to begin on Sept. 8.
“All of us, in one way or another, have spent the last several months making massive changes to our personal and professional lives and to delivering a first-rate academic experience to our students from afar when we moved to all online classes last semester,” said Olson. “This was incredibly challenging, but I am proud to say that our faculty and staff stepped up, came together, and weathered this storm with tremendous composure, efficiency, and effectiveness.”
Olson pointed out that even before the pandemic hit, higher education institutions nationwide were facing a number of challenges that led to the unfortunate closure of several struggling colleges across the country and substantial budget deficits, layoffs, and furloughs at other colleges. The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated an already troublesome situation in higher education.
“The pandemic rocked the world of higher education like nothing before,” said Olson. “Because it interrupted the operations of most colleges mid-way through the spring semester, most institutions experienced a substantial financial loss.”
Looking back on the college’s response since the public health crisis began, Olson credited Daemen’s Emergency Response Team with leading the college’s comprehensive and strategic response to the pandemic. He also highlighted the team’s most recent efforts that have resulted in a detailed reopening plan to protect the health and safety of the entire campus community, including policies and protocols, mandatory COVID-19 testing for all students and employees, use of PPE, density controlling measures, enhanced cleaning and sterilization of rooms and equipment, and many other guidelines and safety measures.
A range of college-wide efforts have also enabled Daemen to maintain its fiscal strength and to have a balanced budget. In addition, extensive technology enhancements have been key to the successful and quick transition to online classes and working remotely. Olson noted that from March 22 to mid-July, Daemen collectively held nearly 12,000 Zoom sessions that total almost 2.5 million minutes in meetings and classes.
“We responded to the coronavirus crisis in the spring with alacrity and thoroughness, and I believe that the plan for the fall is detailed and well-thought out,” said Olson. “The bottom line is that because we acted aggressively early in the crisis to curb spending and move to virtual operations, we managed not to accrue huge deficits as so many other colleges have reported.”
Olson added, “We made it a priority to keep everyone on the payroll, if at all possible, through the fiscal year. I am delighted to say that we managed to follow through on this promise: no one was furloughed or laid off as a result of the crisis.”
As Daemen continues to navigate the pandemic, innovative and aggressive recruitment efforts during this time have been successful, resulting in a slight increase in graduate enrollment compared to last year. The college is optimistic that it will nearly reach its undergraduate fall enrollment goal and first-year student and transfer enrollment will continue to increase.
Olson also applauded many institutional, faculty, and staff accomplishments over the past several months, all of which are signs of the college’s overall strength, prestige, and academic excellence.
“I would like to thank each and every one of you for everything you do, every day, to make our great college such a special place and for your patience and support as we adjust to a new normal on campus,” said Olson. “This is a fluid situation and we are all adapting together. I am confident this will be a successful fall semester that will provide a top quality academic and student experience.”
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