Reflections, Sustainability Champions, Credit/No Credit, and more
Reflections, Sustainability Champions, Credit/No Credit, and more
Grand Valley State University
Interim Dean Mark Schaub

Dean's Message

Moving Down
Twenty years ago next month, I was busily preparing to move WRT 305 to an online delivery format. In 2000, that was a big deal, not only for me personally and professionally, but also for the institution. Then- Vice Provost for IT and Enrollment Bob Fletcher was looking for “pioneers” to try this somewhat radical approach. We were showered with offers of incentives and support, though there were not yet any full-time instructional designers hired. I wasn’t alone, though; it was a group effort. Two of us team-taught that initial section, with the expectation that we’d develop a guide for other instructors to teach it in the future.
All of you faculty colleagues have moved your courses away from in-person delivery, and it’s still a big deal. An even bigger deal: you didn’t have weeks (months?) of preparation time to do it. You didn’t enjoy the luxury of team-teaching with a tenure-track faculty colleague. The same goes for the students; when Dan Royer and I did that first online section 20 years ago, the students knew what they were choosing, and we had the time to email them before the term start to manage their expectations and help them ramp up. Our current students were blindsided by this transition, their sudden departures from their campus community, and their sudden break from proximity to you.
I do hope that in this shift you’ve been able to strip away as much course complexity as possible, and get down to core essentials. The elemental course objectives are the focus, and in the words of Christine Rener (Director of the Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center) last week: “keep it simple.”
My life partner Gayle and I have been moving our work to the basement of our newer, smaller home. Last week, we downsized two dumpsters’ worth of donations, deep discount sales, and trash, and moved into 650 fewer square feet of living space. It’s been a helluva week to move! It’s forced us to focus a bit more on our essentials. But unexpectedly, I have been struck by panic from some of this: feeding ourselves with a mini-fridge and a freezer that fits two ice cube trays has caused anxiety. And seeing shelves at Meijer stripped bare simply freaks me out!
Those are my own private anxieties, and I am certain you may have many more. What helps offset anxiety, somewhat, is being virtually surrounded by great colleagues and friends. By knowing that our faculty are doing their best to deliver their courses as best they can and alleviate the fears of our students. By being needed by students. And by asking – and receiving – help from others.
I am scared. But only scared some of the time. The rest of the time I find comfort in others—including you. Take care of yourselves. Take care of one another.

Reflections on the past week

We asked several members from Brooks College community to share their reflections on the past week. Two faculty members, a staff member, and two students shared their thoughts on this transition to teaching and learning online and working from home.
Jeremiah Cataldo, Associate Professor, Frederik Meijer Honors College
"Lately, there's been a lot of posts and articles scattered about the web, email, or various other forms of social media; even newsletters and information sent out by universities and the various departments and organizations within them. Their focus is on how to effectively transition to online teaching. These are good, especially for those individuals who have never taught an online course before. But there's a risk of inundation. There's also this: no virtual environment can duplicate the in-person classroom. Were it possible, universities would have made that switch a decade ago in greater numbers.
Something else that I've noticed is the plethora of "individual experts" who claim to have the right formula for making the transition. I am not one of them. I do not have a magical formula. Instead, I can say I have learned this: the "effective" transition to online teaching in a time of crisis entails doing this, making the transition. It won't be pretty, and neither will it be perfect. It won't be something I'll want to duplicate. I will teach other courses online, but those will be different. Those won't be rushed, forced, entirely responsive to a worldwide phenomenon that has created hermits out of a social world.
I'd like to hear the University say that it won't run course evaluations (or throw out any already gathered) this semester.
Virtual classes cannot duplicate any in-person environment. The culture we built, the social interaction we used to move productively through our materials, demands personal interaction. And, we do need to recognize that students will be signing in from different locations and time zones. For me, asynchronous modules have put my mind at ease. I post scripted lectures on Blackboard. These "lectures" are overviews that set up the framework for the readings and other multimedia assignments included in each module. Three- to five-question comprehension quizzes (using Google Forms) help me measure student comprehension. Discussion boards facilitate, again in an asynchronous manner, prompted discussions. In cases where I need to meet with students, I have found Zoom to be extremely helpful (BB Ultra is also capable). I tend to start those meetings as audio-only, switching to video only if a student needs and is comfortable doing so, and sharing desktops when necessary to work through a problem together.
We've heard frequently that we need to be sympathetic to students, that their lives have been turned upside down. Yes, that is true. And we will undoubtedly try. But let us not forget that the lives of staff and faculty have been turned upside down as well. Everyone should take some time to acknowledge that the stability of our social world has been rocked. Our established rituals, our patterns, our escapes have all been put on hold. We find the need to create new quarantined rituals, patterns, and escapes.
For many of us, our routines now include childcare and homeschooling. Our children's teachers are faced with making similar transitions. It's not pretty. There are papers combined with digital assignments. There are proffered and altered due dates. There are confusing means of picking up work and dropping it off. But there is one constant, we have become the primary teachers for our children. I teach my son fractions while also teaching my collegiate courses on religion and society, and the Bible.
Add on to that the stress of the economy, the stock market, and the panicked buying frenzies that come in waves. We are forced to transition all of our courses online, teach our children, worry, and stress over the stability of our families. In addition, my wife is a nurse in a local hospital. Wearied from her workday, she knows, as do I, that she may be bringing more than expected into the sacred confines of our home.
There is no magic formula. There is only stepping up. And so we will. Eventually, we will come out of this on the other side."
Denise Goerisch, Assistant Professor, Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies (IRIS)
"Students have really appreciated speaking to me one on one this week. I think they find it comforting that their instructor wants to know how they are doing and that their instructor is a source of support and guidance during these precarious times. I've been using this burner phone app, but Skype and Blackboard Collaborate also work to meet with students. I know this is a lot and this is not doable for everyone, so I encourage you to send an email to each student in your classes to check-in to see how they are doing. I did this with my other classes this week and students really appreciated knowing their instructor was looking out for them. Some of them wrote me very long emails about the difficulties they are facing. Please give students the space to share with you what they are going through.
They also MISS YOU! I know that seems weird, but they miss seeing you every week. They miss seeing their classmates. Many of the students describe this as a ‘loss’ and they are grieving. For many, this is their last semester at GVSU, and they are incredibly sad that they are already experienced their last in-seat class with you and their fellow students. I have a few reflections based on these conversations:
• Students have had very little time to adjust to a fully online format without being given many resources on how to adjust. The Knowledge Market has online learning tips for students who need help adjusting.
• Since students have had little time to adjust, scale back and make adjustments. Students are overwhelmed with the amount of work they are getting that they never had to do in FTF classes (e.g. reading quizzes, lecture quizzes, reading responses, etc.) This is leaving very little time for them to complete assignments that are worth more points in other classes. For larger assignments or activities, think about what is essential to the student learning outcomes. For example, is a final research presentation essential? Even if there are other ways a student can present their work online, they may not have the time or means to do an online presentation.
• Many students have now LESS time to dedicate to course work as they take on extra shifts at work or they’re taking care of others. This is a lot of added stress. They really appreciate the adjustments you make to your course content and assignments.
• Offer deadline extensions. While there are some deadlines we have to uphold in order to keep some sort of structure to the course (especially if we have scaffolded assignments), give students the option to turn in work later and keep mentioning this to them. Students are often too afraid to ask for extensions; so please try to normalize that asking for extensions is ok.
• Students are receiving a TON of emails a day and do not have time to read them all. Try not to overwhelm with too many emails.
• Many students do not have a space to study and complete assignments. With campus, public libraries, and coffee shops being closed, students are having a difficult time working from home. Many students are also working remotely for the first time. Please account for this when assigning work."
Delaney McDonald, Geology with Urban and Regional Planning Emphasis, Semester in Grand Rapids Alum and Recruiter
"Moving classes online has really challenged students to be more flexible. It has been a frustrating transition, but one of the most impactful gestures is how accommodating my professors have been during the switch. I think it is important that faculty recognize the far-reaching effects that remote learning has on students. Now more than ever, we are in need of their understanding and support. Nothing about it is easy, but I do believe that I will be a stronger student in the end."
Margaux Sellnau, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Design Thinking Academy Fellow, Sustainable Agriculture Project Intern
"So what now? Coming up to the last semester of my bachelor's degree, I never could have anticipated it to end like this. The idea of moving classes online, it is bittersweet. With these virtual classes, students are missing out on a large piece that we would otherwise have in person. I’m going to miss the face-to-face interaction the most. Although, the good thing is that we’re protecting ourselves, the ones we love, and our communities. Throughout this uncharted area, I had a conversation with myself of what was inside my control and what was not. Before, I wasn’t able to go to class with my cat, but now I am. This pandemic could completely shape my generation for what we are known for. I just know when I get old, I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about this. This sudden change to online classes does have its downsides, but we can’t forget about the good parts of it too."
Troy VanKoevering, Office Coordinator, Office of Sustainability Practices
"Being suddenly told that I need to go home and work from home indefinitely was initially quite shocking. I’m one of those people who really enjoys going to work at the gorgeous Allendale Campus, and the quiet Sustainability Office is a wonderful place for a hardcore introvert to work.  I like my daily work routine, so to have it suddenly upended was quite unnerving.  I initially worried that I might not have all I need to work from home, but having a GVSU-issued laptop has been extremely helpful.  I have access to our shared drive, Outlook, CMS 4, Ultratime…pretty much everything I need to get most, if not all, of my work done.  My partner has been laid off, and we have four children between us who are also home due to the school closures, so having all six of us suddenly home all day, every day has posed its own set of challenges.  But we are all doing our best to adjust and give each other space.  It’s easy to see that our situation is SO MUCH better than so many others who are suffering in this country and around the world right now, so we are grateful."

Sustainability Champion Award winners

Congratulations to the 2020 Sustainability Champion Award winners who have demonstrated, both in word and deed, they have can be looked to as leaders in sustainability.
Student Award Winners: Francesca Ortisi, Julia Majewski, Natasha Stewart, Gregory Goodwine, Mary Hirschauer, Sabrina Jenkins, Griffin Rogers, Clayton Rzepka
Faculty/Staff Award Winners: Joe Bitely, Kaileigh Hennard, Dave Edwards, Mark Minnema, Marc Westrate, Alan Scott, Vince St. Germain, Kate Fairman
Community Award Winner: Marci Cisneros
Group Award Winners: Repair Clinic: Colleen Lindsay-Bailey and Monica Johnstone
Special Honor: Kelly Parker
Nichols Sustainability Scholarship Award Winners: Carolyn Morgan, Brooke Keck, Rebecca Damuth, Adara Dawson, Maya Deciec
For more information about the Sustainability Champion Awards, visit

Credit/No Credit update

Given that students who signed up for seated courses are now taking those courses online, the Provost has provided an avenue for students to change any of their winter courses from a letter grade to credit/no credit (Cr/NC). Given the current circumstances, these courses will not count towards the maximum number of hours that can be taken Cr/NC. Please let students in your courses know of this option, and remind them that the lowest grade for credit to be granted is a C- (sometimes students assume a D will earn them credit). Students should complete the electronic Cr/NC form and email this form with justification to their academic advisor, who will contact the student if there are any negative consequences of such a change. If the advisor approves, they will forward to the registrar, or  if the course in question is required for the student’s major/minor  to the unit head of the student’s major department. (If the unit head approves, they will forward to the registrar.) The deadline is 5:00 P.M. on March 31.

Share your silver lining story

To help us all stay connected during this season, we're starting a fun series about the silver linings of working from home. Each week, we'll share stories on our social media accounts and via email. Stories can be short or long, serious or funny, whatever you like! If you have a photo to include, even better. Share your silver lining story by emailing Thank you!

Job opportunity for students in the Knowledge Market

The Knowledge Market is currently hiring research consultants for the 2020-21 academic year. Research consultants help students with the entire library research process, including brainstorming topics, exploring research, and citing sources. Please share with students who may be interested and direct them to to learn more. The application deadline has been extended until April 3.

President Mantella's WGVU radio interview

On March 20, President Mantella spoke with Shelley Irwin on the WGVU Morning Show about transitioning online and what's ahead. Listen to the conversation on the WGVU website.

Faculty calendar & deadlines

April 18: Classes end
April 20-25: Exams week
April 25: Semester ends
April 28: Grades due from faculty by 12:00 P.M.
May 4: Spring/Summer classes begin
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