School steps up to serve students
Like everyone else, Bossier Parish Community College is dealing with the unprecedented global challenge that is COVID-19, and we know that the impact of the time we are living now will bring consequences for our students and our community well into the future. I am confident that we have taken the right steps early on to try and “flatten the curve” and mitigate this public health crisis. As each day passes, I find myself reaching new levels of respect and admiration for the professionals at BPCC. From faculty members who are in the virtual trenches with their students ensuring the continuity of instruction, to teams of staff who are fielding calls, emails, and text messages helping students navigate the unchartered waters of our new remote reality, to the Olympic-sized heavy lifting by our Computer Services Department that created a remote virtual desktop interface system in less than 50 hours, to the creative thinking and innovation taking place on multiple fronts to preserve the human connection which is the hallmark of #TheBPCCWay. Authentic caring for students and for one another is not just alive and well at BPCC… it is thriving.
Still, it is imperative that we look to the near future and ensure that we position ourselves to serve our students and our region in ways that drive the recovery of our communities. Adopting new student success strategies now, retaining the students we have during an exceptionally challenging time, and recruiting new students in the coming terms are all critical for establishing the new foundation upon which BPCC will drive economic recovery in Northwest Louisiana.
Our ability to support student success right now requires that we continue efforts to make our support services more accessible than they have ever been. The benefit of the shift to online instruction and to a virtual, yet personal, delivery of services is that we are not bound by the traditional ways of providing these services. Virtual advising, tele-counseling, on-demand disability services, and a paperless financial aid process have provided us with a toolbox to deliver high-touch service and personal/social connection in a world relying on physical distance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. BPCC telephones are answered by real people who provide students excellent service to meet their needs or can connect students to other professionals who can meet their needs—distance erased, and student needs met. This is living #TheBPCCWay, and this is how we win the day and press forward in service to our communities.
With thanks to our faculty and front-line staff connections with student, we are also understanding that the measures of support our students need in order to succeed academically extend far beyond traditional campus services. It is this understanding that originally led to the creation of BPCC’s Cavalier Care Center. While our vision of providing a clearinghouse of services addressing issues of poverty in an in-person, physical location has been delayed, we have opened the Cavalier Care Center remotely and continue to identify and share with students where they can connect with community services helping to meet their basic needs. For students without access to computers or tablets necessary to transition to online instruction, the College has purchased and will loan Chromebooks®.
One specific way that we can improve our efforts to support students during this time is to continue to be much more proactive in reaching out and checking-in with them to learn how we can better address the challenges they are encountering. This understanding is driving the development of a new approach to student support services—one where we will not wait for students to reach out for help. Instead, we will take the initiative to contact them, listen to their concerns, and direct their questions to the individuals best-suited to resolve their concerns. This type of case-management approach will help ensure that more students are retained during what might be the most challenging semester in the history of higher education.
On the enrollment front, registration and recruitment will take on a very different look. At BPCC, we rely heavily upon our faculty to support the registration of students. At present, faculty are decisively engaged in providing online instruction, and that must be their focus. A handful of executive council leaders are working to provide coordinated registration support for current students we wish to retain and enroll in our accelerated “May-mester” and summer terms, and our fall semester. Our Marketing & Public Relations team has developed targeted marketing campaigns (“Open, Online, and Ready to Serve You”) designed to promote completion, retention, and enrollment of current students and recruitment of new students. These campaigns are utilizing geo-fencing to deliver our marketing messages directly to potential students who reside in our service area.
The collective and continued effort of our faculty and staff to reimagine how we might best serve our students is revealing a positive impact on student retention and significant opportunities for BPCC to innovate solutions which will continue to pay dividends over time. Process Improvement is a pillar of BPCC’s strategic plan, and the COVID-19 emergency has provided us with the “necessity [that] is the mother of invention,” as we revise and improve student and employee services and business operations. Our students need us now more than ever… and we need them! Keeping our students enrolled and on a path toward completion is good for them, for us, and for the long-term viability of the communities we serve.
My prayer is that our response to this crisis becomes an example to the world of what is meant by #TheBPCCWay and that we showcase BPCC as a place and a people who care deeply for #OurStudents, #OurPeople, and #OurCommunity.
Dr. Rick Bateman | Chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College.