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Fall Planning Task Force report July 13, 2020

To guide Palo Alto University in its planning for the 2020-21 Academic Year, President O’Connor convened a Fall Planning Task Force in early May and announced its plan of action at the May 14 campus Town Hall and in a May 24 community announcement. The Task Force was charged with evaluating our options for how best to proceed in the coming academic year through the lens of principles and values that:

  • Prioritize the health and safety of our students, our faculty, and our staff, to the greatest extent possible;
  • Prioritize the continuity toward degree and high quality academic education for our students while ensuring maintenance of accreditation requirements; 
  • Foster innovation and flexibility in our thinking and planning;
  • Strive for the highest quality in our graduate students’ clinical training, at Gronowski Center and, in community settings; and,
  • Make the most responsibly efficient and optimal use of budgetary, facilities, and technology resources to support the academic success of our students and faculty.

The steering committee of the task force began meeting in early June as a way for the subcommittees to come together and share their preliminary findings and talk through issues and possible recommendations. The final recommendations from each subcommittee were submitted in late June. The recommendations and guidance provided in this report represents the collective and data-driven consensus at this time as to how best to launch and manage the 2020-21 Academic Year at PAU.

Overview of Planning Considerations:

Planning in the current uncertain environment is challenging at best. Public health guidance is in a state of flux with constant modifications and directives, with often conflicting information coming from the federal, state, and local levels.

The pandemic is disproportionately impacting communities of color.  Mitigation measures are also having a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color. Further, PAU community members (students, faculty, and staff) are working hard to navigate new and changing responsibilities related to the pandemic and mitigation efforts. Very recent and challenging federal policy changes may unfairly affect our international students. We are committed to assisting our international students in every way possible and will work with each one of our students to meet the policy requirements. These considerations must also be taken into account in our preparation for the next academic year and beyond.

We also know that what makes PAU such a powerfully transformative experience for so many of our students is the strong sense of community and connection that are so important to student satisfaction and success. Academic success and engagement are integrally linked; and, we must keep this in the forefront when managing through this unprecedented time.

A limiting factor in our ability to plan forward is the small size of our classroom facilities. Under current public health guidance, we may only have a very limited number of people at any of our four campuses at any one time (given square footage and social distancing rules). In particular, at the time this report is written, we can only allow between 7-9 people in Wiz Hall at Calvin Campus; 5-7 in Classroom 2 at Calvin; 12-14 in D11A & B at Los Altos Campus; 4-6 in our DeAnza classroom; and 8 in the Calvin Library. And, even then, strict compliance with public health guidance will require each of our campuses to be COVID-19 prepared – with protocols, masks and hand-washing requirements, health check questions, and great care and cooperation for the health of our community.

The continuity and safety of our graduate students’ clinical training is of foremost concern as well. For that reason, we are prepared to keep the Gronowski Center operating with tele-health services for the foreseeable future. Moreover, we have invested in developing, and will continue to focus on, additional PAU-based clinical opportunities that can be done in compliance with public health mandates or via tele-therapy to assist students in obtaining required hours where community sites are not in compliance with public health guidance.

Fortunately, PAU has a number of distinct advantages in these uncertain times. We can be flexible; we can adopt a hybrid approach to teaching; and, one of our strengths is knowing how to support our students’ success by providing high quality education in psychology and in counseling in the classroom, in an online or in-person  environment, and in clinical settings. We have dedicated faculty who have spent the summer ensuring that they are prepared for this coming year and a staff that is willing to do whatever is necessary to support our students’ education. We are not, however, willing to require anyone to be physically on one of our campuses if they, for personal, health or family reasons, need to stay in a more isolated status. We also recognize that a faculty or staff member could become ill during the course of the academic year. In an effort to be as prepared as possible to maintain continuity in our students’ educational experience, we are cross-training staff and asking faculty to have their course pages, assignments, and grading rubrics on file in their respective departments by the start of the academic quarter.

A final consideration in developing this report is that the situation could continue to change at a moment’s notice, as it did last March, and as it did just this week. We want to be in the best position possible for continuity and completion of the academic quarters even if the state or county re-imposes a complete stay-at-home order. 

Overview of Recommendations:

Schedule and Calendar

  • The current Fall course schedule will remain in place with no day/time changes.
  • No changes to the academic calendar are being made at this time

Hi-Flex/Hybrid Model of Teaching. Classes will be offered in a hi-flex model.

  • All classes that had been scheduled to be offered on one of our campus locations will be prepared to be offered in a synchronous, on-line modality using pedagogy techniques designed to enhance the effectiveness of instruction;
  • In addition, and within classroom resource and public health constraints, faculty are encouraged to create hybrid in-classroom programming for students to participate in academic, research, and instructional activities in person and/or on-campus according to approved PAU and public health guidance.
    • These targeted in-classroom activities may be led by faculty and/or specially-trained teaching assistants on campus or remotely using Zoom displayed in the classroom.
    • Targeted in-classroom programming will be prioritized for incoming cohorts of residential students and international students, in our doctoral, mental health counseling, and undergraduate program. We will work individually with all international students to ensure they are provided the federally-mandated on-campus class experience.
    • Planned in-classroom opportunities will emphasize small-group learning, social interaction, and connection with other students and the institution, academic and professional engagement, and continued development of academic, research, and professional skills and identities.
  • All on-campus activities must be pre-approved and scheduled by OAA in coordination with the Facilities department to ensure safety and adherence to current guidelines.
  • Additional clarification and communication regarding the implementation of a hi-flex/hybrid model will be provided by the Office of Academic Affairs working with faculty leadership

Training and Academic Support for Faculty.  Additional training, resources, and support for faculty will be offered in order to ensure the quality of synchronous online teaching and development of hybrid opportunities.

  • Our Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) and OAA has been and will continue to provide additional information and training for faculty.
  • Designated Teaching Assistants will receive enhanced training in academic technology to support a hi-flex learning environment.

Continuity of Clinical Training at Gronowski and in Practica.

  • The Gronowski Center will be fully operational. The Center will provide services through tele-therapy and other modalities that do not require in-person therapy that are in full compliance with privacy and confidentiality considerations. Students will not be able to see clients at the Los Altos Campus due to the difficulties navigating the social distancing protocols required. Individual and group supervision will be provided in synchronous ZOOM format.
  • The University Clinical Training Committee has developed a protocol for managing clinical practicum placements for all doctoral and mental health counseling master’s students. The protocol requires each practicum site to certify that it is in compliance with relevant county and state public health guidance; and, for each student to assess their own situation to determine whether they are able to be present at that site if physical presence is required.
  • Where students are not able to obtain a practicum due to health and safety considerations, additional tele-therapy supplemental practica are being developed to the extent possible to allow accrual of clinical hours.

Additional Student Support. Given the additional challenges resulting from the pandemic, the following additional resources will be needed to support student success.

  • Enhanced mental health support for students.
  • Continued development by Student Activities of meaningful opportunities for engagement outside of the classroom.
  • Updated PAU Department portal presence to make it easier for students to find what they need.  A good example to follow would be the Business Office page. 
  • Proactive check-ins with students on managing the academic and extra-curricular challenges for our students. 
  • More frequent and targeted outreach to students, including those with disabilities, international students, and veteran students.

Tuition and Fees. There will be no change in the posted tuition and fees for the 2020-21 Academic Year. We have, however, moved additional resources (from unspent travel funds) into the COVID-19 Student Relief Fund to help offset hardships caused by the pandemic. Unlike universities that have residence halls and auxiliaries such as cafeterias, gyms, etc., that generate revenue that offsets student tuition, and that can save money by closing those facilities, PAU’s costs have increased during the pandemic. We have been called to move additional resources into training for online pedagogy and for hiring additional TA’s to support the pedagogical shift of our classes online. We have had to purchase additional equipment and academic technology so that everyone could teach, learn, and work from home and in hi-flex/hybrid modalities; we have purchased important software that has allowed us to move the Gronowski Center to be able to offer tele-therapy, and established an E-Clinic and other supplemental practica to make up for loss of clinical hours for students in all of our programs. In addition to the costs related to our students’ education, we have had to provide technology and equipment for all of our staff and faculty to be able to complete their work remotely. It is a source  of pride that we have been able to protect the jobs of all of PAU’s full-time faculty and staff and have continued to pay all 300 student workers throughout the spring quarter.

PAU Facilities. All PAU campus facilities will strictly comply with current local, state, and federal public health guidance; compliance and guidelines will be posted prominently at each campus.

  • Using the latest public health guidance, PAU will make six (6) classrooms (and possibly a 7th classroom at De Anza under consideration) available for on-campus learning; and, several areas for student study/WIFI access (Calvin - Library and outside deck Bldg. 1-2).   The limiting of the number of rooms occupied allows the Facilities and Human Resources departments to control the flow of individuals safely per the social distancing guidelines.
  • Social distancing guidelines will require anyone on campus to comply with:
    • a daily health survey
    • mask-wearing, hand-washing, and observing social distancing rules
    • agreement to follow signage showing ingress and egress
  • The PAU Library will remain closed, but curbside pickup of library materials and pre-approved academic activities will be offered by appointment.
  • To the extent possible, PAU staff are still required to work remotely with only essential and approved personnel on any campus.

These plans and recommendations are based on the best evidence and guidance available at this time. With the pace of this ever-changing situation, please be aware that additional changes and options might need to be considered. We will communicate any changes that become necessary in the coming weeks. Additionally, look for additional detail in your areas as necessary to assist in implementing these recommendations. Please send any suggestions or comments to  

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the surveys, provided input, and assisted in the work that went into developing these recommendations to ensure a productive and effective Fall 2020 Academic Quarter, and 2021-21 Academic Year. Please join me in thanking particularly the members of the Fall Planning Task Force: 

Academic Planning Committee:
Kimberly Balsam, Ph.D. - Psychology Department Chair, Faculty 
Carlie Belmodis - Executive Assistant to the VPAA
Risa Dickson, Ph.D. - Interim VP of Academic Affairs (Sub-committee Chair)
Scott Hines - University Librarian & Director of Academic Technology 
Kristel Nazzal, Ph.D. - Director of Educational Excellence, Interim Director of Undergraduate Engagement & Success
Will Snow, Ph.D. - Counseling Department Chair, Faculty
Joshua Tiller-Ormund - Student
Patricia Zapf, Ph.D. - VP for Continuing & Professional Studies

Clinical Training Planning Committee:
Genevieve Arnaut, Ph.D. - Director of Clinical Training, Ph.D. Program
Jim Breckenridge, Ph.D. - VP for Institutional Effectiveness (Sub-committee Chair)
Katherine Christensen - Student
Kimberly Hill, Ph.D. - DCT of the Psy.D.-Stanford Consortium
Elena Herrera, Ph.D. - Assistant Director of the Gronowski Clinic
Jamie Kent, Ph.D. - Faculty
Sandy Macias, Ph.D. - Director of the Gronowski Clinic
Jayme Peta, Ph.D. - Associate Director of Clinical Training, Ph.D. Program
Yanire Puentes - Executive Assistant to the President
Donna Sheperis, Ph.D. - Faculty Senate Chair, Faculty
Cristen Wathen, Ph.D. - Faculty
Patricia Zapf, Ph.D. - VP for Continuing & Professional Studies 

Facilities & Technology Planning Committee:
Timothy Baima, Ph.D. - Faculty
Fernando Galeano - IT/Facilities Manager
Scott Hines - University Librarian & Director of Academic Technology
June Klein, Ed.D. - VP for Business Affairs, CFO (Sub-committee Chair)
Sheila Park - Student
Lori Thomas - Executive Assistant to VP of Business Affairs
Fei Ying - Chief Information Officer

Student Support Planning Committee:
Shirin Aghakhani - Student
Jessica Ayres - Director of Financial Aid
Nicole Brown - Interim Program Manager - UG
Ana Castrillo - Associate Director of Student Services
Katherine Fortune - Student Activities Manager
Thom Shepard - Dean of Students (Sub-committee Chair)
Teceta Tormala, Ph.D. - Director of DEI, Faculty

Steering Committee:
Jim Breckenridge, Ph.D. - VP for Institutional Effectiveness 
Risa Dickson, Ph.D. - Interim VP of Academic Affairs 
Scott Hines - University Librarian & Director of Academic Technology 
June Klein, Ed.D. - VP for Business Affairs, CFO
Melanie Morrison - Director of Board and Presidential Operations
Maureen O'Connor, Ph.D., J.D. - President (Task Force Chair)
Donna Sheperis, Ph.D. - Faculty Senate Chair, Faculty 
Thom Shepard - Dean of Students 
Camille Watson - VP of External Affairs