Members of the chancellor’s cabinet provided updates on what is going on around UW Tacoma in spite of COVID-19.

Chancellor Mark Pagano, along with several members of his cabinet, updated the campus regarding the ways in which UW Tacoma has been moving forward despite COVID-19’s continued impact on campus operations. Pagano, who had recently announced that he would be stepping down from his chancellorship fully by the start of fall 2021, said that, among many other things, facility upgrades and renovations to the campus had not stopped, and in fact were well underway.

“With regard to Milgard Hall, that continues to be good news,” Pagano said. “Very soon, there will be rough diagrams, whether it’s going to be three stories or four stories … it will be 54,000 square feet, rather than 50,000 square feet.”

The Milgard Hall will house several new classrooms, as well as the new civil and mechanical engineering programs, labs for those programs and the Global Innovation and Design Center. The Milgard School of Business will also see their school expand with the construction of the new building.

The Snoqualmie and Tioga Library buildings also have plans for renovation to better accommodate students. This project is near the construction phase of the expansion, and over the winter and spring quarters will provide constant updates as to how the project is going.

Pagano also acknowledged how much of a toll COVID-19 has taken on staff, faculty and students and reminded everyone to make sure they take time for themselves to maintain both physical and mental health. 

“I want to encourage you to make sure to keep taking care of yourself,” Pagano said. “We need each and every person to start with taking care of themself, so that you’ll be healthy to take care of those other people I talked about around you: in your family, your home and our greater community, including our school … We will get through it.”

Chief Strategy Officer Joe Lawless reminded students, faculty and staff of the proper protocol for those who might still need to access campus. Lawless also highlighted the improvements made to the campus in providing reservable areas for students to use as safe study spaces.

Included in the town hall were several vice-chancellors, including Vice-Chancellors Mentha Hynes-Wilson, Jill Purdy and James McShay. During her update, Hynes-Wilson — the vice-chancellor for Student Affairs — praised the UWT First Gen program on their recent national recognition during the National First Generation Celebration Week.

“Our First Gen students continue to be highly engaged,” Hynes-Wilson said. “Mentors are providing support to their peers in areas such as goal setting, time management, financial wellness, and learning strategies.”

Hynes-Wilson also praised the new DawgBones reward programs from the Center for Student Involvement, indicating a continued interest in campus activities and events.

McShay, vice-chancellor of Equity and Inclusion, talked about the progress of the enactment of the UW Climate Survey recommendations.

“I’m happy to announce those teams have been formed and fully populated,” McShay said. “We have 22 faculty, staff and students who are working in a focused fashion, looking carefully at the data in our climate survey report. [They are] working to get additional information.”

McShay also welcomed Gabe Minthorn into the Equity and Inclusion and UWT family. Working as the Tribal Liaison, Minthorn, an enrolled member of the Yakima nation, will work to help Indigenize curriculum while simultaneously helping to facilitate success for UWT’s Native American staff, faculty and students.

Purdy, Executive Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, in addition to updating the campus about the structural changes between UWT and UW Seattle, also answered a question regarding tuition. More specifically, a student wrote in asking why students in asynchronous and online classes were neither being compensated for the altered learning environment, nor have they seen a tuition reduction due to the change. Purdy responded by explaining why asynchronous learning has been more favored by many professors.

“Because of our diverse population of students, we have a number of students struggling with technology and technology access, struggling with childcare … and we have some of those same challenges on the faculty side as well,” Purdy said. “We have seen a number of faculty adapting to this requirement among many of our students in order to support their learning.”

Purdy, however, did not elaborate as to why tuition has not been lowered or refunded despite the primarily online classes.

Finally, Pagano wrapped up the town hall explaining how proud he was of the entire UWT campus — students, faculty and staff — for coming together, stepping up and helping each other out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am just amazed and proud of what’s going on,” Pagano said.

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