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Youngstown State forms focus groups to consider post-pandemic future

“These are unprecedented times requiring unprecedented actions to ensure a vibrant and sustainable future for YSU,” Jim Tressel, president, said.
YSU 12062019
(Photo by William D. Lewis)

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State University has formed five Take Charge of Our Future focus groups to address the university’s continued response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These are unprecedented times requiring unprecedented actions to ensure a vibrant and sustainable future for YSU,” Jim Tressel, president, said in a news release. “We have successfully transitioned to remote instruction; our students, faculty, staff and the community are to be commended for their patience, expertise and hard work through this very trying spring semester.

“However, many uncertainties remain, and the threat from the coronavirus remains real and immediate. It is imperative that we are proactive and prepare for any eventuality as we enter the summer and fall semesters,” Tressel said.

The focus groups consist of more than 50 university administrators, staff, faculty and students. They are:

  • Calendar Scenarios for a Safe YSU, convened by Eddie Howard, vice president for Student Affairs, will consider calendar alterations, ensure facility readiness, establish safety protocols, develop return to campus guidelines and create social distancing parameters for faculty, staff and students.
  • Financial Realities, convened by Neal McNally, vice president for Finance and Business Operations, will advise on how to optimize structures, principles, policies and procedures to facilitate optimum resource allocation that will ensure the university’s long-term sustainability.
  • Creative Course Delivery for a Safe YSU, convened by Brien Smith, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, will advise on how YSU will maintain academic continuity in its core academic functions during the current pandemic and beyond. The objective is to determine how the university might deploy medical, behavioral and technological procedures and applications to ensure the safety of its learning environment and the quality of education, whether delivered on campus or virtually.
  • Enrollment Initiatives, convened by Mike Sherman, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness and Board Professional, will advise on how to optimize the structures, principles, policies and procedures that support the success of students.
  • Ongoing Communications, convened by Shannon Tirone, associate vice president for University Relations, will lead efforts to provide timely information to employees, the community, alumni, supporters and other stakeholders that is accurate, transparent and readily distributed and available.

The focus groups were formed in mid-April in response to a YSU Board of Trustees resolution passed earlier in April calling on Tressel to develop recommendations for significant actions in response to the profound effects the coronavirus pandemic and other factors will have on the future of higher education. Those recommendations are expected to be presented to the board in June.

"We will need to make difficult decisions, and the way forward may be a bit bumpy, but YSU is committed to doing all that we must to get to the other side of this horrible health crisis,” Tressel said. “And when we get there, while we are likely to be changed, we also will be stronger than ever.”