LANSING — Lansing Community College has taken what officials describe as a people-first, safety-first approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are four stages in the resumption plan, and LCC is currently in stage one: The majority of classes are held in multiple formats: a hybrid of online and face-to-face, traditional online, online in real-time, or a limited number of face-to-face classes.
In Michigan, there have been 581,403 total confirmed cases and 15, 362 COVID-19 deaths as of February 23, 2021, according to Michigan.gov. In Ingham County where LCC is located, there have been 15,303 confirmed cases and 272 deaths as of February 23, 2021.
Steve Robinson has only been the president of LCC for seven months, but has 23 years of Michigan community college experience. Robinson was president at Owens Community College in Toledo, OH when the pandemic started.
“I came in already knowing how my previous college was running during the pandemic, but what was new was that LCC had recently bought on some real expertise in emergency management,” said Robinson.
Robinson said LCC has smart people who know a lot about public health and responding to crises and emergencies. The people-first plan “is probably the best I’ve ever seen at a community college,” he said.
Although LCC was prepared, Robinson had some concerns. The pandemic has brought LCC enrollment down.
“My first concern was for our students, we have lost a lot of students, and that is because their lives have become incredibly complex during the pandemic,” said Robinson.
One of his top priorities was to reach out and reconnect with students, making sure they knew that he was there for them.
Robinson’s second concern was for employees, faculty, and staff.
“Being in the community college profession is hard enough in normal circumstances, but when you add a global pandemic mental health and economic challenges begin to surface,” said Robinson.
Robinson has stressed the importance of well being, mental health, and the work-life balance to the people who work at LCC and he encourages students, faculty and staff to use the resources that LCC provides.
“We took a conservative approach, canceling the indoor sports was hard, I thought mostly of our athletes,” said Robinson. “As hard as it was we wanted to make that decision early, so it had the least disruptive impact on our athletes, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made.”
Athletic Director Gregory Mallek has worked at LCC as athletic director for nine years. LCC announced it would cancel the 2021 basketball and volleyball seasons on Dec. 21, 2020. LCC says they found no reasonable ways to make indoor sports safe for their athletes and coaches, referencing the ongoing spread of COVID-19 across the state of Michigan.
Mallek stated, “because we are still in stage one there will be no indoor activities.”
Mallek is confident that volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball will return in the fall of 2021.
Harley Roe, a sophomore majoring in kinesiology, was entering her second season of volleyball in the fall 2020 when the world shut down.
“Not having a season has definitely opened me up to finding different ways of joy and happiness other than my sport,” Roe said.
Roe added that athletes still have not been informed on when they will be able to return to campus and begin training again.
Roe is currently in all online classes, but prefers in person learning.
“Once we went online it was a quick adjustment. The first week or two was hard, but over time it’s gotten a little bit easier. I had to learn how to manage my time better especially because I don’t have volleyball,” said Roe.
Athletes are used to always having a set schedule, so the uncertainty can be hard for some to adjust to. LCC has provided counseling resources to help the student-athletes to help get them through this tough time.
Although this pandemic has had its downfalls Roe said, “Over this Covid time period I really got to evaluate and figure out who was close to me. I got to learn more about my family and spend quality time with them, which is something I would have not usually been able to do.”
Roe added that she has been mentally challenged with being cooped up for so long, but overall thinks things happened for a reason and everything does fall into place like it’s supposed to.
LCC has made decisions based on what they think is best for the students and faculty. Margherita Clark, retired as Dean of HHS, at the end of 2020 after 30 years.
“We were able to get organized quickly. We had people dedicated to doing certain jobs. We were very prepared and our emergency management department was able to respond quickly and effectively,” Clark said.
Clark’s main goal was to keep students and faculty safe and to provide them with the necessary resources that they urge them to use.
Dr. Jan Karazim has taken the title as the new Dean of HHS. Before coming to LCC, Karazim worked at Kellogg Community College and Jackson College. She also has her doctorate degree in community college leadership. Karazim was able to begin working at LCC with Clark in October 2020, two months before Clark retired.
Karazim said the safety of staff, students, and the general public was Karazim’s main priority.
“Our priority is making sure that we have protocols in place and PPE available and that everyone is following the rules, and checking in,” said Karazim. LCC provides personal protective equipment which is designed to protect the wearer’s body from infection and to help stop the spread.
Karazim stated that “we have learned a lot through these months, we’ve learned that a lot can be accomplished online.”
Having online classes has made it more accessible for students who are working a full time job or raising a family.
LCC has weekly meetings that provide information about where they are as far as Covid cases and deaths in the country and in the Greater Lansing area.
Self care is very important at LCC.
Karazim said, “we have been very conscientious about our students and allowing grace for our students who are struggling. We have reached out and helped those who are struggling to get connected to the resources that they might need to be successful and the same goes for employees.”
Natalie Minnaar, freshman at LCC has had a unique introduction to college.
“I think the two hardest things for me have been not not being able to meet and spend time with new people, and having to do school completely online,” said Minnaar.
Minnaar stated that she is not a fan of online classes.
“I struggle with technology and run into a lot of issues connecting to classes and finding the correct files. I have found that it takes me at least twice as long to do my work online because I spend so much time simply trying to locate it and understand the assignment. I very much wish we could go back to in-person,” said Minnaar.
Minnaar has never been on campus and is hopeful that she will be able to experience that this fall.
Not being able to see and interact with the student has been hard for Robinson, but he is looking forward to seeing and interacting with students safely in the fall.
“I can’t wait to get back to face to face and see students,” he said.