Wrapping up the fall semester

December 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Happy post-Thanksgiving. I hope that your holiday was restful as we get ready to finish up the fall semester.

Noel and I enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving together. Typically, we host a larger family gathering prior to attending the Apple Cup football festivities, but alas COVID‑19 precautions meant everyone else stayed home. As a result, we cut back on the amount of food we cooked. Even so, there were lots of leftovers to enjoy for a few days.

During time away from work I typically break out my Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1) cookbook by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. Over the Thanksgiving break I tried a few of the authors’ recipes for the first time, including Gratin of Shredded Potatoes with Ham, Eggs, and Onions (excellent) and Brussels Sprouts Braised with Chestnuts (okay but not great). One of my goals during the upcoming holiday period will be to make Lobster Thermidor for the first time—I am always up for a challenge in the kitchen!

Upon my arrival at WSU in 2016, one of the first meetings I had focused on the critical need to update our very outdated enterprise management system. It is hard to believe that 4 1/2 years later we are on the verge of officially launching Workday as a system-wide tool to assist in the modernization of our fiscal and human resources operations.

I want to express my appreciation and thanks to all of our colleagues who have worked diligently during the past several years helping to prepare WSU for such a significant change to our business operations. Please take a moment to thank those in your unit who have assisted in moving Workday implementation from a plan to reality.

While I certainly expect to encounter a few challenges as implementation moves forward, please continue to be patient during the next couple of months. The Workday Service Desk is a great resource if you have questions. In the end, Workday will deliver more efficient processes for many university operations.

As we wrap up the fall semester we are also planning for the spring term that starts on January 19. Some key notes moving forward:

  • We have put in place a comprehensive COVID‑19 testing protocol at WSU Pullman and WSU Health Sciences Spokane for spring semester. We will continue to update the information on this website during the next 2 months as the pandemic situation evolves.
  • We will create a webpage with a COVID‑19 dashboard available to the University community as we start the spring semester.
  • We have allocated $100,000 in discretionary funds again this semester for faculty members to use for teaching for the spring semester. This is similar to the program in place for fall. Provost Elizabeth Chilton will provide details on how to access these monies before the end of the fall semester.

This is the time of year when we can have significant snowfall and inclement weather in Washington. As in previous years, each campus will use its online Alerts system to keep everyone informed of any delays in on‑campus operations and/or travel advisories.

As the semester moves toward conclusion, I want to again express my deep appreciation to all of you for your continued perseverance in pursuing your work and life goals in the face of these trying times brought about by COVID‑19. Thank you for your ongoing dedicated efforts in using technology and other creative means to ensure the success of our students. I am grateful beyond words knowing how you are extending yourselves on behalf of the University.

I also continue to be heartened by the tenacity and commitment to learning our students demonstrate despite the constant challenges they have faced. Please join me in expressing congratulations to all of our students—but especially to our fall semester graduates—for their determination and successes as they fulfill their educational and personal aspirations. I also hope you will join the entire community to celebrate our newest grads at our virtual commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 12.

I received a number of replies to my October letter in which I asked for examples of the ways our faculty and staff are minimizing workplace and COVID‑19 stress. There were a lot of great ideas.

Lots of Netflix suggestions

  • “I appreciate you sharing your family Netflix favorites. Have you seen Father of The Bride Part 3 (ish) that recently came out a few weeks ago? I LOVE Steve Martin and the Father of The Bride series was always a family favorite.”
  • “Also, thanks for sharing that you are watching Lucifer. That has been my guilty pleasure as well. I love the idea that we can be completely flawed, but still do good in the world. I root for Lucifer because he reflects on how the cases (his work) relates to what he needs to learn most. Experiential learning at its best!”
  • “We have also enjoyed some fun TV shows. BritBox is our favorite: Father Brown and All Creatures Great and Small. Netflix: The Crown and The Flash. Disney+: The Mandalorian.”

Some other ideas

  • “I spent some years in Spokane Public Schools where a famous school lunch was homemade chili and baked maple bars or cinnamon rolls. So, we have hacked the baked maple bar recipe and learned to fry apple fritters. If the next batch of donuts is shareable (sometimes we fail!), we will gladly make a porch drop to you.”
  • “My daughters and I have been crafting. Two years ago, my husband’s side of the family decided that we wanted to make the holiday more meaningful and memorable. So, we decided that we would start making all of our Christmas gifts instead of buying them. With the family growing so very large these days and only getting larger, we felt that making gifts could also bring us together. My daughters and I spend most of our free time in September and the beginning of October searching Pinterest for ideas. Then mid‑October the crafting starts. We start so early because we can only craft in our free time between school and work. The little kids in the family all seem to enjoy this new tradition because they get to make things.”

I wish everyone the best of success as we finish up what has been the most unique semester in my career in higher education.

Finally, as we head toward the height of the holiday season, remember to wash your hands, maintain your distance, and wear a mask.

Go Cougs!