Flowering tree with Bell Tower in background


Resolute but Adaptive

Washburn remains committed to mission amid COVID-19 disruptions

Washburn Welcome Center front

From The Ichabod - Spring 2020

As Washburn University was on spring break this March, much of the world was beginning to make decisions regarding closures and cancelations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Washburn decided, like most other academic institutions, to move its spring classes online. Faculty and staff had one week to make sure students could continue getting the resources important to their success.

Out of this transition came comforting stories of dedication and generosity. With dining services closed, Washburn and Chartwells Higher Ed donated more than 3,000 meals to the Topeka Rescue Mission. Ichabods Moving Forward, the student philanthropy group under the guidance of the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation, collected a surge of donations and has been awarding grants to students with financial emergencies. The School of Nursing and the allied health department donated medical supplies to local agencies. The respiratory therapy program loaned ventilators to Topeka hospitals, and the art department and education department used 3D printers to produce medical supplies for hospitals. Information Technology Services made available Wi-Fi hotspots in campus parking lots for students, faculty and staff with limited internet availability.

Academic deans, administrators and students shared how Washburn continues to provide the academic, financial and health resources needed for success.

Pat Munzer, Dean, School of Applied Studies

We successfully transitioned face-to-face courses quickly to an online environment. Faculty were already experienced at teaching online, so the transition went well. Many created video lessons to demonstrate use of equipment or to walk them through patient scenarios. These videos help the students to still feel connected to their faculty while learning new material.

Laura Stephenson, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

The commitment, creativity, generosity and resiliency of our faculty, staff and students have been overwhelmingly positive. The Mulvane Art Museum shifted the senior art exhibit online, resulting in greater accessibility to the exhibit than ever before. Our clinical psychology master’s students have learned about telehealth counseling, an important skill for providing rural mental health long after COVID-19 is over. Our education students have likewise learned to teach from a distance. Music faculty have provided online clinics and recruited students from western Kansas with web-based auditions. Kinesiology students have developed exercise regimes using common household objects. Mass media students are proudly displaying their digital scholarship certificates on social media. Although clearly some transitions are less than ideal, what has been striking is how some of the changes foisted upon us are ones that we may choose to continue.

David Sollars, Dean, School of Business

Our biggest struggle has been in technology-rich courses. We had to close computer labs. We found students who didn’t have reliable computers or internet from home. For example, I learned of one student who was walking to Walmart every day to use their free WIFI in order to participate in a Zoom class. We will all come out of this episode with a new appreciation of both what technology can do and its limitations. For our students, learning how to face sudden unexpected challenges, adapt to a rapidly changing environment and persevere through difficulties is an important set of life skills they have now acquired.

Carla Pratt, Dean, School of Law

The faculty and staff have been extraordinary in the pivot to distance education. We eliminated curved grading and implemented take home exams to try to achieve education equity given the variety of challenges students are confronting while studying at home. Because there is so much uncertainty, there is much anxiety among students. Consequently, we have been focusing even more on the mental, physical, and financial well-being of law students during this time. Just when we needed some good news, we learned 88% of Washburn’s first-time bar takers passed the February 2020 Kansas bar exam which exceeded the statewide first-time pass rate by 14 percentage points.

Jane Carpenter, Dean, School of Nursing

The biggest challenge we are facing is the inability to teach students in a hands-on clinical environment. Faculty are doing amazing work developing virtual clinical experiences for the students. These virtual resources take students through in-depth video scenarios and case studies and allow them to practice documentation without being in the actual clinical setting. We are very fortunate that our clinical partners in the area are working with us to allow our graduating seniors to complete their final clinical hours. These students are ready to enter the health care workforce.

Gerald Bayens, Dean, Washburn University Institute of Technology

As dean, I was positioned to hear some great stories about our dedicated instructors who embraced the challenge of teaching remotely. I also heard firsthand how our staff continued moving Tech forward with recruitment efforts and services to students. As educators, we are called to teach students how to learn and to use technical skills from the first day they enter Washburn Tech. Our primary goal is to produce graduates who are well prepared for the workforce and for making positive contributions to the community. So, a big thanks goes to the employees for their commitment and hard work. We found success and perhaps created an even better institute of technical education.

Alan Bearman, Dean, University Libraries

The University Libraries successfully completed a rapid transition to virtual operations because the libraries have long operated a digital branch that regularly sees in excess of 1 million searches a month across its digital resources. Likewise, the Center for Student Success and Retention moved quickly into its virtual operating mode because of a crucial forward-thinking investment by Washburn. We continue to lend laptops to those who need them and, yes, lend books. Librarians operate a web-based live chat operation, academic advisors have Zoom meetings, while success classes and skill shops are occurring as scheduled.

Crystal Leming, Director, Counseling Services

Counseling Services’ role is to help Washburn students flourish. We are now providing teletherapy, meaning students can speak with a counselor or advocate via video chat, and students still have immediate services by phone 24/7. We have also initiated new groups. Students participating in Coping with COVID-19 are learning strategies to enhance wellbeing and performance while managing the difficulties created by the pandemic. Students participating in the Resiliency Skills Workshop are learning specific ways to boost resilience to benefit them now and throughout their lifetime. Despite the challenges, our students are as full of determination and grit as ever.

Loren Ferré, Director, Athletics

This is truly an unusual time in athletics. In a time of year when we are usually crazy busy with games, matches, spring practice for football and other sports, recruiting and other things, we find our building empty and closed. Contact with our student-athletes has been handled remotely. You would be proud of how our coaches are handling this. Like many of you, I was disappointed we did not have a chance for indoor track and field and our spring sports to compete for championships. However, given the circumstances, it was the right decision not only for the student-athletes but also for our coaches and loyal fans.

Dan Albertson, Senior, Music Education

My professors from the music department have been essential in helping not only myself but all the music students during this time. My studio professor, Dr. Von Hansen, advocated and approved permission for me to take several school-owned instruments home to continue my music studies. All of our professors are conducting private lessons via Zoom to not only ensure the continued success of their students but also to give them the emotional support many of us need right now.

Danielle Irwin, Graduate Student, Social Work

The social work department’s response to COVID-19 has consisted of reducing our required practicum hours and allowing some of our hours to be earned through participating in our online seminar class. Additionally, we are able to continue earning hours remotely, which ensures that we are staying on track with our program requirements. In each class, we have discussed the pandemic and the importance of maintaining self-care in our day-to-day lives.

Tessa Pierce, Senior, Kinesiology

The Student Recreation and Wellness Center has been very supportive and willing to work with its student employees during COVID-19. The staff allow us to pick and choose work assignments and submit them, including watching yoga or meditation videos and writing a reflection, creating social media posts such as the Ichabod bingo card and even submitting recipes or workout videos.

Emily Unruh, Junior, Political Science, Religious Studies

Amanda Pumphrey is an adjunct instructor teaching my Christians and LGBTQ+ Activism class. It’s a discussion-based class. As we went into online mode, she was on it. She emailed personalized check-ins and modified our syllabus to an online "emergency" version, which makes it extremely clear what we need to do. I think the best thing she's done is made herself available during class time, contributed to every online discussion and allowed flexibility on assignments while also keeping some stability.


The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

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