The COVID-19 pandemic tested all of us in so many ways.
In March of 2020, we knew that the Wisconsin Safer at Home Order was going to change our world forever. At Gateway Technical College, we had to work quickly to adapt new learning models to support our students, increase service delivery models to support faculty and staff and find new ways of connecting our community if we were to strengthen our collective resiliency.
We quickly deployed the personal protective equipment inventory we had to local health care providers and first responders. While it was a bold effort to support our community, it still wasn’t enough – so the 3D printing design team at our SC Johnson iMET Center Fab Lab went to work designing masks, ear savers and face shields for police, fire and health care professionals. To date, they’ve made and donated more than 15,000 items.
In the middle of the pandemic, we also witnessed civil unrest in the Kenosha community. Gateway took action to host a regional convening of law enforcement professionals to discuss and learn about advanced community policing research.
Built upon the academic foundation of student success, our faculty, administration and staff developed a robust hybrid learning model that includes online instruction though synchronous (a scheduled meeting time with instructors and students) and asynchronous (online, but at a self-guided schedule) methods coupled with face-to-face lab experiences. Students in essential career path training areas such as health care, dental assistant, commercial truck driving, law enforcement, fire service, EMT and many others split their time on campus in lab-based experiences and online learning platforms. This hybrid model of instruction has proven to be effective in meeting industry certification requirements as well as providing students with flexible learning options so they, too, could manage their personal and family needs.
Throughout the pandemic we have adapted to changes on a daily basis to protect our students, faculty, staff and community by investing in campus cleaning and safety protocol, training, communications and access to technology solutions to serve students while implementing the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Protection.
Additionally, the college provided hundreds of laptops and hot spots to support students with remote learning. Gateway also added repeater antennas to all three of our campuses and multiple centers to expand WiFi service in and around our buildings.
This investment in WiFi access will continue to serve our community well into the future.
It is important that we recognize that many of our students and staff are also working adults and feel the same impact of COVID-19 as the rest of us. Moving forward, Gateway will strengthen its hybrid and virtual learning platforms, allowing for even greater curriculum and delivery adaptations. This will make our career programs even more responsive to the rapid pace of change in industry, the economy or when a healthcare crisis like COVID-19 attacks our community in the future.
I would like to mention the generosity of SC Johnson to help Gateway students and the community. In May 2020, they donated $539,660 to the Gateway Technical College Foundation to support the HOPE program, which helped dislocated workers regain the skills necessary to compete for jobs. They followed that up with another donation in January of this year: a $5.5 million donation to Gateway to create the SC Johnson STEM Scholars Pathway program. It is dedicated to providing women and people of color the means to gain a degree in science, technology, engineering and math-related career fields.
We are currently recruiting students for this program, and the first cohort of students for that program will begin their studies this Fall 2021.
Looking ahead, we’ve moved forward with our plans to remodel the Lincoln Building on our Racine Campus and turn it into a Nursing program training center. The new center will help meet the rising demand for trained nurses in Racine as well as serve an ever-increasing number of students seeking to enroll in the program. Construction on the building will be complete by December 2021 and classes are expected to begin in January 2022, for the Spring 2022 semester.
In times like this I am reminded that our mission is inherent with our name — Gateway. We must be a gateway for a brighter future. Brighter for our students, community and the greater society in which we all live.
Bryan Albrecht is the president and CEO of Gateway Technical College.