Update from UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Dean Nancy Cox July 8, 2020

With President Capilouto’s recent announcement of the intention to return to in-person classes on August 17 for the fall semester, herein is a brief update on the college’s planning process. To the extent possible as dictated by the health of the campus, space constraints from social distancing and student learning objectives, courses are expected to be delivered predominantly face‐to‐face. Safety and compliance with health guidelines drive our decisions. Planning for the fall semester is detailed and logistically complex, and depends on the best efforts of a lot of people, centered on our faculty’s dedication to this “reinvented normal.” As always, our planning is done in dedication to the role of science as a hallmark of this college.

The college is working on our reopening plan with central administration in real time to finalize the fall schedule. We have learned that students and faculty value face to face interaction and we want to provide that as much as possible for everyone. However, there are hurdles we face in part because of limited classroom space.

Associate deans Carmen Agouridis and Orlando Chambers are finalizing classroom space and our capacity to use classrooms and other CAFE spaces for instruction in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Technology needs for classrooms are also being factored into the planning process. Carmen, Orlando and their team members, Jamie Dunn and Avery Watkins, are doing heroic work to assure the best classroom environments.

As we work through our plans, we are looking at many scenarios from classes being in person, online or in some hybrid delivery method. We have polled faculty about their preferences to teach remotely versus in person and how to provide the best educational experience for our students. We are reviewing travel protocols as we determine transportation needs to our farms and forest for instructional purposes.

Under UK’s reopening plan, wearing masks will be required unless alone in a room, while eating, drinking or exercising or when it interferes with required classroom activities. Cleaning supplies, PPEs and signage needs are all being reviewed. Hand sanitizer and cleaning supply starter kits are also being prepared for office areas, not individual offices. Cleaning supplies will be available in classrooms as well.

Associate Dean Bob Houtz is working with chairs and researchers as we continue to reopen labs to important work solving today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. Associate Dean Laura Stephenson and her Extension administrative team continue to provide important services to the state while also working to ensure county offices are abiding by health protocols.

The university has announced that employees will begin to return to campus in a phased approach in mid‐to‐late July. We anticipate that many CAFE staff members will continue to work remotely, or in some hybrid fashion, just as they have so successfully done these past few months.

We will also be issuing procedures for reimbursing travel. That is particularly important for our extension personnel, who have done their own heroic work serving our clientele through health outreach, emergency management and support of the agriculture and food economy.

Thanks to those of you who have been helping draft our reopening plans. As we develop our plans, information to assist students, faculty and staff will be available at the college’s reopening and coronavirus website along with a link to the university’s planning process. We will continue to provide updates here as we move forward.

Likewise, the college Emergency Operations Group coordinated by Tim West, who is campus liaison, and led by Andrea Higdon, Emergency Management System Director, continues to identify and resolve operational issues and communicate information as it becomes available. Thanks to the following additional folks for placing coronavirus planning as an essential priority: Dustin Adams, Carmen Agouridis, Sydney Beidleman, Susan Campbell, Orlando Chambers, Lisa Collins, Chris Crumrine, Roberta Dwyer, Kim Henken, Le Anne Herzog, Bob Houtz, Brian Lee, Laura Skillman, and Laura Stephenson.

Land-grant universities were created not only to adapt to change but to lead change. Our college community has certainly distinguished itself once again for strength, resiliency, and kindness.

Dean Nancy Cox