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President Kusch and PEC participate in Q&A with students

President Kusch and PEC participate in Q&A with students

01 Jun. 2020

Note: This is an installment in the Q&A series, reporting in the LDSBC Newsroom on informal meetings held with President and Sister Kusch, members of the PEC and those of the College community. During the Q&A sessions, students, faculty and staff are invited to submit questions and engage in conversations about all that’s going on at LDSBC. Check out other Q&A articles here.

Here’s a summary of what transpired in the virtual Q&A session held via Zoom for students on May 8, 2020:

President Kusch: I want to welcome those who are participating in this Zoom Question and Answer Session and hope that in the minutes that go by we'll have some more students join. I was just commenting to my wife yesterday how much I miss being around the students because we don't get to see you. It almost doesn't feel like we're having a semester, and I really look forward to the time that we'll be back in the building together and be able to greet each other.

I just express my love to everyone and hope that you're doing well as we're all enduring in various ways the challenges of this global pandemic, but we've seen some real progress this week in terms of the announcements that have come from the Church about opening temples and that should give us all hope that bit by bit we’ll be moving towards some things that will feel more normal as we go forward. We'll answer questions today the best we can and take any other questions that anyone wants to submit. 

Many of the questions, as you can imagine, center around what's happening with the campus for Fall, and let me just address this.

Question: Will campus reopen for in-classroom learning in the Fall and if not, when?

That's a really, really good question, and I wish I had a really definitive answer. Let me read something that I wrote to a group of people this morning about the Fall Semester. One of the things that's really difficult is that this situation is a moving target. We know what the state of Utah has said in terms of different stages and colors that are associated with it. We've moved from red to orange and hope to move soon to yellow and then to green. But we don't know exactly the timeframe for those things, and the Church is following these things very, very closely, but let me read what I wrote in an email earlier this morning. 

If I had to go on record to answer the question about Fall Semester, this is my response: It is our intent to have students return to our campus for the Fall Semester and our first as Ensign College. And we anticipate resuming instruction on a face-to-face basis. We’re carefully monitoring guidelines from the Commissioner's Office, The First Presidency as well as state and local officials. It is possible that we will continue to use remote technology for some instruction and other blended methods. Because of our experience during the Winter and the Spring Semesters, we will be prepared to return to 100% remote delivery should there be a second wave of COVID-19 that would prohibit campus gatherings.

As students and employees return to campus, we will follow all required and recommended protocols to protect and maintain their safety. Class sizes, schedules and locations may be modified to allow for appropriate physical distancing. We hope everyone will be flexible and adaptable in these instances. So, at this point, the best that we can say is we hope that we will resume classes in September. It is possible that we might start using remote technology and then have everyone begin to meet in early October, depending on the guidelines that come from the Church – primarily The First Presidency, the Commissioner's Office and what the state of Utah and the city and county of Salt Lake allow us to do. So, we are looking at all options now in terms of smaller classes. We're looking at the use of different technology. We're looking at perhaps using some space next door at the BYU Salt Lake Center. We don't know for sure what might be available there, but we're studying all of these options with the goal and the hope that we can have students back in Salt Lake City in September. 

Question: Is LDSBC going to keep the same grading system during the Spring Semester, and will LDSBC have a pass/fail option like other CES schools, why and why not?

This was something that we discussed as we transitioned to remote instruction during the Winter Semester, and we've gone into the Spring Semester with the same policy as we ended with for Winter Semester. We will continue to look at this again. In fact, I just asked again today that we consider whether or not we should do pass/fail. Here's the primary reason that we did not adopt pass/fail for Winter Semester – it was primarily with transferability in mind of grades when students transfer to other institutions. Pass/fail is difficult when it comes to transfer credit and how that gets articulated and how it gets counted and how it affects a grade point average. So, we felt that it would be in the student's interests not to give a pass/fail option. 

I know that BYU did it for grades in the Winter Semester, but we were, again, primarily concerned for the students and how transfer credit would be graded and articulated with pass/fail.

BYU-Idaho has kept track of statements on their emergency website, so this was posted March 30 about their Winter 2020 grading withdrawal change. 

“For each Winter Semester 2020 course, students may choose to receive the letter grade that they earned or a pass grade. You can request the best option for each individual course. For example, you may receive the letter grade earned in one course and request a pass in another. Pass/fail grades are not calculated into your BYU-Idaho GPA, but will satisfy degree course requirements. Pass grades may impact things such as graduate school application. Please work with an advisor if you have questions regarding graduate school preparation or other potential impacts. Students who earn a letter grade of D+, D, D-, F or UW can request a W, which is withdrawal, but they are not eligible to request a pass grade.” 

Question: Is there any chance that students will return to have classes on school grounds during the Spring Semester? If so, what will happen to those students that are living out of the country at the moment?

The answer is that there is no chance that we will return to face-to-face classes during the Spring Semester. We announced that we would be teaching the Spring Semester 100% using remote technology, and even if, which I highly doubt, but even if we were to return to a situation or circumstance where the Church and the government officials said it's okay for groups to meet, we would not return to face-to-face instruction at all. That's just not our plan at all.

For the students that are international students that were accepted and had hoped to enroll in the Spring Semester, we deferred them to the Fall Semester. We believe that if we still are in a situation where if students cannot come, new international students that are not already the United States, if they can't come, we believe that we can provide instruction for them via remote technology. We're verifying that to make sure that we know for sure, but that would be our intent. But for Spring, it's going to be all remote technology. We won't, regardless of what happens with guidelines and direction, gather for devotional, and we won't have any classes that will resume face-to-face. 

Question: What will the College continue to do to help stop the spread of COVID-19? Are we still going to have online classes if this continues into the next semester? Will the building continue to be closed?

They were very kind about saying what the College is doing. All we can do is to make sure that we are practicing responsible hygiene and that we're observing all of the guidelines with regards to physical distancing when we're in the building. We've put barriers up. We will have face masks available for our employees. We'll have lots of hand sanitizer. We will do everything we can to make sure that no one comes into the building that might expose others. So, if someone's not feeling well, we would want them to be home and not be around to expose others. And yes, we will have classes that will be used with more technology if this continues. We've learned to do and we're still learning to do it. And yes, we will continue to keep the building only operating during limited hours. The BC Café is closed and will remain closed until it's safe, and we will not return to the building and ask all of our employees, our student employees and students to come back to the building unless we know it's safe. 

We will wait to receive guidance from The First Presidency and the Commissioner's Office that says, “Yes, we'd like you now to resume operations.” We have already told them about our plans for the Spring, and I would not anticipate a situation where they would say, “Okay, we want you to have your students come back to finish something for the Spring Semester.” They will respect the decision that we've made.

Question: Will students that started at LDS Business College keep the name of the school in their diploma when they graduate even though the new name Ensign College will be in effect next Fall?

Here's how I think we will handle this. Because we only have one commencement a year, and because we did not hold a traditional commencement this year, for any student that completes all of their graduation requirements before September 1, so that would, in essence, be anyone who completes graduation requirements by the end of the Spring Semester, will graduate with an LDS Business College degree or certificate. 

Any student who finishes after September 1 going forward, so if someone were to finish their graduation requirements during the Fall 2020 Semester, they would finish as an Ensign College student and their diploma would read Ensign College. So, we will be awarding at our next commencement degrees and certificates both under the name of LDS Business College and Ensign College. 

I think that's the fair and right thing to do because we invited all those who would have participated in commencement this year to come and participate next year, realizing that many may not be able to do that, but those that would and all of those who would have received diplomas at or shortly after commencement this year, are getting LDS Business College diplomas. The ones that would be effective would be those that finished during this Spring Semester. Those would be the last group that would receive LDS Business College diplomas and certificates, but after they finished as an Ensign College enrollee, then they would get an Ensign College degree. 

Question: Kirk, there is a question about the rebranding of the school and when it's happening, and I would even add how it's happening, so I would pass that question to you for your response.

Kirk Rawlins: Thank you. In many ways, it's reflective of what you just said about diplomas, President. We are LDS Business College right now, and we will continue to be LDS Business College until September 1 when we will become Ensign College. That being said, there are a lot of preparations happening behind the scenes right now that you likely won’t see such as signs or documents. However, you have probably already seen some advertisements that have been out on social media. If you drive up and down the valley, we have some billboards on I-15 where we've begun to associate the name Ensign College with LDS Business College. We’re previewing the fact that we will soon become Ensign College, and we've actually done some things on television stations as well. So, we're beginning to talk about that. In a sense, the rebranding has already begun, but most of what we're doing behind the scenes is targeted to take place during the Summer after this Spring Semester is over, and then it will be launched on September 1. Again, that will get a little fuzzy as we get into the month of August, for example, when we will be working on changing signs on our physical building. We can't do those all the night before. So, some of that will begin to happen in the month of August, but things like our website – that will be a thing that will happen that night. We have a new domain for our website and all of our information related to the College will be ensign.edu.

So, there are a lot of things in place with the target of making the vast majority of them available on September 1. There will also be some things that won't be finished on September 1. There will be things that will take a little while longer to put into effect, and so, as we move through the Fall Semester this year, we will see some additional places where the branding and the name and the incorporation of that into all kinds of documents and websites and apparel and merchandise, and all the places where that might be relevant, will happen over the rest of the Fall Semester. 

President Kusch: That's great, thank you.

Question: Do we have updates on the catalog for the bachelor's degrees? Is it true that the first degree available will be focused on Accounting?

We are in the process now of submitting our new degrees to the accreditor for their review and approval. We hope to have that by the end of June.

And the answer about Accounting is yes. We will be focused on Accounting, but we will also be focused on Business Management and Communications. So, when we launch, we have, as we've talked about, three primary categories of these degrees which will be Business Management, Communications and Information Technology. We anticipate that we'll have much ready, particularly in the areas of Business Management and Accounting ready for the Fall 2021 Semester. It's important, though, to note that a student that starts this Fall, or a current student for that matter, can, in effect, begin working on the bachelor's degree even before it's formerly in the catalog because we will be able to advise students into the right certificates, the general education and all the programs necessary that will allow them to continue in the first couple of years of the bachelor's degree.

A student can start that right away. Those degrees will, in essence, be available for students to start on this Fall, and we're pretty excited about that. But we'll have more information that will be forthcoming, and we really have to wait until we get formal Northwest approval from our accreditor before we can say too much. 

Question: Another question about information about the BC Café and its employees.

We're going to keep the BC Café closed until we can safely reopen it and when it makes financial sense. It doesn't make much sense to open the Café if nobody's going to come and eat any of the food that might be prepared and offered. 

So, when we know that it's safe to open, and when we know that we'll have customers – then we'll keep it open. It is our intent is to continue to pay the employees that can't work during the time that they're here through the Spring Semester. Come Fall, we hope that we'll be open and everybody will be back to work under more normal circumstances. 

I want to share my screen here and would direct everybody to the Quick Links part of our website. We’ve added technology that's made available by a company called Gigg. This is our Gigg board, and when students post on social media with the following hashtags, this tool will grab your social media posts, and we'll put them on this board. 

#experienceldsbc
#ldsbc
#ldsbcathome
#experienceensign

We would encourage you to use these hashtags on your social media posts, then this tool will help them show up on this Gigg wall. It's a pretty fun way for people to share what they're doing, and we think it will be something that will draw traffic to our site. It will be a great tool that it will help in our recruiting.

Kirk Rawlins: I would just say that we're excited because this will allow you to see what other students are doing. In particular, we're interested right now in how you are being a student at home. We would love to see this fill up with examples of what your classroom looks like at home, what you’re doing, how are you studying differently and how you’re staying connected to other students. Clearly, this is a different situation than we've been used to in the past, but it's exciting to see how everyone is adapting and being successful in different ways.

We would love for a little while, especially during the Spring Semester where we'll continue online in our instruction, to fill these boards up with these things. As we anticipate coming back in the Fall, we will be displaying this content in a little different format, but it'll be on the flat screens in our building. As you go up around the building, at times it will be the only thing on the screens, but it will rotate like it does right now with other information. Later, we’ll focus more on inviting you to post more about being an Ensign College student. We're just excited to use this new tool to allow you to share your thoughts and look for yourself on the board. You'll be on our website and on the screens in the building, so we're excited about it.