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Blinn College outreach program connected with thousands of students during Spring transition to online classes

Massive phone effort reached almost 8,000 students

June 5, 2020

Blinn College District employees made sure students knew they hadn’t been forgotten after the College moved to online classes in March due to COVID-19.

Approximately 90 Blinn staffers took part in a phone outreach program that contacted 7,763 appreciative students. The effort was coordinated by Karen Buck, Vice Chancellor of Student Services and Administration; Becky Garlick, Executive Dean of the Schulenburg Campus; Chris Marrs, Executive Dean of Blinn’s RELLIS Campus; and Lisa Caton, Executive Dean of the Sealy Campus.

Buck participated in a virtual webinar and learned that a four-year college in the U.S. was doing a phone outreach program for its students. She already had decided that Blinn needed to make an effort “to reach out to all of our students – and it needed to be personal.”

“We knew that over 2,000 courses would need to be converted to an online delivery modality – a daunting task for faculty and staff, to say the least,” Buck said. “That work began, but I started to think about how this change was also going to really affect our students.”

Buck contacted Garlick later on the same day as the webinar and learned that she and Caton were looking at a similar outreach effort.

“We were brainstorming ideas in Schulenburg about how we were going to work with our students who were going to go online because many of them live in very rural areas,” Garlick said. “They don’t have access to the internet. Some of them did not have access to laptops.

“We wanted to see how we could reach out to these students to see what they needed and what kind of obstacles and challenges they were facing.”

As a result, Blinn’s outreach project was born. A script was created that included a variety of campus and community resources available to students.

“I think we accomplished something that people thought was impossible due to the magnitude of the project, but in the end, it shows that persistence to the point of accomplishment can be very rewarding and fulfilling,” Buck said.

Marrs said it provided an opportunity for the College to quickly address students’ needs.

Students were asked to comment on the effort, and most of those were “very positive,” Marrs added.

“A lot of them were shocked and surprised that the College was actually reaching out to them individually,” he said. “A lot of times, we got parents by accident, and they were very pleased as well that we were reaching out.”

Caton, who coordinated assigning volunteers their list of students to call, said faculty and staff also benefited from the outreach project.

“I believe reaching out to the students was so important, especially in the beginning when so much was unknown,” Caton said. “The task was overwhelming in the beginning, but the results speak for themselves. Everyone involved seemed to appreciate the effort and got more than they expected out of the project.”

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