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‘It isn’t like flipping a light switch’

Miami adjusts to COVID-19’s academic impact

<p>Robin Parker will retire from Miami in January and will be replaced by newly hired Amy Shoemaker. </p>

Robin Parker will retire from Miami in January and will be replaced by newly hired Amy Shoemaker.

With the transition to remote learning and the uncertainty of the future of academic life, Miami University students have many questions about how this pandemic will impact the remainder of their academic spring semester and beyond. 

Jason Osborne, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the university is trying to make the transition to online learning as easy as possible for students.

“I think that we’re doing about as good a job as I’ve seen anyone do,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is simultaneously support the students in any way we can, while trying to ensure that students get as much out of the semester as possible.”

An ongoing concern for students has been the cancellation of various internships, summer programs and accreditation and licensing programs.

Osborne said for most majors that require some degree of accreditations and licensing, the state board or national agency is working with universities to ensure students are not held accountable for something that may be impossible to complete.

In the case that students are still struggling to meet national requirements, Osborne and other university provosts are working together to advocate for students.

“As we’re uncovering things like accrediting bodies that are doing things that would harm the students or slow down their progress to their degree, we’re kind of banding together to help them understand the implications of their choices and advocate for our students and our institutions,” Osborne said.

Another area of concern for students is the ability to meet university requirements, particularly in the University Honors Program (UHP). The UHP said it will not be relaxing graduation requirements but has recently taken steps to assist students in meeting these requirements. 

On Thursday, the UHP announced the credit/no credit option can now be applied to honors courses for this semester, an option not previously available. 

“I think that this is a very positive change for our students to make sure that the focus remains on learning in those classes rather than just the grade,” said Zeb Baker, director of the UHP.

Baker said the program is hurting in two ways, both in the loss of community and in students’ worries that they can no longer perform to the best of their abilities.

Baker also said the program is not looking to “kick anybody out” of the UHP.

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He said UHP understands requirements may evolve as the semester progresses and the full implications of remote learning and programs’ cancellations are understood.

As study abroad programs are canceled, summer internships are suspended, and even the honors program’s own Urban Leadership internship program, which combines professional practice, volunteer work, and urban exploration in the Dayton area, is unable to take place, the university is keeping the success of its students a priority. 

“There’s a recognition and acknowledgment on our part that the students really are not going to have the same universe of opportunities that they normally would have during a regular summer, and that we’re really going to have to work with students when they come back to campus in the fall, to play some catch up,” Osborne said. 

When it comes to the fall semester, both Osborne and Baker are optimistic things will return to normal, although it may take time.

“It isn’t like flipping a light switch,” Osborne said, stressing that the future is still unclear.

Despite ongoing uncertainty and worries among students, they both also pointed out that Miami students have done an excellent job adjusting to their new college lifestyle.

“I’m very proud of them for that,” Baker said. “I certainly think that is emblematic of the kinds of students that Miami is able to attract here.”