While the College of the Ozarks campus has trimmed to essential operations, remaining staff and faculty are helping out in new ways as they cross-train to perform vital functions.
Because Hard Work U. is a work college, and students are involved in every operation, their absence is felt greatly and affects every area of campus. Bryan Cizek, dean of work education and director of patriotic activities, has worked with College administrators to ensure that all essential workstations are covered, including the farms.
“The farming operations have certainly been affected,” Cizek said. “Other significantly impacted workstations include switchboard, power plant, landscaping, custodial, and the dining facility. All of these workstations are critical to campus operations that rely almost solely on students. We have around 30 employees taking on additional duties. This number does not include those who have taken on custodial duties in the buildings in which they reside.”
“In addition to my current responsibilities as admissions and recruitment coordinator, during this unique situation, I help in the W. Alton Jones Dairy,” said Paul Baker, staff member. “My fellow interim dairy workers and I maintain the free-stall barn, feed the bottle calves, and clean the milking parlor. One of my tasks is interacting with the dairy cows when we move them to the milking parlor. They are fascinating creatures with big personalities. Sometimes it is challenging to convince a 1,300-pound cow, let alone an entire herd, to go where they need to go, so I enjoy learning how to communicate with my new bovine friends.”
Students have expressed concern about the animals, even volunteering to come back to campus to care for them. But according to Cizek, all the animals are being well cared for. Lori Simmons, staff member, normally farms produce in the C of O gardens, and now has served in the dairy, hog farm, and beef farm. She has a new appreciation for her farming colleagues.
“I have learned the system for feeding the livestock,” Simmons said. “There are many different diets among the animals, so it is important to make sure they are given the right feed in the right amounts. I have learned how to clean equipment, how to run the milking system and milk cows, and how to take care of the maternity barn where the dairy calves are. I am still learning daily.
“I normally farm produce, and I have worked around the livestock farms for over five years. I have helped out, but I honestly had no idea what all went into running these farms. The farm managers in the agriculture department and the students have a huge task keeping these farms running so well. I am very impressed and have a greater appreciation for what they do.”
Answering the calls
Dr. Stacy McNeill serves as division chair of performing and professional arts/professor of communication arts, but during this time has assisted with crisis communication, outreach to students, and answering switchboard calls.
“I’ve developed an appreciation for the focus it takes for students to work at the campus switchboard,” McNeill said. “These students give a first impression of the College, and they have to think about their communication, stay calm when they receive several calls, keep an eye out for unusual campus activity on the camera system, and, above all, maintain a professional demeanor. These are opportunities for critical thinking and wise engagement and provide tremendous training for life skills development.”
What we’ve learned …
Staff member Pamela Spears, administrative assistant and event planner for The Keeter Center for Character Education, worked in the switchboard and landscaping departments over the past week.
“In landscaping, I received an education in proper planting, different species, the needs and requirements for the care of the plants, and the produce we harvest and use on our campus,” Spears said. “It was a great crash course! I also learned what you do and do not want to touch, like certain prickly plants, monkey tails and cacti species! We have always known how exceptional and hardworking our students are, but now that we are working in different areas, we have another layer of appreciation for their hard work!”
Caden Peterson, dairy worker by day and residence director by night, said, “I have learned about the different amounts of feed that each cow gets and how specific it has to be, and I have learned that boots are a necessity when dealing with cows! More importantly, I have learned there is beauty in what this campus is doing in this wild, chaotic time.”
McNeill echoed that sentiment.
“I am encouraged, consistently, by the hard work of my colleagues, but I have been inspired, especially, by their work during these challenging times. I have seen a focus on unity above departments or titles, selfless attitudes, and a deep appreciation for and desire to protect our students. We miss them, we are praying for them, and we look forward to their safe return,” McNeill said.
College of the Ozarks postponed students’ return to campus after spring break, based on guidance from the CDC regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). Spring break was originally scheduled March 16-20 and was extended to March 27. A transition to online learning is scheduled to begin March 30 and will continue until a determination is made that students can safely return to campus.
Most staff and faculty members are currently working from home. The few who are working on campus are practicing social distancing while taking care of essential duties, including caring for the cows and hogs.
The campus is closed to visitors until further notice, including these areas:
- The Keeter Center
- Public Student Industries — Edwards Mill, Stained Glass and Candle Shop, Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen, Gaetz Tractor Museum, Ralph Foster Museum, and Hoge Greenhouses
- Admissions Office
- Sunday Chapel Services
- School of the Ozarks
For additional information, contact Public Relations Director Valorie Coleman at (417) 690-2212.