March 19, 2020
College of the Ozarks staff, faculty launch Bobcat Care Team, calling 1,500 students to encourage, check in
POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — College of the Ozarks postponed students’ return to campus after spring break and will transition to online learning the week of March 30, based on guidance from the CDC in regard to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“We believe the steps we are taking are in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff,” said College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis. “Although we have no cases of coronavirus on campus or in the local community, we are working to safeguard our students and limit the spread of the coronavirus. We are following CDC guidelines closely and working with local agencies to ensure we are doing what is best for everyone.”
Meanwhile, staff members are calling each student, more than 1,500 students, to touch base, assess needs, and relay any pertinent information.
“The launch of The Bobcat Care Team is a way for us to let our students know we care about them, especially during the extended spring break COVID-19 crisis,” said Dr. Sue Head, vice president for cultural affairs and dean of character education. “We love our students, and we want them to know that! The Care Team is asking a variety of questions related to the students’ housing, food, family. We just want them to know we miss them and hope to see them soon.”
Students have reacted to these phone calls with gratitude and, above all, have expressed concern for their fellow students.
“They are grateful we are reaching out to them,” said Sallie Hitchcock, administrative assistant to the dean of the College. “I am hearing students express concern for other students rather than themselves.”
Kiley Hutcheson, retail operations manager, reflected on how the College’s value system sustains its employees and students.
“The College has gone above and beyond to make sure that we as employees feel safe and are taken care of,” Hutcheson said. “Through the midst of this situation/crisis, and the unknown, I feel protected. We can truly see our faith in Christ, what this College stands for, shining through in this situation. There is care for all parties involved, and we are determined to press through and come out stronger on the other side. We are learning a lot through this and will be even better after the fact.”
While making phone calls today, Toni Whitted, public relations assistant, noticed in students’ a longing for their “home away from home.”
“One student I spoke with, a freshman, sounded a little troubled when I asked her how she was doing,” Whitted said. “I asked her what was wrong, and she said, ‘I just want to come back to campus.’”
Leatha Keller, freshman ag business and agronomy major, was concerned about faculty and staff and expressed thanks for all that they are doing to keep things going while students are away.
“I know the situation caused by coronavirus has been difficult on students, but I know it has been just as hard, if not harder, on faculty and staff as they take care of things on campus,” Keller said. “Because faculty and staff are reaching out to us in the midst of everything, it shows me how much love and concern this College has for its students.”
“When challenges make life difficult, seeing students, faculty, and staff help one another is an encouragement,” Head said. “We are working to make sure that there is an adequate rotation of people to cover the essential duties, and that there is rest in the midst of the ‘new normal.’
“Students left concerned about what was going to happen, and many were very concerned about who was going to take care of all the animals on campus. We want them to know that the remaining staff has pitched in all over campus to keep things moving in their absence, including taking care of the cows and hogs. We have a new appreciation for our students’ hard work and commitment!”