SMC Board of Trustees looks past pandemic anniversary

Published 9:58 am Monday, March 15, 2021

DOWAGIAC — At its monthly meeting on March 10, the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees acknowledged the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, then looked ahead with an update on enrollment strategies and fall classes.

Trustees, meeting in Mathews Conference Center West on SMC’s Dowagiac campus, heard a detailed President’s Report from Dr. Joe Odenwald, who publicly recognized his senior leadership team’s 37 years of collective experience — Chief of Staff Brent Brewer, Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development Mike O’Brien and Vice President and Chief Business Officer Susan Coulston.

“They have worked very hard this last year sorting through the various scenarios, statistics and guidance” to adapt to the pandemic,” Odenwald said. “I appreciate their efforts and am honored to serve with them.”

During the challenging past year, the senior leadership team also oversaw preparation for Higher Learning Commission accreditation reaffirmation culminating with a formal visit on April 19-20, developed a new Ronnie Roadrunner mascot, engineered the return of intercollegiate athletics to SMC with fall’s return of cross country, published an updated strategic plan, launched a new web site and is close to implementing a Customer Relationship Management data system.

“The system will provide a more advanced platform for us to improve the overall application, onboarding and service experience for our students,” O’Brien said.

Looking ahead to the Fall 2021 semester, Odenwald indicated that SMC will have a mix of class formats available. About two-thirds of the sections are anticipated to run in-person on campus, with the rest to be conducted as hybrid or online to provide options for students who prefer those formats.

“Of course, this depends on government guidelines regarding the pandemic, but our goal is to be as much in-person as possible,” Odenwald confirmed. The college is also working with food service provider Canteen to possibly re-open The Birdfeeder eatery with a more varied menu by fall.

Details have been finalized for SMC’s 54th Commencement at 4 p.m. Friday, May 14 for the School of Arts and Sciences and 10 a.m. Saturday, May 15 for the Schools of Business, Advanced Technology, Nursing and Health Services. Both ceremonies will be in Alumni Plaza, and additional information will be provided to graduates and published on the college website soon.

The Outstanding Graduate Reception, canceled in 2020, returns in the same outdoor setting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 12.

The board also thanked donors for 30 generous gifts totaling $22,305 to the college and to the SMC Foundation.