Work Continues Through COVID-19
Since early March the Corporation has been working closely with university partners to ensure that all essential services could continue as safely and seamlessly as possible. Campus Dining adapted new safety protocols, the University Store increased online sales, Sponsored Programs continued to support essential research, Conference and Event Planning helped transition programs to virtual, and the business office quickly adjusted to ensure continuity of services and functions for all areas.
With the transition to a virtual spring quarter, a number of major decisions were made and actions taken in quick succession. Spring dining plan funds were added to student accounts early to ensure students could get meals and groceries prior to and during spring break, and as long as they remained on campus. Then, as students began leaving campus and canceling spring term housing in large numbers, it was determined that a refund on unused spring quarter dining plan money was the appropriate action, and steps were put into motion to begin the significant process of calculating and issuing thousands of dining refunds.
COVID-19 continues to impact operations. President Armstrong’s announcement in June that 15 percent of classes will be held virtually during fall quarter. The Corporation leadership team continues to strategize and plan to accommodate the needs of students who will be living on or coming to campus for classes this fall.
With the stay-at-home order issued in March, Corporation employees in all departments quickly transitioned to working remotely to support the needs of colleagues and many operations and projects. Corporation IT rapidly established evaluation and support protocols to prioritize the needs of employees suddenly working from home, and to ensure the continuity of operations for essential services.
As of today, four months later, there are limited Corporation team members in the Building 15 on any given day. The office remains closed to walk-in traffic except for specific hours on Fridays to accommodate check distribution and physical deposits. The team overall has done a remarkable job ensuring continuity of operations in all areas, including Human Resources, Information Technology, Facilities, Business Development, and the Executive Office.
Below are updates on a few of our key support areas.
Business and Finance
The Business and Finance office has continued to process payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash deposits, close the accounting records each month, and begin fiscal year-end closing procedures, which includes conducting inventory observations. Many of these activities are completed remotely. Staff have limited their time in the office for those activities that require physical presence like printing checks to pay vendors, processing and printing payroll, receiving and entering deposits. Additionally, the annual financial statement audit requires sending support for transactions, many of which are stored as physical copies in Building 15.
COVID-19 presented many procedural changes surrounding travel with frequent updates coming from the Chancellor and the Cal Poly President. Corporation staff developed new procedures to obtain presidential approval for essential travel, which happens frequently for Centers and Institutes. Staff collaborated with Strategic Business Services and the President’s Office to facilitate getting updated travel authorization forms for the Centers and Institutes for essential travel.
The fiscal year-end involves a heavy workload to ensure the accounting records fairly represent the financial situation of the organization. This significant effort is being done while team members continue to maintain normal daily operations. Staff managed the financial statement audit requests, physical inventory observations at Campus Dining locations, Commercial Ag operations, Cal Poly Print & Copy, and University Graphic Systems. Staff have been flexible with working most of each week at home and coming to the office one to two days a week.
Essential sponsored research has continued during the pandemic. Active projects are being administered, new projects are being established and staff has remained available to provide support to project investigators. As the pandemic pushed work virtual there were many questions and concerns regarding research and how to continue. However, with help from Corporation staff and the Office of Research and Economic Development, the Sponsored Programs team worked through the guidelines and restrictions handed down from the sponsors, university, Chancellor’s Office, and the governor, and continued to move forward. Staff continue to hire essential students to support ongoing research projects and to guarantee critical work is completed and essential research continues.
All employees have been set up with remote work stations to allow them to work from home, and a schedule has been implemented that limits the staff in the office at any one time.
“Our staff had to quickly adapt to the new working environment while continuing to provide excellent customer service, Sponsored Programs Director Jodi Block said. “Some people adapted easier than others but we worked with each staff member to adapt to different work styles and home environments. Overall our productivity has remained high and our attitudes positive.”
Conference and Event Planning
Many spring and summer in-person conferences and youth camps were canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, however, the two largest youth camps, the Architecture Summer Career Workshop, and the EPIC (Engineering Possibilities in College) programs have transitioned to virtual events. The Architecture Summer Career Workshop started on June 29 and runs until July 17. The EPIC program started on July 6, and with four separate sessions, runs until July 31. The CEP team is working on any and all arrangements for these online youth camps. This includes, but not limited to, participant registration and payment, payroll processing, liability waiver completion and procurement.
Throughout this time the CEP team has adapted and pivoted to create great virtual programs when in-person events were not possible. They have developed new practices to assist virtual programs, with new procedures such as the required forms and their subsequent processing by registrants. These adaptations have opened new opportunities for the team, with coordination services available for any client considering a new, or transitioning, online event.
Working remotely the team remains very busy, with the virtual summer camps and future event coordination, making all the necessary arrangements. Despite the current environment with in-person events prohibited, many CEP clients are looking ahead. They are planning their return and working collectively with CEP to prepare. Larger events can take up to a year to coordinate, and now is a busy time working with these future clients on all aspects of their event, from program planning, scheduling, registration websites, parking and traffic management, to space reservations and catering.
Campus Dining evolved its operations quickly, increasing cleaning protocols, adapting hours and open venues to best serve those still on campus, and switching to online ordering to limit contact and increase social distancing. Operations were changed again in May as resident students were moved to Poly Canyon Village. Canyon Cafe began serving special meals and Village Market reopened to provide options and essential food and goods.
In late March San Luis Obispo County, in partnership with Cal Poly, began work to transform the Cal Poly Recreation Center into an alternate care site for coronavirus patients. Campus Dining leadership immediately started planning to support the backup care facility. Assistant Director of Campus Dining, Greg Yeo worked directly with representatives from the county and CAL FIRE to create logistics and meal delivery plans for three hot meals a day to the teams working to get the facility ready to open. Equipment from dining facilities was donated and repurposed to the site and made available to serve outside needs.
Campus Dining Registered Dietitian Kelsey McCourt collaborated in the creation of patient menus for various special needs, including cardiac, diabetic, renal, ground, and pureed. Executive Chef Chris Dunham worked with distributors to source the specific food items needed for the various therapeutic diets, and University Catering Sous Chef Jeremy Jones led the production and delivery.
Over the last four months, the University Store has seen a 200 percent year-over-year increase in online orders and has stayed busy with the task of filling those 11,000 purchases. The University Store updated its hours to meet the needs of resident students and essential employees still on campus and revised its safety protocols to keep all customers as well as employees safe. These changes included increasing physical distance mandates with added measures, elevated sanitation procedures, and employee training. Cal Poly Downtown closed on March 19 when the stay-at-home order was given and then reopened on June 10 with a detailed reopening plan that also involved social distancing measures, elevated sanitation procedures, and increased employee training.