Commentary: TCC Chancellor Eugene Giovannini: Maintaining Our Mission

Chancellor Dr. Eugene Giovannini.

Since our inception, one of Tarrant County College’s hallmarks has been our unwavering commitment to serving our community. As we all work to navigate an extraordinary health and economic crisis unimaginable just a few months ago, this commitment has never been more central to our mission or so necessary for those we serve.

With Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley’s amended disaster order last Friday, extending the stay-at-home decree through April 30, TCC – like every other entity vital to our community – will continue operating for the benefit of our students and community partners, albeit in modified ways.

Since closing our campuses and moving to online instruction last month, TCC’s faculty and staff have worked around the clock to ensure we continue to support our students…and, one another. Thanks to the commitment of our TCC family and collaboration with our community partners, the college was able to quickly pivot and has taken numerous steps to sustain our mission amidst a climate of uncertainty.

Serving Our Students, Faculty and Staff

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· TCC will continue to operate virtually through the end of the Summer term; specific details will be sent to students, faculty, and staff in the coming days.

· We have postponed our commencement ceremonies, originally scheduled for May 9, while exploring future opportunities to celebrate our graduates’ academic achievements.

· We made academic continuity an urgent priority, which involved identifying students and faculty who needed devices and Internet connectivity at home. In response, TCC will continue to distribute tablets that will have LTE Wireless Internet included for students’ use. Similarly, we have distributed laptops, tablets and Chromebooks for our temporarily home-based faculty and staff as their needs were expressed. Finally, we have fine-tuned and deployed a series of online collaboration tools so that our faculty, staff and students can remain connected and that instruction – as well as advising, counseling and other student support services – continue to operate as seamlessly as possible in this new online environment.

· Many of today’s college students have financial need during ordinary times, which is why we established the Eliminating Barriers-Student Emergency Assistance Fund through our TCC Foundation. Through this fund, eligible students currently can receive a one-time grant of up to $750 to help with non-tuition related financial emergencies so they can stay in school. In the last three weeks, we’ve seen an expected uptick in the number of students applying for help, and we are honored to respond. Please visit the Student Emergency Assistance Fund to learn more about how you can help.

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· Finally, we are mindful of the mental and emotional impact the transition to a temporary remote work and learning environment has made on our students, faculty and staff. The college continues to augment the smooth transition with online training and resources for faculty, staff, and students.

Serving Our Healthcare Providers

· For over 50 years, TCC has maintained strong partnerships with local healthcare organizations and now, as these entities are being pushed to capacity, we stand ready to help. First, we are prepared to donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and loan other medical equipment as needed to John Peter Smith (JPS) hospital, the county’s public hospital. In addition, we have donated PPE to the other area partners.

· Graduates of TCC’s healthcare professions programs always have been in high-demand throughout North Texas, and now that demand has increased exponentially. In particular, our nursing and respiratory care programs quickly responded to Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order, which effectively eliminated certain clinical requirements for nursing and respiratory care students close to graduation, so that we can get more of our TCC-trained nurses and respiratory care therapists into the workforce and help ease the load on our healthcare providers.

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· Finally, with six campuses that feature expansive parking lots, we are poised and ready to make this real estate available for COVID-19 mobile testing sites as the healthcare community may deem necessary.

Serving Our Business Community

· TCC’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) works in conjunction with the Small Business Administration and Fort Worth SCORE (the local chapter of a national organization consisting of retired businesspeople who serve as mentors and advisors) to help individuals start, manage and sustain small businesses. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the SBDC team worked with about 70 clients per month. Today, the team of seven is fielding more than 100 calls for assistance per day. To support, five additional members of our Corporate Services team have been dedicated to help staff a remote call center equipped with bilingual speakers to support small businesses throughout North Texas.

· In addition, to helping current SBDC clients understand the new federal aid packages available, and how to navigate those respective processes, the SBDC team has worked with area Chambers of Commerce to co-host informative teleconferences. From March 23 through April 2, more than 2,000 small business owners throughout North Texas have participated in these sessions. To learn more, visit the SBDC website.

In total, we are walking through a moment in history none of us could have envisioned. Our ways of living, working, learning and connecting have been challenged. That said, I am encouraged by the dedication and commitment of our faculty and staff to navigate through ambiguity; I am heartened by our students’ passion to persist amidst uncertainty; I am proud of TCC’s continued ability to serve this community; and, I am grateful to all of our community partners and supporters who continue to entrust us with our vital mission: to serve Tarrant County.

Please keep yourselves and your families safe.

Eugene Giovannini is chancellor of Tarrant County College.