How Cornerstone University plans to return to campus this fall: Q&A with President Joe Stowell

When did the university decide resume on-campus learning in the fall, and how did they make this decision?
By early May we were quite certain that resuming on-campus learning was a distinct possibility. Given that reality, we measured our ability to fulfill our guiding priorities i.e., the safety of students, faculty, and staff and a high quality educational experience which has been our hallmark. After extensive research and consultation both internally and externally and the measuring of our potential against our two priorities, we felt that we could open with the assurance of a safe community environment and a high quality educational experience for our students.
Define "agile teaching" and how this will play a role in on-campus instruction.
When we talk about the concept of ‘agile teaching,' we are talking about designing our courses and planning to teach them using a variety of different tools and methods, and in a way that allows students to participate in the class through multiple modalities. 

‘Agile teaching’ means that each of our classes will not be built primarily on one teaching method — whether that be lecture, group work, or something else, but rather that each class will use a variety of tech tools and teaching methods so all students are engaged, and so we can easily adapt if conditions require that our classes shift format quickly.  
Can students pursue remote education instead, if they choose?
Generally speaking our plans will be structured for participation by all of our students. However, we are aware that there will be some situations due to health issues or other personal obstacles that students may face and are prepared to adjust for those individual cases to enable as many as possible to have access to our educational offerings.

How will testing play a role in students and staff returning to campus?

At this point we are not sure what the exact dynamics of testing will look like but are determined to follow the guidelines that local and state heath officials recommend in order to make our campus as safe as possible.
How will class structure and size change?
In our planning we have several scenarios in place that will enable us to respond to the situation as it presents itself this fall. If social distancing is still a recommended procedure, our classes will honor that protocol. Which means that classes will have to be scheduled in larger gathering areas, classes may have to be formed in staggered cohorts, some may have to take some part of their class interactively with virtual assistance, and others may voluntarily choose to take the class remotely. We place a high value on the benefit of face-to-face education between student and faculty and will form all or our options to maximize that possibility.

How will on-campus living change?

While health protocols are of major importance, we also feel that there will be ways for us to creatively preserve the fun and fulfillment of community life on campus. We look forward to providing whatever is needed to provide a positive and successful campus experience. The specific details will depend on what stage of the pandemic we will be in this fall but the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being of our community will be our leading concern.

This means that the capacity of our residence halls dorms may be reduced to provide for physical distancing. We will have quarantine space and protocols for students with COVID-19 symptoms. Our student activities will honor safety and screening protocols, space in the dining commons will be structured for safety, and all community life and campus activities will be informed by the recommended procedures of local health officials.
Should the state of Michigan experience a resurgence in COVID-19, will the university change the decision to resume on-campus instruction?

Cornerstone will adjust to the recommendations of local, state and federal guidelines should a resurgence occur.


Dr. Joseph M. Stowell serves as the President of Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. An internationally recognized conference speaker, Joe has written several books including The Trouble with Jesus, Simply Jesus and You, and Redefining Leadership: Character-Driven Habits of Effective Leaders. Joe has a distinguished career in higher education and church leadership and currently serves on the board of two organizations: CURE International and English Language Institute/China (ELIC). He and his wife Martie are the parents of three adult children and ten grandchildren.
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