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University of Phoenix Interdepartmental Team Supports Students, Faculty and Staff During Natural Disasters

By Michele Mitchum

Cross-functional team offers academic support, timely communications to students and staff  

University of Phoenix is pleased to share that its interdepartmental Campus Online Closure and Interruption Committee (COCI) offered support to 67,433 students over the last year in the form of academic assistance or timely communications during severe weather events, power outages and natural disasters. The committee, established in 2017, operates as a cross-functional team with collaboration across departments. COCI also works closely with the university's Security Operations Center (SOC) and assesses the impact on students, faculty and staff when online class interruptions occur due to inclement weather or other incidents that may threaten safety or disrupt academic progression.

“During a natural disaster, it is critical that our students and faculty know they are supported and have access to the resources they need,” states provost and chief academic officer John Woods, Ph.D. “COCI allows our faculty and students to focus on navigating a natural disaster by offering support like emergency communications and extensions on academic deadlines when appropriate. Our faculty offer this support so students can focus on the immediate safety of their families and communities and know that they can still succeed in the course when the crisis has passed.”

University of Phoenix Chief Operating Officer, Raghu Krishnaiah, created and sponsors the committee and says the work they do is critical in terms of academic support and proactive safety measures. “As an online institution with students, staff, and faculty located across the country, we needed a way to ensure our communications, academic, and safety efforts were as effective and proactive as possible,” Krishnaiah shares. “We’re fortunate to have a dedicated team that spans departments and is committed to supporting the wellbeing of those affected by potentially dangerous or disruptive events.”   

According to the Clery Act of 1990, campus officials must evaluate if an event constitutes a serious or ongoing threat to a campus community to determine if a timely warning needs to be issued to staff and students. In the event of an immediate, significant danger to the health or safety of the campus community, campus officials may issue an emergency notification. Because students and staff at the University are not limited to a specific geographic location, SOC is continually monitoring events across the nation. Monitoring includes not only severe weather events, but any potential threats to safety for students, faculty and staff.

Last year alone, forty events were identified by SOC and COCI as potentially impacting University of Phoenix faculty and students. Severe winter storms and thunderstorms triggered COCI intervention in most cases, often due to power outages. Hurricane Ian, which caused widespread damage in Florida, South Carolina, and the Caribbean, called for COCI support for weeks. During that time, COCI estimated 9,631 University of Phoenix students, 497 faculty and 101 staff were impacted by the hurricane.

“When an event like Hurricane Ian happens, SOC and COCI take an all-hands approach to ensure we get the message out to students and staff that their area may be impacted,” states Senior Director of Corporate Security for University of Phoenix Steve Lindsey. “Communications include links to available resources like shelter locations and evacuation zones, as well as updates from government officials. When there is an extension offered for academic assignment deadlines, we let folks know. Everything we do is aimed at securely supporting the delivery of a quality education and supporting our faculty, staff and students during a crisis.”

University of Phoenix student Landon Shoey was impacted by Hurricane Ian and recalls the support he received from his instructors during that time. “Hurricane Ian was a very difficult time with lots of uncertainty and damage,” Shoey states. “I was worried I would have to drop a class or two to focus on getting things back to normal, but the faculty at University of Phoenix were wonderful in accommodating my needs. The instructors were very understanding and gave me extensions on assignments which allowed me to continue without falling behind. The faculty and support staff would even check in on me to make sure I had everything I needed to be successful.”

Learn more here about campus safety at the University of Phoenix.

About University of Phoenix

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