2020 Year in Review

2020 has been a year like no other. As we mark the end of the year, we look back at the lessons learned and achievements and accomplishments that occurred collegewide to promote equity and inclusion and keep our students on track.

The new year marked the start of a couple of new initiatives, including the college's tuition pay structure known as 'same-day-pay' and the planning process for the 2020-25 Academic Master Plan (AMP).

January also marked the topping out of the Rio Grande Campus renovation project.

The college commemorated the National Day of Racial Healing at the beginning of the semester. ACC's Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Center hosted a showcase featuring art, dance, music, and spoken word as well as a series of racial healing circles.

The college had been tracking local, state, and national developments of COVID-19 on a daily basis. In early February, ACC launched an informational webpage — austincc.edu/coronavirus — where students, employees, and the community could get up-to-date information and resources. ACC's on-campus custodial crew began additional sanitation treatments.

ACC received two recognitions in February: Top producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars for the second consecutive year and Leader College of Distinction by Achieving the Dream.

The college also approved a new vocational nursing degree that allows students to earn a certificate and begin working in the field while they work toward their associate degree.

ACC's Office of Student Life collected more than 60 pounds of canned and non-perishable foods to restock the food pantries located on all ACC campuses. Student Life received the Higher Education Community Impact Award from the Governor's Office for its food pantry project.

In early March, there were still no known cases of COVID-19 in the Austin area, but the ACC executive team was already working through various scenarios. The college asked faculty to begin thinking about how they could adapt their classes to continue teaching in a virtual setting.

A couple of annual fundraising events were able to take place early in the month — Amplify Austin, a communitywide day of charitable giving, and the Annual Fairway 5K at the Riverside Golf Course. The ACC Alumni Network raised nearly $12,000 during Amplify Austin to support the Alumni Network Scholarship, STEPS Continuing Education program, Student Emergency Fund, Food Pantry program, and Groceries & Gas for Academic Success. The Fairway 5K raised more than $4,000 to benefit ACC's physical therapy scholarship.

Faculty from the programs making the move to Highland Phase 2 were able to get a sneak peek inside the building in March. The project manager and facilities team led them on a hardhat tour to view their new spaces, including specialized facilities for culinary arts, creative arts, health sciences, and workforce innovation.

By mid-March, the spread of the Coronavirus had escalated, and on March 12, ACC announced that it would extend spring break an additional week for students. The next day, the college announced it would close at 10 a.m. after two presumptive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the region.

Over the break, the college notified employees that all except those deemed essential should plan to work remotely after spring break. Meanwhile, the Office of IT was working behind the scenes to accommodate remote working, teaching, and learning.

During this time, faculty and staff heard about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) regional healthcare workers were facing and wanted to help. They started collecting materials for donation including gloves, masks, shoe covers, hair covers, and gowns. Surplus supplies were delivered directly to the Austin-based public health consortium that oversees regional distribution.

On March 24, the City of Austin along with Travis and Williamson counties issued stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19. The next day, the college announced that campuses would remain closed until April 13, and Chancellor Dr. Richard Rhodes released a video with his promise to students, faculty and staff, and the community during this uncertain time. Before the end of the month, the college launched an online self-reporting form for students and employees to report their travel or other activity related to the Coronavirus.

The month ended with the college announcing a change to ACC's grading policy to support students during the transition to online learning. An emergency order signed by Chancellor Rhodes allowed the college to offer a pass/no pass option for students in response to the COVID-19-related impact on classes.

In early April, Travis County and the City of Austin announced new health and safety recommendations asking all residents who leave their homes to wear facial coverings, and the college asked that all personnel adhere to these recommendations. ACC also announced that all summer session classes and support services would move online and that all non-essential faculty and staff would continue to work remotely.

The college announced new paid leave policies for employees starting this month as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak — the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLA).

To support students who had no or limited access to the technology, ACC purchased 1,000 iPads to distribute to students for online learning. The college also launched a new drive-up WiFi service at three campuses and announced that the spring commencement celebration would go virtual.

To further support students, the college announced its Keep a Dream Going campaign to increase the Student Emergency Fund by $300,000. The fund helps students with unanticipated financial emergencies so that they can stay on track with their academic and career goals. It had seen a tenfold increase in requests due to the pandemic.

ACC was awarded $13.9 million in April through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, of which at least 50 percent was designated for student emergency aid. By the end of the month, the college received the first portion of federal financial support and opened applications for the ACC CARES Act Student Aid. Students who didn't meet federal requirements were connected with other financial aid opportunities including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study, emergency funds, military exemptions, and tuition exemptions.

Throughout all this, a record number of ACC faculty and staff participated in the fifth annual Become an ACC Exercise Star Challenge coordinated by the ACC Employee Wellness Program to promote increased activity among employees. Despite half of the challenge spanning through the COVID-19 pandemic, 587 employees logged 1,069,911 total minutes of exercise.

Also, faculty and staff from areas across the college — ACC Fashion Design, Campus Operations, Architectural and Engineering Computer Aided Design, and Art — pulled their resources to create protective equipment for essential ACC employees and community first responders.

To check in on how students were doing with the transition to an online learning environment, a team of Student Affairs staff reached out to students as part of a Student Wellness Call-a-thon. They found that things were going well for almost 80 percent of the students they spoke with and worked to connect the remaining 20 percent with resources to help them complete the semester.

In May, ACC also started planning for the fall and created a Return to Campus Committee to identify how to safely resume in-person teaching, learning, and working.

To keep ACC affordable, trustees voted to keep tuition and fees steady for the seventh consecutive year.

With the semester winding down, ACC's Dance Department took its Choreographers' Showcase from the stage to the screen. The recorded videos were livestreamed on Facebook, while ACCTV broadcast them. The department sold virtual tickets, with 100 percent of ticket sales going to student scholarships.

The third annual President's Reception to honor graduating Dual Credit high school seniors went virtual as well. More than 3,000 seniors who earned 12 or more credits were mailed a Riverbat purple cord and more than 300 seniors who completed an ACC degree or certificate were mailed a white ACC stole.

The college celebrated a record-breaking class of spring graduates in a virtual commencement ceremony on June 6. ACC created a platform to make the event interactive for graduates with specially created filters and frames.The virtual celebration included special videos and messages to graduates from the ACC community and notable Austinites, including Kendra Scott, Roy Spence, and Aaron Franklin.

To honor spring graduates in a safe way, the Office of Communication and Marketing set up "Congrats Grads" signs on every ACC campus. Students were encouraged to visit the signs and tag themselves on social media with #ACCGrads.

The college named its new Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer in June. Larry M. Davis continues the college's work to address equity gaps at ACC.

ACC announced that it would begin a gradual approach to return to campus beginning in July by phasing in a small number of workforce classes and student services that require face-to-face interaction.

The Student Emergency Fund campaign "Keep a Dream Alive" reached its $300,000 goal -- $95,000 of the fund came from the ACC Foundation reallocating unrestricted funds to the SEF and $40,000 came from an anonymous donor. The rest came from more than 300 donors, including more than 150 ACC faculty and staff and more than 70 community individuals and businesses.

The Drama Department took its end-of-semester showcase online to Facebook and ACCTV. The showcase featured monologues and spoken word, costume and stage design projects, and a video recap of its spring production, "Harry and the Thief."

On July 6, the college cautiously welcomed approximately 1,000 students districtwide back to campus. A small number of classes — primarily in workforce-related programs in health sciences and applied technologies such as welding tech, auto tech, and nursing — were allowed to meet in person.

With ACC opened back up, Student Life (SL) was there to help students meet their immediate food needs. Using many of the supplies from its spring donation drive, SL packed snack boxes for students. Teams distributed 120 boxes in the first couple of days.

To better support students and employees, the college expanded its free WiFi to all campuses in designated parking lots.

The college was recognized with the top spot for transfer student success according to new data released by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).

ACC also became the first community college to receive Salesforce's Excellence in Institutional Efficiency award. The college received the award for its ACCess Internship application, which provides an intuitive, user-friendly application and workflow process for students seeking internships through the college's Office of Experiential Learning.

Construction at Highland reached another milestone in July, with ACC's Facilities and Construction team and project crews adding the college's name to the external-facing wall of the new Highland Campus South Parking Garage.

The college announced that the distribution of $3.9 million in CARES Act student aid in the spring and summer semesters and the reopening of applications for fall.

ACC held its Future of Work Summit as part of its AMP process. The virtual event, sponsored by Teaching and Learning Excellence Division (TLED), provided an opportunity for employees to explore topics such as COVID-19's impact on higher education, changes that may happen in the labor market, how ACC may better prepare students and innovate for the future of work in Central Texas, and more.

ACC hosted its 2020 Award Celebration online. The annual event recognizes recipients of its Excellence in Teaching and Leadership Awards.

A Strategic Enrollment Management committee was formed at the direction of the Chancellor's Cabinet. The group — representing a cross-section of the college — is creating a three-year comprehensive plan for new student enrollment with a focus on equity.

The MyACC Faculty and Staff Portals launched August 17, allowing employees the ability to access all college information in one place.

ACC launched 14-week courses as a new option for students needing more time to finish their admission steps and begin class on time.

ACC was the only college in Texas selected to launch Google's first Department of Labor-registered apprenticeship program. The program offers students a unique opportunity to receive training and employment from one of the world's leading tech companies.

Two ACC Health Sciences courses achieved national recognition for quality online and hybrid learning, bringing the college's total to three courses with national Quality Matters (QM) certification.

In September, The Army Futures Command (AFC) named ACC as the home for its new Software Factory, which will be the first of its kind and will provide a training pipeline for soldiers and ACC students. The factory will be located at the Rio Grande Campus.

In an effort to get more Central Texans to work, ACC launched a tuition discount program for 12 fast-track programs in the highest-demand sectors in the region, including health care, IT, and skilled trades.

ACC hosted two virtual events to commemorate new milestones in the Highland Campus Phase 2 project. Watch the lighting of the Fontaine Plaza park here and take a sneak peek inside Highland Phase 2 here.

ACC became the first community college district in Texas to switch over some of its campuses entirely to wind and solar power. The ACC Round Rock and Elgin campuses now use 100 percent clean, renewable electricity.

More than 2,500 Austin Community College District employees tuned in to their computers for the college's first completely virtual General Assembly with the theme of "College of the Future."

ACC welcomed its new Latino/Latin American Studies Center Director, Dr. Gary Moreno.

In recognizing students' need for access to technology and study spaces, ACC began to open study spaces by appointment and with health and safety measures in place in each region.

In October, the college hosted a special Campus Conversation with the Chancellor with guest Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim public health authority. They discussed COVID-19 and how the college is responding.

ACC's Culinary Arts Program got a sneak peek at its new state-of-the-art kitchens and expanded student-run restaurant, Eatery 73, at Highland Phase 2.

A fourth ACC course — Medical Terminology — received national Quality Matters (QM) certification this month.

ACC learned it is one of six community colleges from across the nation — and the only college in Texas — selected to join a new initiative to deliver focused, market-driven education to close skills gaps in the U.S. workforce. Through the Community College Growth Engine Fund, the college receives $417,000 to create "Fast Track" pathways with employer-validated credentials that lead students directly into the Central Texas workforce.

The college was also named a top innovator by the League for Innovation in the Community College for the third straight year and was recognized with the 2020 Innovation of the Year award for its Public Safety Training Center (PSTC): Immersive and Dynamic Simulations for First Responders.

ACC announced it's forming an Equity Council to help the college reach its equity goals and serve as an advisory group to the chancellor and the Chancellor's Cabinet. The council will collaborate with the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center; and ACC Employee Associations.

Dr. Rhodes shared an email informing the Riverbat community of spring plans and some of the steps the college is exploring in its return to campus plan.

ACC and Central Texas went purple November 16-20 to celebrate Riverbat Week 2020 and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Riverbat brand and mascot. Throughout the week, the cities of Austin, Kyle, Leander, and Round Rock issued proclamations declaring it Riverbats Day in their respective communities. Click here to learn more and view a slideshow including photos from the unveiling and recent appearances.

For a third straight year, community voters selected ACC's Nursing Program as the best program in Central Texas in the 2020 Best of the Best awards, hosted by the Austin American-Statesman.

ACC faculty and staff donated a total of $42,127 to nonprofits through the annual State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC). Of that total, employees contributed $5,534 to the ACC Foundation, which — when matched — will total over $11,000 for student scholarships.

ACC hosted its first-ever Drone Demo Day November 18 at the Public Safety Training Center at Hays Campus to promote its newest drone training certification program. The event, hosted in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) National Drone Safety Awareness Week, promoted information about drone vehicles, safety, and education at ACC.

The annual Distance Education Symposium was held November 12-13. Faculty and staff presenters shared their expertise on a wide range of subjects, including accessibility services for remote students, motivation and mindset, online research practices, student engagement, creating online test security in Blackboard, using Blackboard Ally to make courses accessible, Online Educational Resources (OER), and tools such as Zoom and VidGrid.

December marked the end of the fall semester. Despite the pandemic, the number of ACC graduates continues to grow. This class was no exception, with a record-breaking 3,400+ students invited to participate in the fall 2020 virtual commencement ceremony.

At the beginning of December, the college announced it would begin offering in-person application assistance on three campuses as part of its gradual expansion of on-campus services. Students seeking assistance enrolling for spring classes were required to schedule an appointment and follow the college's COVID-19 safety protocols in order to enter the campus.

ACC was awarded two national Department of Education grants to support the college's work toward closing equity gaps and increasing student success: a $2.68 million Distance Education in Focus: Improving Course Design and Strengthening Student Support (InFocus) grant to support work that will increase student persistence, retention, and success for Hispanic and other low-income students and a $1.3 million TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS) grant to help increase persistence, academic standing, timely graduation, and transfer rates.

A monolith popped up overnight on December 4 in the Jacob Fontaine Plaza at ACC Highland, but unlike the other monoliths popping up around the world, this one is no mystery. Faculty, students, and former students from ACC's Welding Department custom-built an eight-foot-tall silvery column, and installed it.

With Coronavirus cases rising in the state, the college announced it would switch back to remote work starting December 17 and will remain in a remote-work status until January 11, 2021. The college still has had no transmission of COVID-19 on ACC campuses.