Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Germanna employees share stories of heroism during quake, Part 1

Germanna Community College employees were asked to tell stories of heroism they witnessed during and after the Aug. 23 earthquake.

Here is Part 1 of 3:

Chris Anderson - immediately after the earthquake many students who were feeling so frightened and uncertain were impressed and reassured by his presence and purposeful leadership. Many thought he was "the president" or "the dean" because of the way he turned the chaos into calm and the way everyone gravitated towards him and looked to him for decisions and direction. He was truly impressive and inspiring.

Garland Fenwick and Chris Cooper helped evacuate buildings at LGC, kept personnel calm, re-entered the Slaughter Building to help assure structural stability for students to return and gather personal belongings, and helped communicate with FAC regarding their status. Garland contacted Clark Nexsen via use of an analog line since VOIP and cell phones were not yet working to secure their services for a structural review of all facilities. Later, Garland and Chris walked through every building at FAC, LGC, and Culpeper with personnel from Clark Nexsen to assess structural damage. They returned home around 1:30 am.


Dean Brock & Bill Fiege for comming prepared the next day with a plan


IT staff for the continious efforts in moving to get people in place in a short turn around meeting the deadlines.
B&G staff in working with the logisitcs for Power, Furniture and other moves of equipment.
Security for the coordination of the site visits putting safety first.
Rick Brehm for the effort to lease a new facility
This list really includes all Germanna as we all worked to make the logistics happen.


This is hard, as there were so many.

Chris Anderson who took command at the moment of the Quake; Carol Baetz to took on the task of directing traffic; Mark Haines who entered the building and helped carry out a disabled student; Whoever it was who thought to pull the fire alarm; Garland Fenwick for getting a structural engineer to inspect the building that evening so we got the news as early as possible.
Since I am new to the faculty, there are many names I don't know. The emails updating the situation certainly helped, especially since I had not met with my class before the quake.
Cathy Ryschon helped keep order at the Fredericksburg Campus during and after the quake. She also showed compassion for the folks that were emotionally impacted by the events of that day.
Security guard Cathy put everyone else's safety before hers!
Daniel Buhrman walked around the parking lot unitl he got a signal on his phone so that I could call a family member. He then offered to drive anyone home if they needed it without even questioning where we lived.
Stephanie Wilkins, Testing Services Fredericksburg Campus. I was taking a placement test when the earthquake hit. There was another lady in the testing center who got on the floor. Stephanie stood calmly informed everyone in the room that it was an earthquake. She then directed me and six other students to exit the room and go to the front door and exit the building. The entire time she was calm while her co-worker left the room before any of us students. She truly mantain great composer doing this dangerous ordeal.


Ann Alizio - got everyone out of and away from the building.

Carol Batez - got everyone out of and away from the building.

Whoever pulled the fire alarm at the Dickinson building to get people moving out.

Deans Brock and Fiege for arranging rides for people who didnt' have their car keys.
Carol Baetz

She successfully calmed an agitated student (who was angrily screaming at her), showing good judgment and poise throughout the situation.


The response to the earthquake overall was handled adequately; however, there were departments that were put on the back burner. GED had to cancel testing in September because adequate space was not located in a timely manner. Moreover, at this time no office space has been identified for them. They have only been able to establish tentative test dates at this point.

Middle College to date is still not in operation and no space has been identified to relocate it. No attempt for temporary space at the campus for classes was made. I think a greater, more urgent effort could be made to find a location for this service to the community could have been made rather than putting Middle College on the back burner. This sends a message to Middle College students that the college does not value them as much as the general Germanna populations. I find this unacceptable.

Everyone has pulled together nicely making whatever changes that are needed. Even the students have pulled together to make this work.


Sincere thanks to the ACC/Testing Ctr folks who gave the Student Services Depts time in the computer lab to assist students!!
Once again, B & G has been wonderful. Garland Fenwick even gave up very expensive plane tickets and a long planned vacation so he could stay and help. IT was also very helpful in getting all the computers, etc. moved.
Aubrey Collier, Jesus Sorto, James Haynes, Forrest Donald, Chris Cooper, Ron Williams assisted in securing the facility, cleaning the facility, relocating faculty and staff personal items. Setting up new classrooms, workstations, offices.


Chris Cooper. Isolated the FAC 1 utilities so FAC 2 could still have operable utilities.

Tina Parker, Aubrey Collier, James Haynes. Video tapped and took still photos of every room in the FAC 1 building so the college could have a record of the event.

Tom Stanley, Jeff Yowell and Ralph White respectively got LGC and DTC cleaned up and items that were misplaced back in order so the facilities could reopen.
When I look at again all who helped from Dr. Sam, Dr. Wesley, Dr. Woolford, Mr. Brehm their leadership set the tone again from is everyone okay to when are we going to get back on track.....this defined the way we all experienced the event one with courage, fortitude and determination to restore normalcy.......Great work to all the displaced folks, for they had to redefine themselves by not where they were located but by what they had to cool....Many processes that work on the "back burner in planning were jetted to the forefront out of necessity not a bad all. Much learned and much we have yet to learn.


Bill Fiege, Dr. Sam, all the other Deans and security
Marcy Pride has been a calm strength as usual in her position of Library Coordinator. Her steadiness and reassurance has enabled the library staff to continue to provide the best service possible to our college "community" under the circumstances. That assurance we have, due to Marcy, enables us to model that for our patrons so they can feel assured as well--behavior is contagious!
Grounds crew (LGC) Amazing people, who stayed on top of things. Tom Stanley did a great job of looking out for the employees as well as the students.
Those individuals involved with keeping us informed about post-earthquake plans did a good job. We were not kept in the dark.
Faculty members Patricia Parker and Lisa Murphy were absolutely amazing. Not only did they pack up their own offices, but they carefully packed up the records of the part-time instructors in boxes. Lisa Murphy helped the tutoring staff clean all of the tables in the Adjunct Office, and she came in on a Sunday to vacuum thick dust off of the floor!


Dr. Bill Fiege and Dr. Deborah Brock worked long, long, hours to create a new class schedule for the Fredericksburg campus, and they did it with humor and good grace. They patiently answered faculty, staff, and student questions from early morning until late at night, before and after classes started post-earthquake. I was in awe of their amazing leadership.

Garland, James, Jose, Forest, and Aubrey were wonderful, and I can't thank them enough for all of their help. They worked from morning until dusk hauling around furniture, and I never heard them utter one complaint. They tried their best to help absolutely everyone.

Julie Mersiowsky immediately responded to the urgent need to provide Blackboard training for students and faculty, and over the course of three days, she Muneeb, and Forest worked 12 hour days to accommodate day and evening schedules.
Patricia Parker worked about 25 hours a day helping prepare the College for online learning while coping with over 50 faculty in her department, some of whom reacted to the stress by becoming rather demanding. She even kept in touch and kept working during and after the hurricane, when her house lost power for a couple of days.

Mike Kuchinski taught Wimba classes all day for two days. Jay Nyzowyj assisted him. Despite a lack of time to prepare, they did an outstanding job and kept a sense of humor, which helped lower everyone's stress levels.

Bill Fiege and Deb Brock worked round the clock, assisted by Caroline Murray (and I think Lisa Smith and Carol Baetz, although I'm less sure about that) to get us all reorganized. They were unfailingly calm and courteous, although they must have been exhausted. They treated every person and every question as if they were all important. They must have been tempted to tell us to leave them alone, but they overcame that to manage the people as well as the schedule. Their leadership helped us have confidence that this would all work.


Faculty who had lived in ther offices for years calmly boxed up tons of stuff and hauled it out, bought home-office furniture, and got back to work.


David Sam had prepared for the quake by being the kind of leader we can believe in, so when the crisis came, we knew it would be handled competently, and we were ready to accept and implement the plan. (I know you won't publish this one, but it is true.)
When the class schedules needed to be rearranged after the earthquake, I had some doubts about being able to teach Beginning German in one three-hour stretch late at night. As I spoke with Dean Brock about this, she was very kind and supportive. She encouraged me to use whatever methods I thought best and to focus mainly on the goals of the course. “Be creative and extend the breaks if necessary,” she said. I was grateful for her trust in my work. And to my surprise, the students were wide awake and smiling as we ended our session late last night. I had kept Dean Brock's words in mind as I planned my lesson, which included optimal use of the superb audio-visual system available in Room 134. There was no need for extended breaks.


Though Carol Baetz was extremely busy after the earthquake, she listened patiently to each person waiting in line in front of her desk. My request for an easel might have seemed insignificant to some, but Carol understood my need for one and took the time to locate an easel. She deserves a great deal of credit for all her efforts and patience.
I've been continued to be impressed by the time and energy spent to manage everything after this unexpected emergency. Especially by Dr. Fiege and Barbara Taylor.
Dr. Sam and Dr. Woodford and the Emergency Team kept the faculty and staff well informed. In addition, the centralization of the info was well organized to avoid mass confusion.


Karen Mittura rearranged all nursing schedules without incidence. Those of us that have done scheduling before know the difficulty and scope of this service.
Too many people to name. Carol Baetz, Caroline Murray, all of the folks in IT, the trainers for online teaching, and all of the volunteers who did a remarkable job of moving all of the equipment out of Dickinson to FAC2.
Karen Mittura promptly updated the nursing schedule by asking for our advice and rescheduling the labs and class so well, that we made up for the missing time within 3 working days.


It was so well organized that even the students responded without incident. The first day back we had been informed of the schedule update for the next 2 weeks, so we and the students, could plan.


I think no one showed more organizational insight than Karen Mittura. She deserves much respect for her ability to solve problems in such a stressful crisis with grace and competence.
Both Bill Fiege and Deb Brock have been incredible with all of the adjustments tha have been made for the success of our students. They are positive and bright and have the tremendous ablity to see the "big" picture. They also appear to be unified and work very well as a team, this gives a sense of strength to all that consider them to be role-models.


Caroline Murray and Carol Baetz with their ability to help students and staff and still keep their pleasant and cordial manner.

Mike Farris has displayed leadership and critical thinking skills that have aided the college well beyond his direct role of financial aid.

Security, IT and facilities staff have all been awesome!!!!!

All the faculty for their can-do attitudes. New teaching methods, news schedules, new courses, no office space, etc...thank you!

ALL OF THE GREAT GCC STUDENTS!!!! They are really a reflection of GCC!!!!
Dr. Bill Fiege and Dr. Deb Brock have been phenomenal. They have exuded an aura of calm that permeates the atmosphere of chaos in FAC 2. They have set the tone for the rest of us to follow. I have seen each of them in the hallways patiently talking to students, maintenance and security personnel, staff, and faculty; at all times their voices are calm and their mannerisms are placid and unhurried. They never act as if they are too busy to address my questions. Although they have hundreds of details to attend to, they treat me as though my questions and concerns are of high importance. Their behavior is what keeps despair and frustration from creeping in among us.
Lisa Smith deserves commendation for the MANY hours she served working on the revised college class schedule.
Anybody that worked over or extra deserves recognition on days college was closed but IT and PR did good keeping students public and staff informed as well as anybody on the team reorganizing classes and schedules ...
I appreciated all of the communication via the website and social media.


The communication was accurate, efficient & timely.
The IT staff have worked very hard to make the necessary changes after the earthquake, all while combating the usual spam threats. The administration has also seemed admirably calm and organized during a very chaotic situation.
Buildings and Grounds staff. These guys were asked to "do it all" under very unusual circumstances--and they did! Creative solutions, hard work and positive attitudes worked for them throughout this disaster. Salutations to the B & G staff!
Julie Mersiowsky has worked tirelessly since Aug. 23rd to provide instruction and support for faculty who have had little or no Blackboard experience as well as to those of us with experience.
Donna Alexander provided any and all help that was asked of her, even if it didn't apply to her department.


Julie Mersiowsky provided many extra hours of faculty training


Muneeb Mobashar provided many extra hours of faculty and student training

Mike Zitz for being the messenger of some not so popular decisions and for being tactful in his responses, wordings, and demeanor.

ALL faculty members should be commended for their jump into action in preparing new timelines for their courses as well as changing formats in many cases.

The people who put together the training sessions, spending 12 hours each day to make sure that the students and the faculty knew how to handle the change in formats.


I believe that the administrative staff should be congratulated for their achievement in getting the school up and running after the loss of FAC1. Their hard work has paid off and I believe that all faculty members were impressed by their efforts.
I don't know the names of everyone on the committee, but what a wonderful job by everyone. To have students back in class so soon is amazing. I am proud of how every one of Germanna’s employees have worked together.
In my short time at GCC and especially during this time of crisis, I found everyone involved to be professional and dedicated to finding ways to bring the campus back to life. Both deans, the IT staff, and my department chair, Vanessa Sekinger were instrumental in making sure information was communicated in a timely manner.

Blackboard training, though long and intense, was thorough and clear. Julie M. did a great job, was patient and calm during days of class time.
Drs. Brock and Fiege: Calming Faculty, determining how to procede, communicating this information to faculty.

Dr. Sam: For your kind explanation of events and our mechanisms for coping as a "family". For being in the trenches with us and for being at FAC2 on our Grand Re-Opening Day.


TO WHOEVER HAD THE GREAT IDEA: The snacks provided on grand re-opening day were a wonderful idea. The black shirted hallway monitors were wonderful and most appreciated by our student body.


To PAM Frederick: For her quiet ways that always bring out the best in all of us.
Garland Fenwick- maintaining order during extremely tense following few days.
Wow, this is hard because so many people went above and beyond. But I certainly hope that all of the Dean's are recognized for holding everything together while pulling together a new plan.
Carol Baetz (payroll)- professional, knowledgeable and positive

All the guys in Security- I stopped by for property on Friday of that week and they were supportive and helpful- from Chris Anderson to the individual guards

Julie Mersiowsky- terrific training and positive

Volunteers like Harvey Gold- donating their time to help people find their way

Doctor Sam- positive, organized and handled all the issues extremely well.


Patricia Parker has been a leader in the math department through big changes in program, administration, and class organization. But, her leadership during this additional challenge has been above her required duties and has ensured that our students are still going to get what they need. She has made sure dev and credit instructors were informed of changes and details as soon as possible. She has made arrangements by email, phone, and face to face to be available to help any of us get up to speed on necessary technology changes. She has calmed the anxieties (which were varied in intensity and subject) from all instructors and students. And, she creates an environment where we all feel like community members working in partnership towards our group goal. We were very lucky that she was well in place when she was needed so much.
I have told several friends and family members that I am happy to work at an institution at which I know our leadership really cares about the well-being of the employees and students. I felt secure that my classes would stay available, and that my students would not be let down. I am grateful to Dr. Sam, the deans, and all the other administrators and assistants who put in long hours to make FAC-2 work as best it could for everyone.


I know Julie Mersiowsky did a LOT of work to set up all of the training sessions, etc., with very little notice provided. And she did an excellent job!!
The maintenance department (especially Garland and Chris Cooper). To say how busy they have been would be an understatement, but they still made the time to communicate and stop to answer questions for individuals.


Patricia Parker - excellent communication with our department throughout the "quake break"
Julie Mersiowsky: Pulled together full time and adjunct faculty to help train those who would be teaching online or new hybrids

Cheryl Huff: pulling together mentors for faculty new to teaching online

Diane Critchfield: Remembering adjuncts and using peoples skill sets effectively to meet the new needs the campus was facing

Diane Frausto: Helping military students get their housing benefits as classes were shifting online
Bill Fiege and Deborah Brock rewriting the schedule very quickly.

Allie Paterson volunteering to help instruction staff with setting up the new schedule.

Counseling staff for rescheduling students.

The black shirt volunteers helping students find their way.


Security staff at LGC (helpful in opening the door for access to the building and in other ways during the time that the college was closed)
I admire the efforts of the Bill Fiege, Deb Brock and all of the administration to get the students back to school. This was such an unusual event and the administration reacted quickly to make the needed decisions to get the college back on schedule.
Just about everyone!


Thank you to Forrest, who conducted the student blackboard training sessions. He helped students feel less nervous about the online and hybrid formats, gave them information, and made them feel confident.
Deb Brock and Bill Fiege -- both have worked triple overtime to completely re-haul the schedule, fitting two full buildings of classes and students into the single, smaller of the buildings. They worked out conflicts and resolved all sorts of scheduling mishaps.
Sarah Somerville: As an adjunct, I appreciated the time the Dr. Somerville to keep us up to date. She always makes sure that we get all the information.
The Emergency Leadership Team: The degree to which decisions were made successfully and with care for all those involved is impressive. Many positive comments have been shared among and between colleagues with regard to the quality of the decisions, especially when there were so many to be made in such a short time. Most of all, I appreciated the efforts to ensure safety for all students, faculty, and staff immediately following the earthquake and in the days to follow.

The degree and quality of communication with all constituencies was also noted positively.

The patience and good humor of those more directly involved in all the work to be completed in the near term has been appreciated, and particularly because we know that you were weary from the work and the weight of the decisions to be made.


While the tasks to be completed constituted an impressive list, this core group has done an exemplary job of making decisions and communicating them effectively while guarding the safety of the college community. We couldn't have hoped for more.
Garland Fenwick - Garland has been on site, answering questions and having a good word for everyone, including students. On more than one occasion I've seen him ask a student if they needed something or if everything was okay. Garland seems to live the mission of a learning centered, student centric college. All of this while trying to accomplish a virtually impossible task.

The team responsible for re-working everything - outstanding.
The Deans and leadership team - reorganization of classes

Support staff from both colleges - data input
Caroline Murray- Assisting with schedule development all week AND over weekend when changes were made.

Lisa Smith- Assisting with schedule development and offering help for any work required.

Debbie Brock- Worked tirelessly to continue instruction with minimal "damage" to the student.

Faculty with Schedule Changes- Too many to name individually but I heard no complaint for going online, hyrbid, or having significant time change. They all took their "orders" and got the job done!

Shashuna Gray- Assisted with re-design of schedule the day after eartquake and worked with science faculty to modify all science courses to hybrid modality.

Facilities- All around OUTSTANDING work!

As I work on this, I realize I could go on and on. The attitudes of all involved have been exemplary, and I cannot recall an instance of people being insubordinate.
The actions of our President, David Sam have been exceptional. Keeping communications open and informative. I firmly believe that he is here for a reason at the right time and this is based on his previous experiences. Thank you Dr. Sam.

The leadership team and their efforts to keep the impact on learning to a minimum.

Everyone, and I don't know who they are, who was called to work through the mess that this event has created.
Garland Fenwick and all of his staff - too many actions to list.
Garland Fenwick and Jacque Larsen helped lead efforts to relocate offices and classrooms from damaged areas to areas identified in the Workforce and Technology Building. Daniel Buhrman worked tirelessly to ensure equipment connected to our computer networks and relaxed security, where possible, to ease burdens on users as they adapted to their new environment.


Martha O'Keefe and Jeanne Wesley worked diligently to find off-campus space to house various academic programs of the College knowing that their programs and offices would likely also be relocated but placing a higher priority on other programs and services first.

Bill Fiege and Deb Brock played a very significant role by completely revising classroom schedules and locations for the Fredericksburg area within a day and a half and helped identify computer and power needs for spaces, which then allowed Facilities and IT to begin physically relocating courses and programs.
Dean Brock

Dean Fiege

Daniel Buhrman

Aubrey B&G

Maggie Breeden

How can I really single people out...
Garland Fenwick for getting as much out of the building as he can while protecting his staff from harm.

Pam Frederick and all of student services for moving student services into cramped spaces but still making it work for the students: Win Stevens, Mark Haines, Maria Holley, Ann Lyons; the entire division.

Julie Mersiowsky for turning an 8 week on-line training into a three hour training, cheerfully, and with humor getting all the faculty and students trained.

The faculty for cheerfully moving out of their offices, and out of their comfort zones, into on-line learning because it is what the students need. The part time faculty for changing their syllabi, going on-line, getting trained, with few complaints, because it is what the students need.

Carol Baetz and Caroline Murray for answering endless questions from students and faculty.

Barbara Taylor for answering student and faculty questions into the wee hours of the morning, without once saying: "It was in paragraph three of the email!"

Mike Zitz for working with the media to get our message out and for sitting on Facebook late into the evening.

Dr. Sam for trusting all of us to do the right thing. Not micromanaging us but backing us up when we needed it.


I think that our deans did a terrific job of making the best of a bad situation. Many faculty members also stepped up and assisted with training sessions. Mike Kuchinski gave sessions on Wimba all day long, which was going above and beyond the call of duty. Patricia Parker did a marvelous job of keeping the math dept. informed. These are just 2 examples with which I am familiar, I know there are many more.
Dr. Deborah Brock and Dr. William Fiege for their exemplary leadership throughout this situation. They had a plan and made use of all the College's instructional resources in order to continue to provide quality education to GCC's students.

Dr. David Sam for his role in guiding us through this process. And also for his foresight in recommending the purchase of iPads for our faculty and administrators! This greatly enhanced our ability to communicate for the first few days without access to laptops and desktop computers.

Jacque Larsen and all of the IT staff for their tireless efforts to retrieve IT equipment from FAC1 and making sure operations and communication could continue.

All of the Facilities and Grounds staff who have worked hard to set up makeshift offices, classrooms and instructional support areas.

The FAC Security staff who have kept us safe!

Chris Anderson has really responded to the challenge of being head of security during a crisis. He would normally be second in charge, but he really stepped to meet the need. With all of the personal items that were left in FAC1, there was potential for problems. He coordinated the recovery efforts very well.
Julie M. was fabulously organized and went above and beyond with her response with training options.


Bill Fiege's attitude of helpfulness and consideration for the students' needs was (as always) inspiring.
Cathy, the security officer, was very encouraging and polite when I came back to retrieve my personal belonging.
Barbara Hall showed exemplary service to the Germanna staff, work study students and faculty when she came into the Locust Grove Campus when the college was closed to make sure that everyone was paid correctly. This took a lot of time and hard work but she did it because she knew that people needed to get paid. She showed real dedication to Germanna.

Kudos to the Emergency Management Team.

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