Interview with: Tye Thede
Director, University Visits
Office of the Senior Vice President and Secretary for the University
Office of the President
Arizona State University
How has your job changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
It has been quite drastic, as after a very busy January and February, dignitary visits to our campus at Arizona State University ground to a halt. However, ASU is very much open and operational for the students and community, just in a much more “virtual’ way than before. Although it’s a major change to not have face-to-face interaction with visitors, I’ve found that the logistic responsibilities remain similar. I still serve as their main point of contact, coordinate schedules and agendas, and provide background and biographical information to everyone involved in the visit. A positive is that I have been able to do some of those projects we never have time to do. I’ve worked with many ASU departments to create a “virtual visit” database where I can pull information from ASU departments to tailor the information for a specific visit. I’ve also worked with other departments to share virtual resources as well as organize information from past visits. I do feel very fortunate to be able to continue my work.
What changes has ASU made to pivot to meet the needs of students and the communities it serves?
ASU’s charter states that we measure ourselves by “assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.” Our mandate measures success “not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed.” Incredibly, by March 30, 2020 -- just weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak -- ASU had transitioned 70,000 students to live digital classes and an additional 60,000 students to online learning. It was key to ensure students had the support to succeed in their studies, whether it be academic, emotional, financial or social.
ASU has also introduced new initiatives to support the community. On March 22, we launched ASU for You, a website offering a variety of learning tools, much of it at no cost, for elementary school to adult learners, and provides resources for teachers and parents teaching from home. We also recently launched the PPE Response Network, which helps connect hospitals with community resources to find supplies they need. Our Biodesign Institute received a grant to assemble COVID-19 test kits; assist in testing health care, first responders and other vital personnel; and manufacture protective equipment for health care workers.
What advice can you offer other protocol officers whose jobs were primarily face-to-face, and now must conduct business virtually? What tools or resources have been most helpful to you?
Far and away, the largest piece of advice is to be patient, understanding, and flexible. It was very difficult to not have face-to-face contact with a principal not only in a social way, but also to “conduct” the visit when needed (such as when a meeting ran late and into another meeting). Next, remain virtually close with those you work with daily. For me, this is our University President’s office team and his technology team. I found that extra communications help: frankly, picking up the phone and staying engaged in personal communication makes a big difference. Also, practice and test the technology you are using, then test it again. Lastly, trust yourself and your abilities, you’ve got this!
As far as technology tools, Zoom is the platform we use for virtual meetings. Slack has also been useful to relay details or get quick questions answered. For resources, it’s my friends and colleagues both at ASU as well as fellow protocol professionals around the world. It’s easy to feel bogged down and alone, but reaching out and simply talking to others is a great stress relief.
PSOW has launched virtual protocol officer training to meet the needs of students and alumni. Would you recommend online training from PSOW for new protocol officers or for graduates who are looking to refresh their knowledge?
With the current COVID-19 situation, I would absolutely recommend it. I have no doubt that the presenters’ expertise and personalities would easily come across in an online setting. I attended PSOW nearly three years ago and utilize what I learned in every visit I coordinate. The only missing element is the physical setting that allows students to get to know each other. However, this can still happen virtually and create the comradery, which is such a great piece of the class.
How can PSOW assist alumni and students during these challenging times?
I have really enjoyed PSOW’s social media presence as it has been a highlight to read about others and know that PSOW alumni and the PSOW team are there to support each other. So, keep up the social media/virtual presence.