Convergence podcast
Brickyard building

A conversation with Dean Kyle Squires


Narrator 0:07
Welcome to Convergence podcast brought to you by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

Craig Smith 0:18
Welcome to the convergence podcast. I’m your host, Craig Smith, Director of Marketing Communications for the Fulton Schools. And our guest today comes to us by way of growing up in southeastern Washington, then Washington State Stanford appointments in Japan and France, and has been at ASU for about 13 years five as dean of the engineering school. So Kyle five years as Dean as long enough to thank you’ve seen most of everything that could happen or most of those things, but now this so we know you’re busy helping the nation’s largest, most comprehensive engineering school, react and evolve. So we appreciate your time today and talking to faculty and staff. So welcome

Kyle Squires 1:00
Well, thanks. And it is true. But five years from the Dean’s chair, I did show up at ASU 1997. So it’s a little bit more than 13 years, but it’s among friends, we’re good.

Craig Smith 1:12
Well, let’s just jump right into it. I know people were interested to hear and hear your perspectives about things. So it’s a very unusual time where a lot of personal life issues are colliding with work and professional life. How are you doing personally? What’s life like for you? And then, I guess at a bigger level, what is life like at Fulton Schools and your assessment at this point?

Kyle Squires 1:36
Well, I think, you know, to say that it’s unprecedented or extremely challenging, you know, they’ll sound like really trite characterizations, because, I mean, the crisis is significant. It’s in the phase, we read about it, you know, so called exponential growth, which is true. And, you know, from a modeling perspective, that’s what happens when systems are headed towards, you know, sort of a non-linear breakdown of sorts, and when you think about pandemic, what does that mean? There’s epidemiologists and people who study those things, and they’ll they’ll work through those scenarios. So what do we do? Right? Well, we focus on what we have in front of us, which has been this week, all hands on deck, all leaning in getting our programs delivered, you know, in these remotely delivered fashions, helping the faculty assisting the students, you know, working with the staff, it’s been the most incredible week of my entire career bar none.

Craig Smith 2:33
And how is your family doing?

Kyle Squires 2:35
Like everyone ya know, they feel unsettled, uncertain routines have been flipped over. And that’s all the way from, you know, the, the experience that when you shop is different, you know, you used to go to yoga, that’s closed now. All those things are different and it’s true for everybody.

Craig Smith 2:52
Well, you’re starting to touch on it. What do you want people to know most about our situation? And what can we be learning or gaining or evolving in this time? What do you want people to know?

Kyle Squires 3:04
So I think the among the most important things to know is that we will continue to adapt. And you know, the the major adaption adaptation was last week when the university announced we go to an online format, you know, remotely delivered as it’s been phrased. But that adaptation will be continuous. And we think about, you know, adapting in terms of support for students, for the faculty or staff how the university is functioning. And viewed that way, you know, we’re going to end up we’re going to end up fine, frankly, okay, but along the way, it’s hard. It’s often uncertain. You know, you’ll try something you’ll realize that wasn’t necessarily the right step, you’ll pull back you’ll pivot, but w e will do that constantly.

Craig Smith 3:04
So how is Fulton Schools doing relating to moving online? What are the issues that we’re still having late in week one?

Kyle Squires 3:53
So I think a lot of it is what you might expect when you go to a brand new modality sort of midstream, some of it will just be you know, glitches with zoom you know things as as insignificant frankly, as someone’s trying to click into the to the Zoom Room that you have and it creates an interruption. Those are obviously easily fixed. The other things that you know will come to grips with as we just move along are getting faculty accustomed to using this in the best possible way. Having said that, it’s impressive. I mean, it is impressive. You’ve heard that messaging from Michael from the provost. The faculty has stepped up. And if we continue to do that, we again will end up in a good spot.

Craig Smith 4:31
So something that’s been mentioned a lot in leadership meetings has been labs continuing to be a topic of conversation. What are the challenges there and what is the status what still needs to be done when it comes to a lab setting?

Kyle Squires 4:46
Well, you know, when labs, they embody a lot of the hands on hands on experiences you have in a program and oftentimes, you know, part of process and experiment is actually you know, making the measurement and we recognize that so now in these very, very unusual circumstances will we continue to go back and ask the programs and the faculty to assess, okay, what are the learning outcomes? What are the outcomes that you’re trying to achieve through this particular set of experiences? And what are the other ways that we can do that? And you know, the ideas are becoming more and more creative and and that will just be something that we have to continue to do.

Craig Smith 5:21
So, just looking into your crystal ball here a little bit? What will the world look like when this is all over?

Kyle Squires 5:28
Well, I think it will be various phases. And if you think you know, when you say all the way across that is, whatever the new normal looks like, and maybe the new normal will look like the way the world looked back in the fall right before the virus really begin to take hold. If that’s the case, then we’ll be way better for it. Right, because of all the innovations and the experiences that we’ve had for something that’s in between, and that’s another scenario that people think about, you know, part of our ability to adapt will be how we always operate. And it may sound somewhat, you know, at times hyperbolic at ASU, we talked about we’re number one in innovation and so forth. But that spirit has to run through what we do. So I really do think about a lot of these innovations that we’re seeing deployed as people are using zoom to deliver their, their programs and their courses. We have to tap into that long term, not just something that got us through the spring semester, but how do we capitalize on that? Because there are a ton of good ideas being deployed right now.

Craig Smith 6:27
Yeah, that’s true, like within all the folds of what is happening now is is that learning and those improvements for the future no matter what it holds, you know, with that said, change, evolution is hard for many people, right? Like it’s almost human nature to want to be a certain way. So do you have an approach or advice for those in a role where staff, faculty that is shifting or projects or changing our scope of work is changing or expanding than what it was a week or two ago?

Kyle Squires 7:00
So I think some of the big things to keep in mind are have faith and trust in your colleagues. Anytime that you change the way that something’s being done, and that can be all the way from how the staff are accomplishing their jobs, how the faculty are teaching, you know, how the students are meeting, of course outcome, that’s going to introduce uncertainty. There’ll be some missteps along the way. That’s okay. Right, but you’re learning and you’re pivoting, and you’re moving forward in a way that really does help you get the best possible result. And to do that, though, please have faith and trust in your colleagues. And if you do that, again, we will be fine.

Craig Smith 7:33
So here’s a little bit more of a nitty gritty question like that’s hard to ignore, because it’s on a lot of Zoom screens and different things like that, but child care has become an issue that’s front and center and how we operate. Any thoughts on how that relates to what we do moving forward through this whole thing?

Kyle Squires 7:51
So it’s complicated and like you say, it’s among, you know, other similar issues and so specifically when we think about you know, staff that are working in remote settings, if there are childcare situations at home, that they’re having to attend them and tend to themselves, it’s going to complicate, you know, their ability to get their work done as efficiently as possible. It just is. So what those solutions look like, again, longer term, I just don’t know, right? We know that the Arizona Public Schools are closed, we know that that’s gonna introduce a large disruption. Some schools are on break this week. And so, you know, parents are transitioning, but it’s difficult. I don’t know yet what the university’s role will be to try to assist that. But that could be something that would be you know, a real boon to our staff to help and we and we want to help figure that out.

Craig Smith 8:41
So as more testing comes into the marketplace, or people prior to that feel like they’re getting sick, whether it’s a cold or or Covid-19 or, or something else. advice to someone who feels like they are not feeling well.

Kyle Squires 8:58
So I think it’s what you read that is if you’re ill go home,you know, monitor that is take care of yourself. If you start to exhibit symptoms, of course, you need to reach out to your health care provider. If all else fails, honestly, and it’s, you know, here on campus and you begin to feel debilitated, go to Student Health Services, we’ll take you there, okay? Because we want to make sure that people are being taken care of. And I do think that, you know, if this takes hold in some of its, you know, more negative significant forms, how we interface with telemedicine and things like that when people are recovering at home as opposed to in the clinic or the hospital. I mean, these are major unknowns right now. But right now, you know, take care of yourself, be seen make it known that you’re not feeling well, if you’re ill.

Craig Smith 9:45
So you mentioned sort of campus health, what is campus services, in your estimation for students what is we still have a presence of students on campus that we’re responsible for, especially if they can’t go somewhere else? What’s your level of understanding or knowledge of what is what student life is looking like currently.

Kyle Squires 10:04
So it’s an evolving process, frankly, okay, like I can give a specific example when you think about the library, and our library’s you know, newly remodeled and all the rest of it. They have eight to eight entrances, they’re reduced not to one, they work 24-7, now they have limited access. And all these things are done to maintain access so that students can take advantage of those resources, but do it in a safe way that we aren’t endangering people’s health so that the students feel safe and secure. And that will continue to be a process frankly. Okay? I don’t even know if the student fitness center is open. I somewhat suspect it’s either closed or Andre reduced hours, but it’s the same idea, meaning restricting access in a way that is safe and still can benefit the students.

Craig Smith 10:55
So wanted to finish up with a bigger question as far as scope and I think a lot of faculty staff might be feeling good now about working for a university that is a leader in online education, and nationally and really was able to pivot and shift. But ASU, like any other entity, is also a business. Is there any indicators of what this might do to our industry, higher ed, long term, or ASU in the next year or two? It seems like from a marketing/recruitment, like online education is something that is going to be bigger or heralded or pushed. And that might be a new reality. Right?

Kyle Squires 11:39
Yeah, I think that some of what’s happening as programs that have either had no or very light, if you will, online presence. This has really accelerated their thinking. And some of the outcomes of them doing that will be helping understand that you know, certain programs indeed there really is an opportunity for a fully online version of the program and we need to push that. I think though even more broadly speaking, this is a very important time in this semester, wrapping up the current student body. Through graduation, if students are graduating, you know, or whatever the student is, wherever they are in their program, we want that experience to be top shelf. Some universities around the country are not going to do nearly as well. And they will probably be under really severe duress and distress. So we have a real opportunity to come out out of this in a much stronger fashion. I mean, it 1000 times over we’re off to a really good start doesn’t mean there’s some gaps and opportunities to get better at. But whether it’s how we go with programs online, it’s how we innovate in really creative ways and meeting learning outcomes. Those are the kinds of things that we really can’t tease out of what is frankly a very, very awful situation externally.

Craig Smith 12:48
Any insights or thoughts or rumblings about what might happen with graduation or convocation, there’s been some talk about looking for a virtual setting for that or delaying that.allowing students to go through that ceremony at a later date to honor their process. Has that been a topic so far? centrally? Or do you see that coming into focus in the weeks to come?

Kyle Squires 13:11
So the university stance in general, I think is, you know, let’s not make a decision about x until it’s an appropriate moment in time to make that decision. And one of the reasons for that mindset is because when things are changing rapidly, the basis on which you made a decision yesterday, okay, well, that may be irrelevant in 30 hours. Certainly, I think there’s a lot of brainstorming about what might be really appropriate, significant ways to honor graduates, if it turns out not possible to meet, you know, in the stadium or in Wells Fargo or whatever the case. There’s folks that spend all of their time working on that. We think, you know, in various terms about what we can do. We’ve benchmarked and we continue to look at what other universities around the country are doing because some have announced that they will you know, not meet in person for graduation ceremonies. What does that mean for us? We’re, we’re working out what that could look like. Nothing’s set in stone at the moment.

Craig Smith 14:08
So thank you. We’re gonna wrap up this episode of the convergence podcast, we want to thank Dean Squires for coming in and sharing his thoughts. We’ll look to get back in touch in an appropriate time in the future, but wanted to make sure we got some messaging out to faculty and staff here at Fulton Schools. Thanks very much.

Narrator 14:32
Thank you for listening to Convergence, a podcast brought to you by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU

(Transcribed by

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