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K-State Global Campus Goes Remote: What a Difference a Year Makes

By Karen Pedersen and Jennifer Thornburg

In June of 2021, the lease for the 20,000+ sq foot building housing the Kansas State University Global Campus was up for renewal. Ten months before that, while in the middle of a global pandemic, the Global Campus leadership team began discussions about the possibility of going permanently remote. Working with the Provost to gain a green light and engaging with Human Capital Services to move forward with a remote work policy were only part of the equation. We needed to navigate a host of issues. An article in Inside Higher Ed chronicled a bit of our initial journey.

What a difference a year makes! Today, we have a 1,000 sq foot “hoteling” space with no permanently assigned staff to our office, enrollments are up, and staff appreciate and value greater work/life balance. Here are some additional highlights…

  • Highly Stable Staffing and Leadership – While several recent articles and surveys have highlighted the impacts of the great resignation within higher education, we have not seen much outward movement in Global Campus personnel since going permanently remote. Other than three long-standing employees who retired and two who accepted other positions at the university, which were logical professional career moves, we have valued our very stable staffing and leadership.


  • Strong Remote Work Candidate Pools – In recent weeks, we have hired several fully remote positions and overall, we have been very impressed by the qualifications of our candidate pools. Talking with colleagues at K-State and beyond, we heard that some open positions have gone unfilled following a search. For each of our open positions, we had an incredible pool of candidates and often identified more than one candidate we would be interested in extending an offer to.


  • Inward Migration Realized – Being fully remote, we are also seeing some inward migration from other university units of highly qualified individuals who are looking for a permanent remote situation. Our remote status has also been attractive to more out-of-state candidates who are interested in working for Kansas State University but may not be in a position to relocate to Manhattan, KS.


  • Relocation of Existing Staff – Being fully remote also means that several existing staff members have relocated to other states and have continued their employment with Global Campus. The ability to retain talent that finds themselves needing to move to a different location in the central time zone or beyond, now works for us. As part of each staff members’ remote work agreement, we navigate their designated work hours knowing the university still operates in central time.


  • Onboarding Remote Staff – Global Campus had a robust and all-inclusive onboarding approach even pre-pandemic for new employees (more than most departments at the university), but we have upped our game in terms of onboarding to ensure new staff are welcomed and feel part of our remote community. Engagement with their supervisor, team, and across Global Campus is something that we think about and make conscious decisions about before someone new starts. We also assign a social mentor to each new staff member to provide an added layer of connectivity and engagement. Plus, all staff have the opportunity to participate in the new Connecting with Colleagues monthly small group engagements and share insights in the Connections newsletter.


  • Use of Shared “Hoteling” Space – From the very beginning of our remote work discussions, we learned from Global Campus staff that having a shared office space in a central location was critically important. You will note above that we highlighted that we do not have any permanently assigned staff within the office today, but that has not always been the case. In the beginning, we were staffing our small office each day for the first few months of being remote. In large part, we did this to provide a ‘home base’ for our student employees who wanted a place to work between classes. However, we have since rethought our need to have someone in the office each day and the number of students who work for us. We found that staffing the office was becoming a bit of an unnecessary grind for some staff when we had very little walk-in traffic.


To our knowledge, we are the only unit at the university that has gone permanently remote and totally downsized their office footprint. Overall, we have made a few tweaks here and there, but our primary plan set in motion almost two years ago has remained the same. We believe we have proven that we can be incredibly productive and effective while continuing to meet all Global Campus milestones and goals.

However, we are not stopping there! At a recent monthly all-staff meeting, we broke into small groups to answer three questions…what is going well, where are our opportunities for improvement, and what has surprised you the most. What did we learn? On the upside we heard things like improved focus, increased productivity, reduced distractions, greater efficiency, and time savings from commuting. On the downside, we have work to do around generating a greater degree of serendipity like when someone would simply pop into your office when we worked in a building together. Our favorite surprise on the list was that “Not everyone’s pet loves having them at home!”.

For us, giving up our building meant it could not simply be a pilot! With no building to go back to, we were all in!  So, to the question, would we do again? The answer is yes, in a heartbeat!  


Dr. Karen Pedersen (she/her/hers) has a long history serving as an administrator in public and private higher education institutions. Prior to joining Kansas State University, she served as the Chief Knowledge Officer for the Online Learning Consortium (OLC).  She has experience leading award-winning digital learning and off-campus units, expanding partnerships, and engaging cross-institutional academic operations. Other experiences include serving on the launch team for a competency-based education initiative, leading a system-wide enrollment management transformation, building a university-wide microcredential infrastructure and developing academic collaborations internationally. 

Jennifer Thornburg serves as the assistant to the dean of Kansas State University Global Campus and just joined the team in late July. Her primary responsibilities include support of the dean and K-State Global Campus administrators, provide effective leadership, management, facilitation, coordination and support of Global Campus projects or initiatives, particularly those related to administration and operations. She has a background in student success, working as a program coordinator for more than 8 years, supervising 30 student staff members per semester in both in-person and hybrid modalities.

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