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4 questions for Scott Kerkmans

The coordinator of MSU Denver’s Brewery Operations Program shares thoughts on returning to the classroom and lab.

By Doug McPherson

November 12, 2020

Scott Kerkmans in Beer Analysis Lab.Scott Kerkmans, coordinator of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Brewery Operations Program, is on campus this fall teaching in-person classes. Returning to the lab has required a different approach to teaching, classroom organization and interaction with students but is critical to helping students advance safely through the program.

“When we tentatively planned to teach a few days in person this fall, I knew that the individuals charged with keeping students safe would do just that,” Kerkmans said. “The support from the School of Hospitality staff has certainly helped us overcome barriers. The community of MSU Denver rallying around keeping students safe and educated is also impressive.”

Kerkmans spoke with the Early Bird about how he and students have adapted to the new look and feel of on-campus instruction.

Early Bird: How have you adapted to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines?

Kerkmans: We are all wearing both masks and face shields. Plus, entering and exiting with a very purposeful plan and keeping class sizes exceptionally small is important. We have half the class come in at a time and give the other half work to do asynchronously at home. Ensuring that students stay safe while tasting beer is challenging. I made sure students left the room while I approached their desks to pour more beer. I also had to touch only the bottom of their glasses and the beer bottles while setting down samples and opening beers.

Early Bird: What feedback have you heard from students?

Kerkmans: Students were both trepidatious and excited before they got to campus. In one course, my students seemed fairly comfortable and went through class in a relatively typical fashion. In a different class the next day, students were quiet and told me they felt odd. I believe that odd feeling was largely because we were the only people in the building, so it was fairly quiet in general. However, the students really opened up over the course of the class and started sharing and feeling comfortable. They seemed happy that we had worked hard to get them this experience. After all, being a teacher is more than just telling students information they could have found online. It is guiding them through those experiences that transform their lives, and I think this experience could have been just that for our students. 

Early Bird: Why are you optimistic about continuing in-person education through the pandemic?

Kerkmans: The resolve of the students to keep learning. Since access is such an important part of MSU Denver’s mission, trying to accomplish that takes a level of commitment from students as well as faculty. Our students are so dedicated that it makes the extra work involved in delivering a class in person worth it. Plus, the excitement I saw from my students at the end of our in-person class helped remind me why we do what we do. I felt truly energized, and I know that can help motivate us to get through this.

Early Bird: What are your best tips and advice for fellow educators returning to campus in the spring?

Kerkmans: Stay flexible. Your plans are going to change. Just keep safety top-of-mind, and if class has to be canceled or moved at the last minute – sometimes back to online – just do your best. Also, plan on your setup and breakdown taking significantly more time and work than you expect. Running what would normally have taken one employee 2.5 hours took two employees working for four hours each. So, adjusting remaining workloads, timing and expectations are key for both faculty and administration.

Topics: Health, Hospitality, Safety

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