March 18, 2021
Dear Members of the Community—
One year ago this week, we closed our campuses. We started on the journey to navigate an unprecedented global pandemic while maintaining our focus on the health and safety of every member of our community and our strong commitment to student success and well-being. Now, we are planning for a fully open fall semester with face-to-face classes in a residential learning environment and in-person campus activities, internships, field work and clinicals.
During the last year we have learned a lot about using technology to enhance education and student success, and we expect this coming academic year to be even better than the “normal” of the past. We were able to safely return to some face-to-face classes and open campus housing sooner than many of our peers because we listened to the science, quickly launching a comprehensive public health campaign, committing to regular testing and tracing of every member of our community and opening our own state-of-the-art testing labs, now a model for how to do it right across the country.
This aggressive and comprehensive approach kept our campuses open and our average positivity rate well below state and national averages. We will leverage what we’ve learned to create a new model for higher education, combining the traditional residential experience with more online options to increase opportunity for international students as well as students studying abroad and doing internships. At the same time, we will also apply all we have learned to strengthen and expand our online graduate programs. Student success remains at the core of our planning.
We do not anticipate that COVID-19 will be eliminated by the fall. While widespread vaccination is expected by early summer, some precautions will likely remain in effect including testing and any decreased density or face coverings as recommended by CDC and state public health officials. If you are eligible to get vaccinated, please do so. Although the approved vaccines cannot currently be required, vaccination of as many members of our community as possible is part of our operations planning.
We are excited about a full reopening that achieves our mission and brings hope for the future. Thank you for your efforts during this extraordinary time.
James W. Dean Jr.