August 15, 2020

UMW Goes Online for New Student Orientation

Thirty student orientation leaders, along with Mary Washington faculty and staff, will shepherd first-years and transfer students through UMW’s first-ever virtual orientation.

Thirty student orientation leaders, along with Mary Washington faculty and staff, will shepherd first-years and transfer students through UMW’s first-ever virtual orientation.

When Shannon Hardy misplaced her bookbag at her UMW orientation, it felt like a disaster. But the help and reassurance she got from her orientation leaders reinforced that she made the right college choice.

“That’s just how Mary Wash is,” said Hardy, a rising junior. “Everyone here wants you to succeed and gives you the tools to make that happen. I want every new student to feel the sense of belonging that I’ve felt since that day.”

Hardy’s among the 30 student orientation leaders who will shepherd hundreds of new Eagles through the University of Mary Washington’s 2020 orientation. Unlike her own orientation, though, she is connecting with incoming students via a computer screen.

Freshman orientation, pandemic style. Like other universities, UMW has had to shift from its traditional model of having new students experience life on campus to exploring their new home via Zoom. Today marks the first of nine one-day virtual sessions geared toward freshmen, while transfers had their pick of three events that began earlier this summer.

But that’s only the beginning – a series of online engagements with UMW faculty, staff and current students will guide incoming students throughout the summer and prepare them to step onto campus in the fall. Read more.

Message #4 from the Task Force

A message from the President’s Task Force.

Colleagues,

This is the fourth in a series of weekly messages from the COVID-19 Task Force. And while every week since the pandemic began has been difficult in its own way – from first learning about an abrupt pivot to remote instruction and telework and hearing challenging budget news, to our collective sadness about not being able to properly celebrate the accomplishments of our students – the Task Force pauses to acknowledge this especially painful week of violence and injustice in our community and across the nation. Yet, because higher education is both a force for social justice and a powerful antidote to individual and systemic racism and the anti-democratic impulse, we bring renewed determination to our efforts to return to campus this fall.

For the Task Force, the pace has quickened as the full-scope of fall planning comes into view. Our first attempt has undergone revision as we receive additional guidance from the Governor’s Office and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and consult with colleagues across the Commonwealth. Late last week, VDH released directions regarding testing and contact tracing. Contrary to the claim from some universities across the country that they will have large scale testing of all members of their community on reentry while using random sampling throughout the semester, VDH is urging institutions to focus scarce testing resources on symptomatic individuals and contacts of those who test positive. On Tuesday, Governor Northam introduced the Virginia Blueprint’s Phase II Guidance, which has many instructions for organizations and their operations and we are working to incorporate these best practices in our situation, even if the distinctive nature of a residential university like ours must be more restrictive than these phases. And, looking ahead to next week, we expect to receive additional guidance from the Governor’s Office and the state-wide education task force. Considering all of these inputs, we will then need to adapt UMW’s plan.

Also, you should know that we are planning for multiple scenarios, and striving to build a plan that is flexible and capable of adapting as circumstances change. As an example, we are modeling out different “COVID capacities” for our classrooms and learning spaces. We have seen estimates from other schools set the bar at 100 square feet/person while others have settled on 36 square feet/person. Our entire room inventory is being recalibrated and mapped to maximize opportunity for participation while minimizing the risk of transmission. We look to share those new capacities in the next week or two so that faculty and staff can continue the important work of reimagining the spaces in which we teach, learn, and work.

One thing is clear: The campus and the campus experience will be very different this fall. From an employee perspective:

  • We will wear masks
  • We will self-monitor our symptoms
  • Many of us will continue to telework and offices will develop rotations for employees to help ensure social distancing
  • Many of our reception and information desks/windows will be protected by plexiglass or similar barriers
  • Zoom will continue to be our meeting room for gatherings large and small

For our students, things will also be different:

  • On-campus dining will be grab-and-go, rather than gathering around a table
  • Common spaces in our residence halls will be limited and some halls will be empty, set-aside as quarantine and isolation spaces
  • Classrooms will be at lower capacities to account for social distancing
  • Some students will participate remotely
  • Events will be smaller and some of our traditions like Honor Convocation will be virtualized
  • Many meetings and office hours will be conducted virtually
  • And masks will be worn

And therein lies our challenge. What we know about what matters most in college – connections with others and deep learning experiences – are in many ways in direct conflict with the plans we are putting in place to return to campus. How then can we maximize opportunities, connections, and experiences while prioritizing the health and safety of all members of our community? How then even as we put up plexiglass and develop protocols for separation can we are introduce new ways of gathering and interacting?

Harnessing our collective creativity and energy to adapt to what we know matters is the task ahead. It is the work of the next weeks, months, and indeed, the next year. So, as always, if you have thoughts, concerns, or questions, you may reach out to us or other members of the Task Force. (For previous messages, go to EagleEye.) At the same time, we also really want to hear your ideas for how we might meet the challenge before us.

 

Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell

Members of the President’s Task Force

Message #3 from the Task Force

A message from the President’s Task Force.

Colleagues,

This is the third in a series of weekly communications with the campus community from the COVID-19 Task Force. There have been several developments over the past week that are important to share.

First, the Task Force has completed an initial draft of the University’s “return to campus plan” and we anticipate refining it over the next few days. The plan outlines “gating conditions” or prerequisites for a return to campus, as well as detailed recommendations for repopulating the campus, monitoring and containment. It also includes a comprehensive technology plan as well as budget estimates for many of the costs necessary to support health and safety as part of instruction on a residential campus.

We are, however, in a bit of a holding pattern at this point, as we await the guidance of the state-wide education task force which is also completing its work. We anticipate receiving appropriate guidance from the Governor’s Office on or about June 9. We have also learned that our plan, which will need to align with the Commonwealth’s expectations, will then need to be reviewed by both the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). While it is our hope that this process will be expedited, it may, unfortunately, constrain our ability to finalize and share the plan more widely.

That said, we are able to share some of the decisions around which we have consensus. For example, consistent with CDC guidance, face coverings will be a critical piece of our return to campus. We will also modify the academic calendar to hold classes on Labor Day, cancel Fall Break, and move to remote instruction after Thanksgiving. The best information we have tells us that minimizing, as much as possible, the back and forth of travel for breaks can make a difference in reducing transmission; a notion explained by Dr. Anthony Fauci in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education this week. These adjustments will be reflected in the official calendar and posted in the Office of the Provost in the coming days.

Second, the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) has issued guidance on workplace safety which is being adapted by the Office of Human Resources for application to UMW. Executive HR Director Beth Williams will be sharing this guidance along with directions for every office to begin to develop its individual return to work plan. While there are many elements of our plan that will be standardized and uniform across campus (e.g. signage, face covering expectations, and social distancing requirements), there are others that will be unique to individual units. The expectation is that supervisors would start developing those plans soon and submit them for feedback from the Task Force. More information about timelines and a template for what to include will be communicated through our HR office.

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us or other members of the Task Force.

Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell

Members of the President’s Task Force

 

Message #2 from the Task Force

A message from the President’s Task Force.

Colleagues,

This is the second in a series of weekly communications with the campus community from the COVID-19 Task Force. Over the course of the last week there has been significant movement on a number of fronts in planning a return to campus this fall.

First, President Paino established guiding principles to inform planning efforts and the important decisions that will need to be made by the Task Force.  These tenets shall also inform the individual planning of campus units working towards a COVID-19 response:

  1. Protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.
  2. Preserve the ability to fulfill our mission – teaching and learning that serves the public good.
  3. Maintain those University operations that support student success and our ability to fulfill our mission.
  4. Preserve the University’s financial capacity as well as its long-term financial health to fulfill our mission now and into the future.
  5. Honor our community values (ASPIRE – Accountability, Scholarship, Personal and Individual Integrity, Inclusive Excellence, Respect and Civility, Engagement).

Second, the Task Force has begun utilizing the information and research developed in the topical areas of the seven subgroups, which we described in last week’s communication (Public Health, Academics, Student Life, Residential Life, Dining, Work Life, and Technology) in order to build several plans. It has become readily apparent that many concerns and issues facing campus are intertwined among the groups. Addressing these broad scale issues requires greater conversation and cross pollination among the teams. In response, President Paino charged the Task Force subgroup chairs with meeting and coordinating the subgroup efforts.

The subgroups and the chairs are framing their work around four plans:  1) reopening campus, 2) monitoring and responding to health conditions of the campus community, 3) containment to prevent the spread of disease if/when detected, and 4) return to remote operations if that becomes necessary.  Chairs of the subgroups are drafting recommendations that fit within each of these plans. Included in these recommendations are projecting cost estimates (e.g. testing, PPE, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, technology, etc.), which must be factored into the many costs associated with a return to campus.

Already the Task Force has identified dozens of logistical issues that must be considered and operationalized such as….

  • Should the academic calendar be altered, accelerated, or abbreviated?
  • What is the best method to calculate occupancy limits for classrooms under social distancing guideline?
  • How can classroom assignments be configured so that every classroom may be cleaned according to CDC recommendations?
  • What is an appropriate density of occupation for the residence halls?
  • What policies will be in place regarding students, faculty, staff and visitors regarding masks/facial coverings?

Even as we are planning, the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group is developing guidelines for safely reopening that allow for coordination and compatibility among the state’s educational bodies. Ultimately, these recommendations, which are expected to be released on June 5, will complement the work of our internal groups.

Finally, one decision that has been made is that we will restrict all room and facility reservations for the fall semester. This is important to do both because 1) it is not clear what events and programs the University will be able to hold in the fall, and 2) to the maximum degree possible, event and meeting facilities need to be available to be repurposed into instructional and classroom spaces to allow for adequate social distancing.

Next week, managers will receive additional guidance from the Work Life subgroup regarding ways to develop further working protocols and safety guidelines. These recommendations will be based upon the direction of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management.

In many of our initial communications, we may have more questions than answers; yet we will strive to keep you informed in a timely and transparent way. We also invite you to share your thoughts, concerns, and questions with the members of the subgroup, names of whom were shared in the first Task Force email on May 14.

 

Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell

Members of the President’s Task Force

 

Message #1 from the Task Force

A message from the President’s Task Force.

Good afternoon,

This is the first of weekly communications with the campus community from the Task Force that President Paino has initiated to answer questions about what resuming face-to-face education in the fall might look like.

As we’ve gotten beyond the initial discussion of the overarching issues, President Paino has added to the Task Force to include representatives from the University Faculty Council (UFC) and the Staff Advisory Council (SAC), as well as a number of other units and areas of expertise. The Task Force has divided its efforts into seven subgroups: Public Health, Academics, Student Life, Residential Life, Dining, Work Life, and Technology. Each of these subgroups has membership beyond the core Task Force and is focused on the many different issues that we must work on in order to be prepared to open. Subgroup topics covered include, but are not limited to, the following:

Public Health: alignment with federal and state guidelines; testing, contact tracing, isolation capabilities; sufficiency of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as policies and legal analysis of PPE requirements; regional preparedness including the adequacy of area health care facilities and relationship building with partners.

Academics: faculty development and support for remote/online instruction; governance and approval of remote/online instruction; planning for a variety of alternative ways to provide instruction; analysis of classroom limits and social distancing requirements; sufficiency of academic support services and resources; academic policies and procedures; guidance and plans for remote/online laboratory, studio, and experiential classes; cleaning of academic facilities; classroom policies.

Student Life: protocols for remote/online student support services; planning for behavioral issues; redevelopment of co-curricular events and activities in accordance with social distancing; alterations to the campus infrastructure to reduce large gatherings; athletic team competition; fitness facilities.

Residential Life: adequacy of isolation spaces; evaluation of reasonable student density and placement within residence halls; policies and procedures to support social distancing in residential spaces; move-in plans; staff training; closure and cleaning protocols.

Dining: design and implementation of plans to promote social distancing in dining facilities; development of plans for quick pick-up, delivery and takeout; processes to ensure delivery of meals to students in isolation; policies and procedures around personal protective equipment (PPE) for Sodexo workers and patrons.

Work Life: adequacy of the University’s infectious disease preparedness and response plans; implementation of infection prevention measures; policies for prompt identification and isolation of sick employees; development, implementation, and communication about workplace flexibilities and protections, including PPE; implementation of workplace protocols to encourage safe practices.

Technology: assessment and remediation of gaps in student and faculty access to computers, internet access, and specialized software (especially focused on addressing the digital divide and the equity imperative); adequacy of telecommunications and infrastructure to continue to support remote instruction and work.

See the membership lists and chairs below for the Task Force and these subgroups. We encourage you to contact members of the subgroups to share your ideas and suggestions.

Currently the Task Force is raising and beginning to answer questions about all the areas that we would need to address to be ready for the fall. The work is framed in four primary scenarios:  1) reopening campus, 2) monitoring the health conditions to detect infection, 3) containment to prevent the spread of disease if/when detected, and 4) return to remote operations if that becomes necessary. The Task Force is also identifying the needed resources to improve our readiness in all of these areas (for example, how much PPE and how many masks we would need to acquire and how). Again, the prevailing goal is to move forward on fulfilling our educational mission while addressing the safety needs of staff, faculty, and students.

The work of the Task Force is influenced by research and guidance from a variety of agencies, offices, and organizations, including Governor Northam’s “Forward Virginia” plan, the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins, the Harvard/Rockefeller Foundation “Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the American College Health Association (ACHA) and the Report of the Higher Education Subcommittee to Reopen Connecticut, among others. The Task Force is also looking forward to further guidance from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). 

As President Paino announced in his email two days ago, in addition to a weekly email from the Task Force, you can expect to see a number of interactive sessions going forward, including the UFC meeting yesterday and more Zoom/YouTube Q&A sessions with campus leaders. We will also be setting up a web page for the Task Force with a place where you can submit your ideas and suggestions.

Our hope is to provide information to you regularly, quickly, and transparently as the Task Force and its subgroups examine complex issues and identify solutions to allow the University to move forward safely and successfully.

 

Jeff McClurken, Chief of Staff

Tim O’Donnell, Associate Provost

 

Task Force Membership

Troy Paino (chair)
Lisa Bowling
Audrey Burges
Andrew Dolby
Dave Fleming
Sabrina Johnson
Pete Kelly
Juliette Landphair
Lynn Lewis
Jeff McClurken
Keith Mellinger
Nina Mikhalevsky
Mike Muckinhaupt
Tim O’Donnell
Christy Pack
Anand Rao
Lynne Richardson
Jerry Slezak
Debra Schleef
Stuart Sullivan
Nancy Wang
Beth Williams
Kimberly Young

 

Public Health Subgroup

Jeff McClurken (co-chair)
Mike Muckinhaupt (co-chair)
Anna Billingsley
Lisa Bowling
Patrick Catullo
Dave Fleming
Melissa Jones
Juliette Landphair
Sue Lafayette
Lynn Lewis
Paul Messplay
Nina Mikhalevsky
Tim O’Donnell
Chris Porter
Stuart Sullivan
Nancy Wang
Beth Williams
Susan Worrell

 

Academics Subgroup

Nina Mikhalevsky (chair)
Andrew Dolby
Pete Kelly
Jeff McClurken
Keith Mellinger
John Morello
Tim O’Donnell
Anand Rao
Lynne Richardson
Debra Schleef
Kimberly Young

 

Student Life Subgroup

Juliette Landphair (chair)
Dave Fleming
Melissa Jones
Brittanie Naff
Cedric Rucker
Kelly Shannon
Nancy Wang
Tev Zukor

 

Residence Life Subgroup

Dave Fleming (chair)
Nolan Akau
Matt Brooks
Megan Brown
Cece Burkett
Michelle Brooks
Lee Roy Johnson
Jessica Machado
Mike Muckinhaupt
Hunter Rauscher
Stuart Sullivan
Mary Taylor
Nancy Wang

 

Dining Subgroup

Juliette Landphair (chair)
Dave Fleming
Mike Greenfield
Roy Platt
Chris Porter
Cedric Rucker

 

Work Life Subgroup

Beth Williams (co-chair)
Christy Pack (co-chair)
Rosemary Arneson
Terri Arthur
Mike Hubbard
Sabrina Johnson
Melva Kishpaugh
Mike Muckinhaupt
Michelle Pickham
Stuart Sullivan

 

Technology Subgroup

Jerry Slezak (chair)
Hall Cheshire
Jeff McClurken
Keith Mellinger
Tim O’Donnell
Anand Rao
Debra Schleef

Influencers and Outcomes: UMW Alums Reunite with Their Mentors

Each alum was reunited with the person at UMW who most influenced their career paths. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Each alum was reunited with the person at UMW who most influenced their career paths. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

This place we call Mary Washington is actually a launching pad.

It’s where confidence is built, bonds are formed and careers are sparked.

It’s a setting for rich experiences, profound interactions with professors and development of meaningful mentorships.

Students who come here are grounded; from here, they soar. The exhilarating thing is that they occasionally make their way back to the nest.

UMW’s Office of University Relations recently captured four of those joyful returns, along with a recent graduate on the verge of taking flight. Each graduate returned to campus for a reunion and discussion with the person who most influenced their career paths; the 2019 graduate sat down with his current professor.

Chef Erik Bruner-Yang worked his way through Mary Washington, graduating in 2007 with a degree in business administration. The person on campus with whom he shared his hopes and dreams was Dean of Students Cedric Rucker. Bruner-Yang, who says he “found himself” at UMW, now owns five successful restaurants in the D.C. area.

Laura Mangano, a 2018 grad, returned to campus to see Rita Thompson, who had mentored her through the Rappahannock Scholars program. Laura is now a graduate nursing student at Johns Hopkins.

Matt Tovar, who graduated three weeks ago, is one of the first students to be admitted through UMW’s partnership program to George Washington University School of Medicine. Matt knew where he was going while still an undergraduate. He also knows – and made clear to his mentor, Associate Professor of Chemistry Leanna Giancarlo – what he plans to do: discover a cure for brain cancer.

Abernathy Bland, a member of the Class of 2005, is a teacher, professional artist and designer in Richmond, Va.  She said her mentor, Art Professor Carole Garmon, made clear that she had an awesome talent for art. What else could she do, Abby asked, than go out and be awesome.

Corey Taylor, a 2017 grad, is putting his computer science degree to work as a software engineer at Tech Wizards in Dahlgren. He said his mentor, Professor and Associate Provost Tim O’Donnell, helped him figure out what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

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There are few aspects of the college experience more important than forming meaningful mentor relationships. Students need mentors to assist in navigating the complexities of university life, and the uncertainty and anticipation of what post-college life has in store.

Steven Spielberg once said that “the delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”

Take a look at this video to see what UMW grads, with nudging from their mentors, have created. You are among the first viewers of this video, which will be shown to incoming students and their parents at Orientation sessions starting next week.

 

 

Facilitators for the Common Read Needed

The UMW Common Read is one of the first opportunities to engage the incoming first-year students with classmates, upper-class students, faculty and staff in a shared intellectual experience, which can promote critical exchange of ideas and create a sense of community. The Common Read for 2017 is Hidden Figures. The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. We are hoping that you will join the discussion on the morning of Aug. 25 at 9 a.m. First-year students from the same FSEM course will discuss the book with one to two faculty, staff or upper class students. We will provide questions and supporting information in advance to help guide the discussions. We hope that you will join in welcoming the first-year students and participating in the fruitful discussions that will kick off their academic experiences at UMW. If you would like to volunteer to co-facilitate a discussion group, please indicate your interest (or check to make sure that you are already participating) on the following google sheet https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1DrRUIaR5MaZ0Qdv-zAaPv4Spnv0uJdmODe2aZ-63BRE/edit#gid=0. If you are teaching an FSEM course, you will be assigned to your group of students unless you indicate otherwise. Please let us know if you have any questions or need a copy of the book.

Thank you,

Kelli Slunt

Tim O’Donnell

“Common Read” Books are Available!

Copies of the 2016-2017 Common Read, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by alum Kristen Green, have arrived and are now available. If you would like to participate in the discussion groups on Friday, Aug. 26, please email Tim O’Donnell or Kelli Slunt.  Copies of the book are also available at the Academic Services window in Lee Hall.

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