Dear Shenandoah students and families,
We know how much our students want to return to campus and we are working hard every day to make that happen. I am so proud of the way that Shenandoah University handled an unprecedented situation, kept our community safe, and turned obstacles into opportunities.
A Welcome and Safe Environment for All
Shenandoah is unequivocal in its commitment to all students and recently released a statement about racial injustice. Today, students, faculty and staff participated in a virtual forum titled “What Now? Processing Racial Injustice and Discovering Ways to Make Change.” Shenandoah 2025, the university’s strategic plan adopted in 2015, called for the institution to deepen and expand its commitment to inclusion and diversity including specific goals around cultural awareness initiatives, faculty/staff hiring and institutional policies. Today’s discussion was poignant, and an important part of an ongoing dialogue at Shenandoah about racism in our world. We can, and should, and will, do better.
If you’re looking for additional information about racial justice, please visit www.su.edu/racialjustice. We strongly encourage you to reach out for support and use the counseling services available through the Wilkins Wellness Center. You may email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-665-4752 to set up appointments via phone or Zoom. Mosaic Center staff members are also available for support and activism by emailing email@example.com.
A Safe Return to Campus: Housing, Campus Visits and Cleaning
We have heard from many students who are eager to continue their education and return to Shenandoah. We welcomed our largest incoming class last year, and despite all that has happened, our enrollment numbers continue to increase each day for the summer and fall. We are pleased to announce that following state and CDC guidelines, there will be a phased reopening for our Winchester campus and two Northern Virginia locations. We’re building on the success of our residential move-out effort in May when we launched health pre-checks, temperature-taking and social distancing protocols to help keep everyone on campus safe. For those of you who collected your belongings from the residence halls, we want to thank you for following all guidelines.
Now, as we pivot and turn our attention to the fall, we want to provide you with information concerning housing.
The upcoming academic year is a year of extreme flexibility. We want to let you know that our first and second year live-on-campus requirement is lifted for the academic year 2020-21. We support all students and families in making their own decisions about living on campus this coming year. If you have signed up for housing this year but would like to move off campus, please contact residence life at firstname.lastname@example.org immediately so it can make changes to your housing assignment. There will be no penalties for changing your housing contract. If you have any other needs or concerns, you are welcome to contact email@example.com or J. Santiago, director of residence life, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At this point, a staggered move-in is set to start on Aug. 18. We are exploring options to increase available rooms for residential students to allow for more singles for those who have health conditions or prefer their own space. The new houses in the Village will be ready when students arrive to meet the demand for on-campus apartments for juniors and seniors. We are renovating additional rooms on the East Campus Commons site and are having conversations with hotels in the area about offering space for residential students in the event that we need more single rooms with private baths or quarantine areas.
We’re starting to schedule in-person campus visits. The total number of visitors in each group will be limited to 10 or fewer. Appropriate social distancing, mandatory face coverings and other precautionary measures will be observed at all times. We are planning to have in-person orientations in June and have added more dates in July. We are also planning to have a virtual orientation just in case we have to postpone a face-to-face orientation.
The main campus of the university has undergone — and will continue to undergo — cleaning measures that meet CDC guidelines, and hundreds of sanitized areas are marked with blue tags (every site with a tag has received a specific cleaning by staff and an inspection by Environmental Services leadership). All of our residential rooms are being deep cleaned and disinfected over the summer. Other campus locations will receive similar treatment in coming weeks. Even prior to the pandemic, Shenandoah’s routine cleaning met or exceeded CDC recommendations for disinfection. We are also increasing hand sanitizer stations throughout campus, especially in high-traffic areas, and plexiglass barriers are being erected in a number of dense spaces.
The Future of Learning: Our Fall Calendar, Distancing and ShenFlex
This is the part we’re most excited about — creating new opportunities for learning. We’re looking at different methods for how we teach, where we gather for classes, and how to be as flexible as possible should the situation call for it.
Our fall 2020 calendar begins on Tuesday, Aug. 18, with, as mentioned above, a staggered move-in process for students. Fall semester classes are set to begin on Monday, Aug. 24, and we have made several small adjustments to the calendar to provide the best and safest environment for all members of our community. First, we will not observe Labor Day or fall break this semester, limiting travel to and from our region and allowing everyone to focus on academics while we have use of outside facilities. Second, our Thanksgiving break will be a full week long, running from Monday, Nov. 23 through Friday, Nov. 27, to give members of our community extended time with their families. Classes will resume on Monday, Nov. 30, and end on Friday, Dec. 4; we have added a reading day on Monday, Dec. 7, to help students prepare for final exams, which will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The semester will conclude as scheduled on Saturday, Dec. 12.
We are committed to the highest standards of safety in our face-to-face interactions, and so Shenandoah has already completed a thorough re-classification of all of its classrooms and labs across all campuses. Maximum capacities for each classroom have been lowered and spaces have been reconfigured to ensure compliance with CDC guidelines on social distancing, and cleaning protocols are being put in place. Although we are still finalizing preparations for our more than 150 classrooms and academic spaces, we are looking at plans that allow for students (and faculty) to be physically distanced while seated. We’re also exploring methods to maintain 6-foot distancing within performance spaces. We are also working on introducing additional classroom space, repurposing existing space as classrooms, and looking into adding outdoor classroom space.
You should also know that we are committed to maintaining the highly personalized environment that lies at the core of our mission. However, we recognize that the fall holds uncertainties for all of us, and groups or individuals may need to limit their face-to-face activities. So we are creating a flexible plan for learning, called ShenFlex, in which each course is designed so that the instructor and the students have flexibility in participating face-to-face and/or online as needed. Classes are typically structured with a face-to-face core and additional online elements, but students will be able to participate fully online if needed, ensuring flexibility and continuity regardless of any disruptions the fall may bring. ShenFlex is adapted from the HyFlex model that has been in use at San Francisco State University since 2006. Long before the coronavirus pandemic changed the way colleges deliver instruction, a number of other universities found that variations of this model enhanced student learning, so we are excited to adapt it for our students. As in the past, a small number of undergraduate courses will be taught fully online, but the rest will be taught using ShenFlex.
Fall Athletics Update
As an NCAA Division III institution and a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), Shenandoah is engaged in active planning with the ODAC leadership on a return-to-play for intercollegiate athletics. Student-athlete health and safety is our primary concern and we are committed to the resumption of intercollegiate athletics as soon as the NCAA, the ODAC, and the university administration deems it is feasible.
Finding Strength Through Compassion
Shenandoah is a caring community and we strive to take good care of each other. Students have access to a variety of emergency funds as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and may seek help via the Emergency Financial Assistance Application. To donate to a support fund to help others in our Shenandoah family, please visit www.su.edu/su-giving.
It’s true that we are living in consequential times that require great flexibility from us all. But, as our mission statement notes, we are constantly building upon and strengthening a community of “ethical, compassionate citizens who are committed to making responsible contributions within a community, a nation and the world.” Such a community will creatively address obstacles and injustice, finding opportunities and hope within even the most painful of days.
Such a community will rise.
Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. | President