SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
Mount Mary University joins the growing number of U.S. colleges that are planning to reopen this fall, albeit with dramatic changes to campus life created to keep the coronavirus at bay.
According to Kathy Van Zeeland, director of marketing and communications, Mount Mary University remains committed to resuming in-person instruction to the extent possible when they resume classes Aug. 24.
“We also recognize the dynamic nature of the current situation and have responsive contingency plans for hybrid delivery (offering classes both in-person and online), if necessary,” she said.
Due to the characteristically smaller class sizes, it is not necessary for Mount Mary to implement as dramatic of changes as their larger counterparts. By restructuring classrooms and labs, social distancing measures can be maintained while remaining personal and supportive as they were prior to COVID-19.
“We intend to have students living in our residence halls this fall and to resume our normal food services with the proper safety precautions in place,” said Van Zeeland. “We are committed to providing students with a fulfilling education and co-curricular experience.”
In classrooms, labs and campus offices, the spaces will be restructured to facilitate social distancing. From plexiglass shields in campus public offices to holding classes in rooms that will accommodate ample distance between participants via smaller class sizes or larger classrooms, Van Zeeland is confident they can meet the needs of students and staff.
“All members of the campus community will be required to wear masks, and campus tour guides will follow and enforce a strict protocol with visitors,” she said. “Our admissions counselors have talked to dozens of students who want to go to college in the fall and they are hoping that at least a part of their experience can be on campus. We have reassured the students that we will provide a safe and engaging experience for all of our students. Students have also shared that we have been one of the few colleges to consistently reach out to them during the pandemic.”
Enrollment for the 2020 fall semester is down approximately 3 percent over this time last year, but Mount Mary is faring better than many colleges and universities that are experiencing an enrollment decline of 10-20 percent.
Classes will likely continue as planned with in-person classes accommodated through social distancing and hybrid classes combining online coursework with in-person classes. Van Zeeland added that there will be some additional online content to augment the face-to-face delivery model.
“However, if a student is unable to come to campus, we are committed to providing her with the necessary equipment to ensure her academic success. From laptops and internet hotspots to noise-canceling headphones, we will cover her technology needs as necessary,” she said. “Academic teams, from biology to interior design, are also assembling student equipment kits to enhance experiential learning on and off campus.”
Mount Mary is currently giving two high-tech immersive classrooms a much needed $42,000 upgrade this summer. The classrooms are modeled upon a delivery system at Georgetown University, said Van Zeeland.
“Four others are becoming enhanced learning classrooms to facilitate online and hybrid teaching modalities that will deliver curriculum online as if students were in the room,” she said. “We are also adding a recording studio for faculty to pre-record class information if needed.”
For students wanting to visit the campus over the summer, Mount Mary offers on-campus tours, including Saturdays. Prospective students and parents are asked to review the safety guidelines before coming to the campus: https://mtmary.edu/_files/pdfs/admissions/mmu-your-campus-visit.pdf.
To assist students financially impacted due to the coronavirus, Mount Mary provided more than $500,000 in emergency funding through donations and other sources, including federal grants and Mount Mary’s “President’s Emergency Fund.”
“We plan to extend those resources into the next semester,” said Van Zeeland.
The annual Summer Leadership Academy for high school girls, designed for career exploration, college prep and leadership, was held online June 22-24, rather than in person as it was done in previous years.
The school is unsure when they can resume classes with pre-COVID-19 mechanics but will be following recommendations from the CDC and the Wisconsin Health Department.