Boy what a year! COVID 19 has greatly impacted all of our lives in a very fundamental way. It has affected our workplaces, our homes, our schools, our houses of worship, our shopping routines, vacation plans, relationships, and in the worst of cases, our health. And it looks like the health, economic, and life disruptions from COVID 19 may be with us for a little bit longer. In view of this crisis brought on by the pandemic, we thought it might be of interest to everyone to share what we can on the System, University, and College response to COVID 19, and outline the disruptions, our responses, and our plans. If there is one thing we want to convey, it’s that we have been open, we continue to be open and we plan to be open to serve our students, alumni, stakeholders and community as best we can!
The University of Illinois System has established a COVID-19 Planning and Response Team to help coordinate the system’s response to and communication about the virus, and our three universities are monitoring their campuses and working with their local community agencies. COVID-19 related websites, communications, policies, and other resources can be found on this page https://www.uillinois.edu/coronavirus .
As you may know, the U of I System quickly transformed its academic programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 90,000 students were shifted to studying from home, an unprecedented move that supports efforts to limit face-to-face interaction and curb the spread of the virus. In order to assist students with increasing financial need due to the pandemic, the system created a new $36 million targeted financial aid fund.
At the same time, the system is demonstrating its land-grant mission in real time, marshalling its world-class resources and ramping up its knowledge-generating power to foster solutions that will help steer our state through the crisis.
University of Illinois at Springfield
UIS is sharing its expertise as a pioneer in online and distance education. At the request of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the university is serving as a go-to resource for colleges and K-12 schools across Illinois as they make their own transition to online instruction.
People across Illinois and beyond are taking part in a series of small-business webinars hosted by UIS to help owners through the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the Springfield Innovation Hub, UIS and the Community Health Roundtable are conducting a webinar series on community health with immediate focus on the impact of COVID-19.
UIS staff and students are making donations to their local communities. UIS Athletics donated drinks to healthcare professionals at Memorial Health System in Springfield, and UIS staff delivered meals to a local homeless shelter.
Check out the UIS COVID 19 Homepage for the latest information at https://www.uis.edu/covid-19/.
College of Public Affairs and Administration
The College viewpoint is more of a “nuts and bolts” review of some current, intermediate and longer-term steps UIS has or will take. As we all know, during Spring 2020 all classes were shifted to a remote format and students were encouraged and mandated to leave campus and the campus essentially shut down except for essential services. All these actions were consistent with the State and Federal requirements at the height of the Pandemic. These requirements and current health advice continue to guide decisions made by UIS as we approach the Fall 2020 semester.
The University of Illinois System announced on June 18th that on-campus educational activities will resume this fall at UIS. An UIS emergency response team was mobilized at the onset of the crisis to coordinate and strategize the UIS response. Dr. Brian Chen (MPH) and myself were members of that group. Planning for Fall 2020 is being led by two multidisciplinary teams focused on:
- Academic Planning (of which I am a member); and
- Student Affairs and Community Engagement.
Each team is tasked with developing plans, policies and procedures for Fall 2020 course delivery and accompanying student life programs to deliver a premier educational experience while adhering to the necessary guidelines for health and safety on campus.
UIS has released the “Return to the Prairie” Fall 2020 Plan and accompanying website. To date, UIS has announced the following decisions as it pertains to Fall 2020 operations:
Academic calendar: The beginning and ending dates for the Fall 2020 semester remain unchanged. However, the last two weeks of the semester following Thanksgiving—including Finals Week–will be delivered remotely. Students will be encouraged to complete the semester remotely if they travel from campus for Thanksgiving. Residence Life facilities and the Student Union will remain open throughout the totality of the semester unless conditions require that they be closed for reasons of health and safety. Stay alert for any additional calendar changes that may be announced.
Grading options: UIS will again allow credit/no credit grading for all courses during Fall 2020 semester. The Registrar will send an email to students explaining the process to select credit/no credit grading, along with some important points they should consider before converting to credit/no credit.
Safety protocols: UIS has launched a comprehensive “United in Safety” campaign to promote the university’s healthy and safety protocols. These include:
- Frequent cleaning of high-touch areas and public spaces
- Additional hand sanitizer stations
- Required use of face coverings
- Policies and practices that promote physical distancing
Faculty and Staff Focus
Illinois entered Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan on June 26th. UIS faculty and staff have received direction to continue working remotely through July 31 if they can effectively perform their job duties to the satisfaction of their supervisors. Units operating under an existing approved Return to On-Site Work plan should continue to do so through July 31.
All Spring 2020 classes were held in a remote format for the balance of the Spring semester. Although there were minor hiccups, the transition went well and the College accommodated students and faculty as best as possible. The University and College offered high touch service and responsiveness for its graduate and undergraduate students and international students. Laptops and web access were provided and platforms for remote learning (Zoom) were made available. Personalized attention from advisors, COLRS and faculty at large assisted students in their transition to remote learning for the balance of Spring 2020.
We are in the middle of our Summer 2020 semester and classes are in full swing, being offered in an online format. We are pleased to report that our Summer classes are going strong with a full set of courses available across our majors and disciplines. That’s good news and a positive sign for Fall.
The College and Fall 2020
UIS anticipates opening in Fall 2020, affording new and returning students, graduate and undergraduate students, on campus and off campus students, and traditional and nontraditional students a full line up of classes through a variety of modalities. The College equally stands ready to welcome you to UIS. We will have a full line up of classes in a variety of majors that make a difference in society whether you are pursuing Criminology and Criminal Justice, Environmental Studies, Legal Studies, Public Administration, Public Affairs Reporting, Political Science, or Public Health, we have the degree for you. Whether part time or full time, graduate or undergraduate, on line or on ground, on campus or off campus join the hundreds of students moving forward with their studies and careers in the 2020-2021 academic year here in the State Capital of Springfield, Illinois.
Don’t’ let the Coronavirus stop you. Be responsible, be safe and healthy, and stay focused on what is next in your studies, career and life. Remember, UIS and the College of Public Affairs and Administration are here to help in any way we can.
Dr. Robert W. Smith
Dean, College of Public Affairs and Administration
If you have questions, feel free to connect with us and request more information!