April 6, 2020
April 3 COVID-19 update
Greetings College Community,
In times of crisis our most fundamental beliefs are tested, and this can lead to a deep sense of clarity about what is important to us as a community of educators and learners. We work to advance our mission: Shaped by the Catholic Benedictine heritage, The College of St. Scholastica provides intellectual and moral preparation for responsible living and meaningful work.
What undergirds this statement is our commitment to our Benedictine Values: Community, Hospitality, Stewardship, Respect and Love of Learning. We are a values-driven organization, and now more than ever, this clarity shines bright thanks to the wonderful work you all are doing!
We draw on our rich history of overcoming adversity and innovating forward. We are also blessed to have the prayers, love and support of our sponsors, the Sisters of the St. Scholastica Monastery, helping us through this difficult time.
Thank you, Prioress Sister Beverly Raway, for your inspiring words this week: Message from the Monastery.
News to Share:
The College’s Pandemic Planning Team continues to hold daily briefings as needed to work out logistics and share information. Thank you, Mike Turner, for leading this group.
- In light of our Benedictine Values of Community and Hospitality, we are working with the St. Louis County Emergency Planning Team in reviewing potential opportunities for the use of St. Scholastica facilities to support the State’s COVID-19 response. Please be aware that various media reports are circulating what may be a confusing portrayal of our Duluth campus serving as a potential “care center” in the fight against the virus. Although we did have an external team on the Duluth campus this week evaluating Somers Hall for a step-down medical facility, the building does not meet specifications to serve in that capacity and so at this time the College has not been designated as a “care center”. As the state and St. Louis County further develop their plans for combating COVID-19 in Duluth, the College stands ready to assist. We take this position while recognizing that our first responsibility is to protect our students, faculty and staff, as well as our neighbors on campus, St. Scholastica Monastery and the Benedictine Living Community of Duluth.
- Security is doing a great job monitoring buildings and those with permission to be on Duluth campus. Big shout-out to Mike, Zack and his team for all their efforts, and thank you for everyone’s cooperation.
- Sixty-four students remain in Duluth campus housing. Those few who are still in Somers Hall are transitioning to the apartments so that Somers can be ready for possible future emergency response options with the county. I am grateful to Elliott Johnston, Megan Perry-Spears, our Facilities folks and Security in managing this process.
- Student Health Services continue operations for our students. Staff are staying in contact with the Minnesota Department of Health concerning safe quarantining, should that be necessary among the student population.
- We continue to monitor state and federal mandates and are working with our affiliates (MPCC, ACE, NAICU, and ACCU) in lobbying efforts around stimulus funding for higher education. A summary prepared by Gonser and Gerber of the most recent legislation related to higher education is found here: CARE Act. This is a very complicated piece of legislation, so at this point the exact dollar figure that St. Scholastica would realize is still to be determined.
“Keep Teaching”: Over the past three weeks, our faculty members have successfully migrated over 800 courses to distance-based education. This was, and continues to be, no small feat! Thank you for the ongoing work and commitment to our students’ learning. This tremendous effort has not gone unnoticed in the wider world – see the “Good media coverage” section below.
Emergency Funds: The St. Scholastica Student Government Association voted unanimously to provide $50,000 in emergency funding to assist students with critical needs. The Student Affairs division will lead the process and procedures for requests. Any questions should be routed to Megan Perry-Spears. In addition to this funding, the Advancement Office has also identified funds through Sponsor A Saint to help with retention efforts. We are very grateful to the SGA and to our donors for their generosity!
Mental Health and the JED Campus: I am pleased to announce that the JED Mental Health initiative will be moving forward for the coming academic year, thanks to the generosity of the SGA along with several key Board of Trustee members. The JED Foundation partners with colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems.
Enrollment: We are beginning to feel some impact to our enrollment projections for summer and fall, which we are attributing to the COVID-19 event. We are seeing a general slow-down at both regional and national levels, as institutions switch gears from traditional admissions tactics to virtual practices. Many of our professional programs and online offerings are seeing steady summer numbers, where some are experiencing applicants delaying their start dates. It’s still early, and the impacts of COVID-19 are unclear at this point, but our Enrollment Management team has stepped up in remarkable ways in shifting their outreach and engagement to virtual environments.
Financial Modeling: We expect that COVID-19 will impact our financial situation for FY21 and potentially beyond, but how and what that will look like are unknown at this point. We expect to receive relief through the federal stimulus packages, some of which are still under development. We also know that in the past, events like a recession have resulted in adults returning to college to pursue different career options. To be ready for potential situations, both short- and long-term, I have asked our finance team, in partnership with Cabinet leadership, to prepare for multiple scenarios.
Open Forum: We will host an Open Forum via Zoom from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Thursday, April 23, to share what we know about the financial situation. (It will be recorded.) By that time, we will have a better sense of the state and national outlook, what the overall economic picture might be, and what actions we will be taking to ensure we meet our mission. As always, we lead with our Benedictine Values and with deep confidence in the amazing talents of our faculty and staff as we navigate forward.
Good media coverage: We have seen numerous cases recently of Saints Rising Up as thought leaders and examples of civic-minded action. We have drawn positive media coverage as a result! Here’s a sampling of recent news items:
- April 1, WDIO-TV Channel 10: A feature story on Physician Assistant student Amy Lyttle, who is making masks for healthcare workers.
- April 1, WDIO-TV Channel 10: Stender School of Business and Technology Dean Rick Revoir lends his expertise to a story about avoiding COVID-19 scams.
- March 28, Duluth News Tribune: UMD and St. Scholastica faculty, students share their experiences in online learning. There’s an accompanying video with student interviews.
- March 27, Hibbing Daily Tribune: Baseball player Jack Perala reflects on a shortened season.
- March 26, Duluth News Tribune: DNP faculty member Sara McCumber provides expert tips on nursing home safety.
- March, Minnesota Private College Council: Vice President for Student Affairs Steve Lyons offers insights to the MPCC newsletter about how we’re supporting students well in the face of COVID-19.
- March 27, Rochester Post Bulletin: Sheryl Sandahl is briefly quoted about the lack of nursing licensing test centers (go to the end).
- March 22, Duluth News Tribune: A profile on Julie Zaruba Fountaine and our WellU efforts.
- March 19, Local media outlets, including FOX-TV Channel 21, WDIO-TV Channel 10, and the Duluth News Tribune picked up the announcement that our classes would be taught online for the remainder of the semester, and that Commencement has been canceled.
- March 18, Star Tribune: A flattering look at how our “Keep Teaching Team” and faculty worked effectively to migrate our 860 courses online.
Finally, please be sure to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Take advantage of our resources and the amazing opportunities we now have available.
Check out: Saints Life Goes Virtual for ways our Student Affairs team are supporting our students.
Keep your spirits up and know that we will get through this together! I couldn’t be prouder of our Saints family! Blessings and peace to you all.