SaintsRiseUp Safe Return | Campus Reopening Updates

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) information

The College plans to reopen the Duluth and extended campuses this fall, including residence halls. Courses on those campuses will be taught using a mixture of in-person and virtual methods for the fall semester. Students in our fully online programs will not experience any change to the delivery of their courses. 

This plan remains flexible and could change if pandemic circumstances require it. The safety of our students, faculty and staff will remain our top priority. We will continue to monitor guidance provided by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more information, visit the Coronavirus frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.

Important updates

Please see the updates below for important information regarding the following:

  • Academics: Summer semester courses will be offered in a virtual format. For the fall semester, courses will be taught using a mixture of remote, virtual and in-person methods.
  • Students: All student support services continue to be available during this period. 
  • Residential Halls: Will be open this fall. Detailed information from Residence Life staff will be provided to students later in the summer. 
  • Faculty and Staff: Only approved faculty and staff are allowed on campus.
  • Travel: The College has suspended all domestic and international travel.

Important resources

Community updates

Greetings, colleagues!

Happy Fall! And so another week of hybrid learning is us behind us! Congratulations one and all! Thank you for keeping the promises we make to each other in our Community Pledge and the Big 5.

A short update for you all today:

Despite our great progress, the news is bittersweet. We have had to make many difficult decisions as a result of the pandemic, and this week brought another: with much regret we are postponing the December 2020 Commencement Ceremony to next May. The deans and senior administration team agree that this is the only responsible course at this time. 

All spring 2020 graduates, fall 2020 graduates and spring 2021 graduates are invited to the Spring Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 15, 2021, at the Amsoil Arena in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

It's frustrating indeed to be forced into this delay. But we look forward to coming together in person next spring for a celebration to remember!

Mask mania

Our friends in the Saints Shop report that there's been an overwhelming response to our specially designed facemasks — in fact, they're sold out! More have been ordered and will be back in stock soon.

Friendly reminder to keep those rooms clean

For those who may be using open rooms impromptu for meetings, a reminder to please clean the space before and after you meet. We appear to be doing well with classrooms, but I'm hearing reports that people are popping into rooms for quick meetings without cleaning before or after. Thank you for your cooperation!

Impressive rankings news

We've been honored in a new U.S. News and World Report national ranking that measures student success. St. Scholastica is no. 135 out of 389 schools in the list of Top Performers on Social Mobility among National Universities. There are many — I would say too many — rankings out there today, and we should never put too much stock in any of them. That said, U.S. News is the most widely recognized and credible authority. And social mobility is a welcome outcome of our mission. Ellen Johnson, vice president for enrollment management, put it well: “Throughout our history, St. Scholastica has always worked to ensure that the life-changing power of higher education is within reach, regardless of a student's economic background. This remains a core part of our mission today… We continually seek to level the playing field by taking steps like guaranteeing a student can graduate in four years, and instituting test-optional admissions.”

Exercise the franchise

I'm proud of our Student Government Association being a National Voter Registration Day partner. SGA members are tabling in the Student Union and Benedictine Commons through Tuesday to help us register to vote. The times you can stop by are:

  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, Friday, Sept. 18
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21
  • 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Sept. 22

Looking great in SSBT

We hosted a delightful gathering on Thursday to show off our beautiful new ALLETE Board Room (Tower 3145). I was happy to see former St. Scholastica President Bruce Stender and his wife Kaye, as well as leaders of ALLETE, among other dignitaries and friends of the College. We are grateful for this state-of-the-art learning space! See pictures attached of the Stender Family and Al Hodnik from ALLETE who joined us.

It's becoming obvious all around us that the fall color season is underway. This is something we can all get outside and appreciate safely this weekend — I hope you have a great one!

Stay well, stay safe.


Greetings, colleagues!

Welcome again to the new academic year — it feels so good to be back together, doesn't it? Even as we are acutely aware of the challenges COVID-19 presents to us all, and in solidarity with those suffering its consequences, we nonetheless have much to be grateful for. Yesterday I was able to meet several first-year students at the Center for Just Living Open House — they expressed how great their classes are going, how excited they are to be at St. Scholastica with new friends. It gave me a lot of hope to hear their stories.

I am so proud of the way I am seeing everyone be conscientious about masks and physical distancing as well. This truly is Community in action! Our greatest risk now may be complacency… we must not let up, or lose focus. Let's continue to be aware of our personal conduct and encourage each other toward best practices for health and safety. Wear your mask. Keep your six-foot distance. Wash your hands. Keep it going, Saints!

Speaking of masks, our St. Scholastica-branded masks are now available through the Saints Shop! Find them here. Add one to your mask collection or buy one for a friend, family member or College supporter.  

Alert levels on campus

We now have an important tool for better real-time awareness regarding COVID-19 and the College. Our Alert Level matrix spells out a color-coded series of alert levels about the risk to our learning community at any given time, and the associated public health measures in place at each level. These levels are based on data monitored on the Duluth campus weekly, including testing for and monitoring the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus on campus, as well as other key metrics in the City of Duluth, St. Louis County, and the State of Minnesota. 

We will be able to update the alert level quickly in the event things change; such decisions will always be informed both by data and by our judgment of current conditions. In addition to being on our Safe Return website, a link to the matrix will be featured in the weekly COVID-19 updates issued on Fridays by Mike Turner of Campus Safety and the Student Health Service. Thank you to Mike for his leadership on this, as well as those in communication for getting it prepared for the web page.

What a welcome

Welcome Weekend COVID-style was a great success at the Duluth campus. Our values were foundational to the whole program and evident all weekend. Thank you to Megan Perry-Spears, Dean of Students, Kaitie Selleck, director of student activities, interns Maggie Brown and Meghan Stordahl and their amazing Team Delta. A shout-out to Sarah Stewart for her keynote address about building a truly diverse neighborhood and community together. And three cheers to the wonderful folks in ResLife and Student Health Service who worked around the clock all weekend getting folks settled and safe, particularly Elliott Johnston, Chris Sandal, Vicki Andrews and Ramona Tran.

Our August Adventures leaders demonstrated creativity and flexibility in offering August Adventures safely while still providing a great springboard for students to start their St. Scholastica career! Leading the programs are Shawn Olesewski of Outdoor Pursuit, Jessica Ellingson of Campus Ministry, Sarah Stewart of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Natalia Miller of the Office of International Programs.

Customized Convocation

I am grateful to all who helped make this week's virtual Convocation ceremony so effective despite technical challenges. If you weren't able to view it live, the recording is still available on Facebook. A captioned version will be made available at a later date - watch the announcements for details.

Election resources from ACE

The American Council on Education has released an updated issue brief on student voting and on campus participation in political campaigns, which I encourage you to read. This factual guide is designed to educate campus administrators, faculty, and staff about community members' involvement in elections, such as hosting an event or volunteering for a campaign, and gives concrete examples of what is and is not likely to be viewed as acceptable. This edition gives explicit advice on student voting resources, particularly in this time complicated by the pandemic. Here is a link to the new brief: Student Voting and College Political Campaign-Related Activities in 2020.

An outstanding honor

Congratulations to senior Alexis Thomeczek, who has been named one of the Top 30 honorees for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year award. Over 600 outstanding female athletes were nominated for this prestigious national award, which honors academic achievement, athletics excellence, community service and leadership. It is one of the highest awards given by the NCAA. The overall NCAA Woman of the Year will be chosen later this fall. Well deserved, Lexi! You make us proud!

Peace and Justice on the way

Pandemic or no, the Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice is moving forward with a virtual 2020-2021 lecture series on “New Immigrants — Familiar Stories?” Speakers will explore questions such as: How will the current major wave of immigrants affect the traditional American melting pot? How might these new Americans help us succeed as a nation in novel ways? What are the challenges and opportunities that these new immigrants offer to our nation? All lectures are free, and begin virtually via Zoom Webinar at 7:30 p.m. CST. The first features longtime National Public Radio correspondent Tom Gjelten on Sept. 30. Registration is required. For more information visit

One Campus, One Read

We're pleased at the great response to our One Campus, One Read program! 154 faculty and staff have signed up to participate in discussion groups, which is above expectations. Information will be forthcoming on the groups, facilitators and getting hard copies of the book, A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. Though the signup is now closed, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the VPAA's office still invite you to readthe book, which features 16 of Minnesota's best writers providing a range of perspectives on their lived experiences BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in Minnesota. A free e-book version can be downloaded here: E-book.

Good news coverage

We've been generating lots of positive media coverage lately. Here's a sampling:

  • Sept. 8, FOX-TV Channel 21: Sophomore Julia Moder is featured in a story about our first day of classes.
  • Sept. 8, HNG News: Alum Connor Stevens '15, who was a successful track athlete for us, is now a designer for Kohler.
  • Sept. 6, Duluth News Tribune: A comparison of local colleges' return-to-campus plans.
  • Sept. 4, WDIO-TV Channel 10: Coverage of move-in day.
  • Sept. 4, KDLH-TV Channel 3: Coverage of move-in day including a student interviewee's comment that the College has a good plan in place.
  • Sept. 3, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy digital magazine: page 10 features a powerful essay by senior biology major Claire Anderson.
  • Sept. 3, The Star: A profile on Oballa Oballa, a refugee from Ethiopia who's in our social work program at Riverland Community College. He's going to run for Austin City Council. 

My sincere thanks again for welcoming our students in the multitude of methods in which we are teaching and learning this fall. Have a great weekend, everyone! Stay safe!


As we prepare for the first day of classes, tragic events of societal injustice and racism continue to shadow our hearts and minds, along with the suffering caused by recent natural disasters and the ongoing pandemic.

As I noted in my remarks at the Faculty-Staff Institute, we all feel anxiety and have many questions. At the same time, the start of a new academic year is cause for humble joy. We can take confidence in the diligent preparations of our peers to keep us all safe, and we owe it to our students to bring all the fortitude we possess to our duties.

With care for our fellow Saints whose lives are wounded by the sin of racism and in full partnership to strike it down wherever we encounter it; with compassion for students, faculty and staff who have lost loved ones and livelihoods to natural disasters and to COVID-19 - we go on. We move forward, together.

"Alert Level" matrix

It’s important to recognize the changing nature of the COVID-19 virus and the fact that we will be living with asymptomatic and symptomatic realities for some time. We are taking in new information daily. The most essential thing we can do is exercise the Community Pledge. We will be publishing an "Alert Level" matrix to communicate our levels of tolerance/capacity, and points of pivot should we need to change our direction (for example, go virtual). I have high confidence that we will be able to manage our situation, if we all adhere to our responsibilities. Please do your part.

Enhanced outdoor space

In recognition of how we might approach physical distancing while encouraging community engagement, new outdoor space for students was created this summer through a collaboration with the Student Government Association. The space includes a fire pit and seating in the grassy area across from our brick apartments. Additional outdoor furniture, including more picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, will soon be arriving to enable everyone to better enjoy our campus outdoors.

my.CSS - a Cor upgrade

The IT Department is evaluating and reorganizing our internal web pages, including Cor, and migrating them to the new Brightspace environment. This internal resource will be called my.CSS, and will have exciting new features. It will simplify and streamline relevant information and enhance our internal digital community. IT will be asking for everyone’s help to craft the new space. This project is a great example of Stewardship by making the best use of resources that we have available. It will save the College thousands of dollars per year and give us a fresh new look. Watch for more information coming soon.

From Alumni Engagement

Homecoming represents a time to celebrate our community, our traditions and our unwavering Saints spirit. The Alumni Engagement team is inviting everyone to join an unprecedented virtual celebration on Saturday, Oct. 10. Although the programming might look different, these events will allow Saints - around the globe! - to engage with us and with one another safely. Please save the date and be on the lookout for future communications.

Athletics update

Two recent announcements prompted Saints Athletics to pursue alternative opportunities for our student-athletes this fall. Last week, the UMAC Council of Athletics Directors made the decision to suspend all competitions for the two remaining sports planning to compete this fall. In addition, the D-III Administrative Committee recommended that member schools not compete in the fall term to avoid a potential increase in health and safety risks. Accordingly, both our cross country and golf programs will now be joining football, volleyball and soccer in competing in the spring term. All St. Scholastica fall sports will focus on developing our student-athletes, both on and off the field, as they prepare for spring competition. For additional Saints Athletics COVID-19 information, please click here.

On that note, I want to thank and recognize Athletic Director Franco Bari and our athletic administration, our coaches and support staff. Navigating the impact of COVID-19, the shifting NCAA announcements, together with UMAC decisions, has been challenging over the past couple of months. I am very grateful for their skillful handling of this situation and the steady support they have provided both incoming student athletes and those returning - it’s truly been a Saints family effort.

Celebrate our Center for Just Living!

The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion invites you to an Open House from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, to celebrate upgrades to the Intercultural Center and the Center for Just Living spaces. This has been a long-standing goal of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office. We are glad to enhance and improve spaces on the Duluth campus for students of diverse backgrounds to meet and engage. Please join us for a socially distanced face-to-face ice cream social to celebrate these new spaces.

A good time to sign up

There’s still time to participate in our first One Campus, One Read reading, A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. Small groups will be formed to read and discuss the book with faculty and staff facilitators. A free e-book can be downloaded. If you’d prefer a paper copy, indicate that on your sign-up form.

I end my update today with a heartfelt thank you and shout out to the Faculty Staff Institute planning committee for all their efforts in coordinating the virtual experience. As we say, Saints Rise Up and the team did a great job.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Only two weeks now... I’m so grateful for everyone’s efforts to be ready for the start of the academic year in this unique season. Our planning is ongoing, of course, but I already feel that we’ve prepared as well as we can. We can all draw strength from that as we face the challenges that lie ahead. The most important thing we can do is adhere to the Community Pledge and follow our guidelines: wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing and washing hands frequently. We’re in this together!

Lots of news this week!

Saints Kits availability

The Saints Kits, our front-line gear for staying safe, are on their way! Each kit includes a Saints-branded mask, a buff, a 5-oz bottle of hand sanitizer, and a copy of our precious Community Pledge. First-year students will also receive a thermometer. Staff and faculty will receive their kits from VPs and deans of their areas. Duluth campus residential students will receive theirs when they move onto campus; non-residential students can pick up theirs from the Port in the Student Activities office during the first week of classes. At extended sites, either a staff or faculty member has been designated as point person to distribute them. A big thank you to Student Affairs and Marketing staff who assembled the kits, and to Advancement, whose staff are working to underwrite the project financially. If you have questions, contact Kaitie Selleck.

Students’ perspective

The return-to-campus student survey results have been tabulated. The survey was sent to all students on July 29 and we received 1,107 responses, a rate of 30%. Here are highlights:

  • More than half of students agree that they are comfortable returning to campus. A large number are concerned about the virus because they are at-risk themselves or worry about bringing the virus home to an at-risk family member. Students are concerned about other people’s behavior in adhering to the recommended health practices, and about campus opening too soon and then having to close again shortly thereafter.
  • There were major trends concerning the need for student support. These revolve around internships and other experiential learning and the potential impacts of any delay, juggling school, work and personal lives, and obtaining needed skills for their future in the workplace.
  • A significant number of students expressed concerns surrounding course format and delivery. Some felt all courses should be online; others felt the need for in-person or hybrid options. A significant theme was concern over flexibility and the faculty being understanding. In general, students are worried about their academic success.
  • Lastly, a major theme was students’ concern for overall wellness. They stressed the need for mental health, insurance needs, COVID-19 testing, and housing. Reiterated throughout the comments was the need for financial support and concerns about cost issues. Many are concerned about the cost of tuition in the new hybrid model.

These findings have helped us to better understand students’ perspectives surrounding the pandemic. This has helped inform our decisions and direct our efforts to keep everyone as safe as possible. We are very grateful for the strong participation rate!

Student study space

With very few events scheduled on the Duluth campus for fall semester, and the ability to find other locations for those that are, both Benedictine Commons and Somers Lounge will be reserved for physical-distancing study space for students. Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Visitor self-screening

To protect the health and safety of our campus community, the College is requiring all persons that will be visiting our campus to wear a face covering/mask at all times; maintain proper physical distancing from others (6 feet); maintain proper hand hygiene; and perform a self-health screening prior to coming on campus. Our new required self-health screen questionnaire can be found here.


The College has been awarded nearly $1 million to support students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math majors. The five-year grant of $999,995 from the National Science Foundation will create a new program called Scholarships for Undergraduates Committed to Careers and Education in STEM Subjects (SUCCESS). Among other initiatives, SUCCESS will support four-year scholarships for 30 academically talented, Pell-eligible students in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, and mathematics. An interesting sidelight is that we're using data analysis to award funding without traditional mechanisms such as essays and applications. This will allow us to remove barriers for students. Congratulations to Lynne Raschke, Principal Investigator, and her colleagues!

We’re getting in GEER

Last Friday we were notified of an award from the Minnesota Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund [GEER]. We are being given nearly $250,000 to provide laptops and internet access for those members of our community with the greatest need. What set our proposal apart was the inclusion not just of hardware, but the creation and dissemination of training for students to ensure they'll be as successful as possible with this hardware. I am grateful to Janet Rosen for identifying the opportunity and shepherding our proposal.

Fall athletics update

With the recent NCAA Fall Championship cancellation announcement we have revised our plans for fall sports. Football, volleyball and soccer UMAC championships have been moved to the spring, but these teams will still be providing fall practice opportunities to prepare for spring competitions. Initially the UMAC planned to continue to move forward with hosting a fall cross country championship, so our teams would still be training and competing this fall. The league also expected to be hosting fall championships in golf, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Golf Tournament next spring. As we await further direction from the NCAA and UMAC, the Cross Country and Golf fall competition opportunities are still under review.

Extended sites

Over the summer we have worked closely with embedded sites to ensure we are meeting the needs of our students within the guidelines they have for their campuses. We have had to make some adjustments based on COVID restrictions for classroom availability at Inver Hills Community College. Our Elementary Education and Bachelor in Social Work programs that are located at Inver will have their in-person classes on the St. Paul campus for fall semester. We plan to resume courses on the Inver Hills campus in the spring.

Office procedure changes

Starting this Monday, Aug. 24, the OneStop Student Services Office will be available for in-person appointments with students.

Stay safe, everyone, and have a great weekend!


Greetings, faculty and staff!

Only a few short weeks remain before classes begin on September 8th, and I'd like to express my gratitude once again for the extraordinary efforts taking place behind the scenes to ensure we all return to campus safely. Keep up the great work. In case you haven't already seen it, I'd like to remind everyone again to read and reflect upon our Community Pledge to follow our health guidelines. I find inspiration in these words — thank you to Associate Vice President for Mission Integration Sister Kathleen Del Monte and others who had a role in crafting this thoughtful promise, which quotes the Rule of Benedict: "...let them gently encourage one another..."

Here are a few updates for the week:

Employee Return to Work Training Program

Our amazing Human Resources team has developed a COVID-19 Employee Return to Work Training program that will soon be made available through our new Learning Management System, Brightspace, thanks to efforts of the Information Technology Department and the Center for Teaching and Learning. Please look for an email from Interim Vice President for Finance Marty Parsons regarding the launch of this program. All employees are required to complete the training. Dean of Students Megan Perry-Spears and her team have developed a parallel program for students that includes safe return protocols, behavioral expectations and a commitment to adhere to our Community Pledge. This will also be delivered through Brightspace and will be sent to all students. 

Parking Update

A parking permit is required for vehicles on the Duluth campus and the Health Science Center at BlueStone from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday during the academic year. Due to the fluid situation of COVID-19, the cost of a permit has been reduced to $50 for the academic year. For permits purchased after Dec. 31, 2020, the rate will be $25. Additionally, $5 daily parking passes will be available in the Saints Shop for purchase by debit/credit card only. As a reminder, Campus Safety Officers will be monitoring and enforcing parking on campus.  

Congratulations to TRIO!

TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) received notification late last week that our proposal was selected for funding. This funding allows TRIO SSS to continue providing academic support, personal guidance, career development and financial literacy to 175 eligible students. TRIO SSS has been a part of St. Scholastica since 1993 providing programming, advocacy, and outreach to help the retention, academic progress, and graduation of first-generation and low-income students and students with disabilities. St. Scholastica is proud to host five TRIO programs providing a pathway of educational opportunity from middle school to graduate school (Talent Search, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math Science, and McNair Scholars along with SSS).  Congratulations Dory and team!  #TRIOWORKS 

Thank You CTL Team!

Over the summer our CTL team has offered 10 weeks of professional development to our faculty in preparing for our hybrid fall. Themes and training have covered a number of pedagogical topics and Brightspace migration. Thank you to the CTL team for outstanding work and going the extra mile over the summer to support our faculty. Special shout outs to Amy Nelson, Center for Instructional Design (CID); Nikki Schutte, CID; Jane Sims, Director, CID; Meg McBride, IT; Anne Kruchten, Director of Assessment; Greta Jenkins, Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL); Eric Mistry, CTL; and our CTL leader, Neil Witikko, Director, CTL. You are much appreciated! 

Title IX Update

The Department of Education 2020 Title IX regulations are in effect today, Aug. 14, 2020. This required extensive revision of the Sexual Misconduct Policy. In collaboration with the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the College reviewed all policies that afford civil rights protections and determined to combine Title IX into a comprehensive Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination policy and procedures addressing sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination and bias. The policy and procedures were submitted to the Policy Committee for expedited review and were approved Aug. 11, 2020 by the President's Cabinet. While this process covers our obligations under Title IX, it also offers a consistent and transparent process and tracking of reports of bias, harassment and discrimination. This policy will be reviewed in one year following Policy Committee procedures. Many thanks to Melissa Watschke for her outstanding work in leading the Title IX efforts and Lori Luing for getting the Title IX website updated. 

Employee Recognition

On Monday we announced our Employee Recognition Awards, celebrating years of service and our major award winners. I'd now like to highlight two of these, the Tassie McNamara and Equal Access Awards, and showcase the recipients and what we heard from the nominators. Congratulations to both Sarah Stewart and Monica Marciniak for being chosen for these prestigious awards.

  • Tassie McNamara Award — Sarah Stewart "Her genuine care for students is palpable and she would do just about anything for her students (including spending all day in the emergency room with them, coming to campus in the middle of the night with a student suffering a mental health crisis, and texting students back about random things whenever they need her). She goes above and beyond for each of her students, and is right there if you need her. Her intellect, humor and general warmth makes it easy to connect with and trust her." 
  • Equal Access Award — Monica Marciniak "Monica fights for captioning, inclusivity, equity, education, safety, and awareness. She does these things through her classes and class projects that bring attention to these issues. She does it through community events she helps organize (and add numbers to), such as school board meetings and bringing in Deaf and Hard of Hearing presenters. Her students take away more than a language; they take away a new perspective. Not just anyone can have that effect, but Monica does because she believes so passionately in it."   

I'm grateful to be able to close out the week on a high note with great news of grant funding and celebrations of the achievements of our employees, and I'm looking forward to starting off the new school year with you. 

Have a great weekend!

Stay well,

Greetings, College Community!

There's lots of exciting activity as we gear up to launch fall semester. We are reaching out to students and employees with additional information on our Safe Return. Thank you to Ryan Sandefer and Steve Lyons along with the Communication Team for pushing out a significant amount of detail on what students can expect, and how faculty are approaching the term in the hybrid format.

Facilities and Safety

Duluth campus buildings will be open beginning this Monday, Aug. 10, from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the exception of Burns Wellness Commons and the Health Science Center. HSC faculty and staff will be able to utilize their card access to enter as needed. Faculty and staff whose offices are in BWC can utilize their keys to access the building as needed.

The BWC plans to reopen the week of Aug. 24 with some changes designed to keep us all healthy and fit (movement is a great medicine!). All users must:

  • Enter via front door A
  • Carry in a pair of clean, non-marking shoes
  • Check in at front desk with your Saints card (CSS ID) 
  • Wear face covering at all times

The BWC will be open summer hours, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, though that schedule as well as programming and facility use may vary from previous years. Campus Rec is adding new intramural and fitness programs that can be done safely outdoors. For more information call (218) 723-7022 

The St. Cloud campus can be accessed by faculty and staff utilizing their key as needed. Others may access the building by appointment only until the start of fall semester, at which time doors will be unlocked.

If you need Anti-COVID-19 supplies such as disinfectant bottles or face shields for your department, please contact Tanya Lowney in Facilities.

A reminder: all employees must self-monitor on a daily basis. You can learn about resources and tools available for self-monitoring your symptoms at the Employee Reopening Plan.

SRU Planning Update

As you can tell from the item above, our Saints Rise Up Steering Committee and numerous subcommittees continue to diligently fill in details of our Safe Return plan. Much of the work at this stage is scenario-based, making sure we are prepared "in the event of…" For example, this week discussion centered around safe medical transport, handling requests for internal and external events on campus, quarantine procedures for international students, protocols for when a student tests positive for COVID, the development of reporting forms, and more. We will continue to provide updates on these and the many other issues we face. We approach this responsibility with humility, fully aware that we cannot know every possible turn of the road ahead. At the same time, we are called to give our earnest best, and that is what I see happening from our colleagues. Saints do indeed Rise Up!

Communication Update

The Safe Return Advocates campaign is now running on our main Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. If you're not on social media, you can see the content here. Thanks to the students, staff and faculty members who have served as Advocates so far! If you'd like to share your Safe Return selfie or video message, please contact College Communications' Valerie Clark at We appreciate your participation in this important effort to build a safe campus culture.

Our COVID-19 Saints Succeed discount initiative, which helps students whose employment has been affected by the pandemic, has earned a lot of positive media coverage, including from WDIO-TV Channel 10, FOX-TV Channel 21, Business North, MIX-108 FM Radio and the Duluth News Tribune. The attention drew some negative reaction on social media, from people who felt traditional undergrad students were being overlooked. In fact, we also have financial assistance for currently enrolled students whose financial circumstances have changed due to COVID. Financial Aid and OneStop Director Trish Johnson stands ready to help them through the professional judgment process or to apply for one of our emergency funding options.

Matt Ridenour, chair of our undergraduate education program, gave an in-depth interview about the state's plan for K-12 schools on public television's "Almanac North." 

There's an interesting blog being written by three siblings at different life stages, including a recent St. Scholastica grad and a soon-to-be-freshman who offers an interesting perspective on starting at the College in the midst of the pandemic. Check out the Three Takes blog.

Student Survey Completed

The Student Survey gauging students' thoughts on their return to St. Scholastica closed Wednesday. Results are being tabulated and will be shared next week Over 1,000 responses were captured. We thank the students for sharing their feedback, which will help inform our COVID-19 plans moving forward. 

Joint Facilities Planning Committee Update and Student Center Planning

The Joint Facilities Planning Steering Committee has completed a six-month study with the architectural firm HGA, in partnership with our sponsors, the Duluth Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, as well as the leadership of the Benedictine Living Community of Duluth. The steering committee, chaired by Sister Beverly Raway, Prioress, was charged with addressing the future use of the Monastery property and with guiding the shared planning process in visioning the future living needs of the Duluth Benedictine Sisters. For the College, this was also an opportunity to examine the facilities priorities that emerged from our survey earlier this year, and to focus forward on one of those, a Student Center/Union. We are now poised to begin work on a conceptual design of the student center thanks to a generous gift from the Manitou Foundation. Later this month a cross-functional planning committee will convene to begin this next step. Stay tuned for future updates as we move the process forward. 

Stay well and have a great weekend!


Barbara McDonald, Ed.D

We are now weeks away from welcoming our students back. I would like to thank the faculty who are preparing for the hybrid format we are delivering this fall. Much work has gone into preparations which has also included the migration to the new LMS Brightspace. I want to thank Neil Witikko and his team for the extensive professional development that has been offered over the summer and the IT support teams that have assisted the faculty. 

Our teaching and learning spaces have been prepared to meet MDH requirements and plans are in place for systematic cleaning. Our student affairs and student life staff have also been very busy preparing for a different environment where physical distancing and face coverings protocols mean modifying the ways in which we offer co-curricular activities.

On the Duluth campus you will see additional outdoor seating where students, faculty and staff can safely socialize. As we welcome each other and our students back, please remember that we are all in this together. As the MDH commented this week, the number one thing that will help Minnesota in the long run is for people to follow COVID19 behavior protocols: wearing face coverings, practicing social/physical distancing and washing hands frequently.

A few updates for you:

Governor's Announcement on K-12

The Governor's Office announced plans for K-12 return yesterday. It appears that decisions on modality of return will rest at the county/local level and guided by MDH recommendations. The Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year, which outlines the approach Minnesota plans to take, can be found at the state Department of Education website. 

Faculty Staff Institute Save the Date

Faculty Staff Institute Week will begin with New Faculty Orientation on Monday, August 24th and Faculty Staff Institute on Wednesday, August 26th. All FSI Week events will be held virtually. The Faculty Staff Institute committee is working on the final details and schedule for the entire week, including the Academic Development Workshop, Faculty Assembly, Staff Council, School meetings, and Department Chairs' Workshop, and will be sending out more information on the events of that week soon.


Security takes on a new name and will now be referred to as the Campus Safety Department. In addition to the name change, we have relocated their office to the 2nd floor of Tower Hall 2617 within the Facilities office area. As always, you can still reach them at the same phone number 723-5937 for non-emergencies and 723-6175 for emergencies. Thank you to Tom Brekke, Mike Turner, and Zach Babcock and his team for making this a smooth transition.

Parking Passes

Due to the hybrid course offerings this fall, the 2020-21 parking permit cost will be reduced to $50.00. Daily parking permits will no longer be available and there will be no changes to visitor parking. The Campus Safety Department will be enforcing required parking permits. Please register for your parking pass at

Saints Shop

Effective immediately, the Saints Shop will only be accepting debit/credit card payments; cash and checks will no longer be accepted. Please check out the Saints Shop website for updated store hours and your Saints gear at

Extended Sites COVID Preparedness

One of the SRU subcommittees is focused on ensuring our extended sites are ready for the fall semester and that students, faculty and staff are supported. Our St. Cloud site will be staffed on a daily basis by enrollment staff beginning August 10 and nursing faculty will be in person when needed for teaching. All classrooms and offices have been reviewed for new occupancy numbers and our new space is allowing for nursing classes to continue in person. Plexiglass shields, hand sanitizers, and other cleaning supplies have all been ordered for the building. We are also working closely with our landlord on building protocols and following Main Campus guidelines where applicable. We do not have any in-person classes at our St. Paul location this fall. Faculty and staff who currently office on that campus are in the process of relocating over the fall semester. Our embedded sites at Central Lakes, Inver Hills, Itasca and Riverland will all be following safety protocols set forth by the Minnesota State system.

Our Guiding Principles

Previously we unveiled the Community Pledge. This week we are sharing Our Guiding Principles, which can also be found on the page. Associate Vice President for Mission Integration Sister Kathleen Del Monte has directed the development of this document. Relying on our core values as our foundation, it is a guide for our decision making as we plan for our Fall 2020 semester. Our Guiding Principles complements the Community Pledge and aids us in determining the best paths forward for our community during these times. Please read it and refer to it as needed when you are making decisions.

Enjoy the weekend, stay safe and well!

With gratitude,

Greetings Saints community,

I hope this finds you enjoying the last weeks of the summer break. It’s hard to believe we'll soon be in August! As we prepare to welcome our students back this fall semester, here are a few updates and reminders:

  • Academic Affairs and Student Affairs continue significant planning as we prepare for a hybrid approach for the fall semester that allows us to welcome our students and employees back to our campus and sites. A big shout out to the facilities and IT teams who are preparing our teaching and common spaces in compliance with MDH guidelines.
  • Please look for important updates on the revised HR employee return plan from Marty Parsons and the HR team that was distributed today.
  • A reminder that for the Duluth campus the entrance checkpoints remain in place until August 9th. On August 10th, all entrances will be open with the exception of the Burns Wellness Center which will have one entrance open.

With much uncertainty still prevailing as the national COVID19 picture continues to shift, several items are still under consideration. The UMAC Presidents Council will be meeting next Tuesday to finalize decisions about how the conference will approach fall athletics. I want to thank Franco Bari, the athletic administration and the coaches for the tremendous planning and discerning they have done regarding the student athlete experience. More to come next week.

I hope you have a great weekend ahead! Thank each of you for all you are doing in preparing for the semester ahead. Stay well, be safe.

With gratitude,


Greetings Saints community,

Associate Vice President for Mission Integration Sister Kathleen Del Monte has led the creation of a Community Pledge to guide all of us — faculty, staff and students — as we navigate the challenges of the pandemic. Please read it and take its message to heart. It will be shared with students by Dean of Students Megan Perry-Spears and will be displayed on our main page. Sister Kathleen provided this brief commentary about the Pledge:

As members of this Benedictine community, we honor the inherent dignity of each member and are committed to caring for all. During this time of COVID-19, as always, we strive in our words and actions to be living examples of our core values. These shared values of Community, Hospitality, Respect, Stewardship, and Love of Learning call us to care for and be attentive to one another as we seek to live and learn in a safe environment. Our Community Pledge expresses this solemn responsibility, recognizing that each one of us plays an integral part in the well-being of all of us.

Advocates campaign to begin

We’re about to roll out our SaintsRiseUp Safe Return Advocates on social media. The Advocates are faculty, staff and students who are encouraging everyone to follow our Safe Return guidelines. Their selfies and messages will start appearing on social media next week, with a goal of positively influencing campus culture. 

We’re already seeing social media advocacy from some of our Saints athletes, who are sharing messages encouraging folks to wear face coverings so that they’ll be able to wear their football helmets this fall! We’re proud of these students for showing leadership and setting a great example.

We welcome even more Advocates to spread the word. If you’re interested, please contact the College's communications department. It’s as easy as sending in a selfie of yourself wearing your face covering. 

Relation during isolation

Our own Dr. Connie Gunderson, associate professor of social work, will offer a valuable community service next week. She’ll lead a free webinar entitled “Relational Resiliency” at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 21. She will invite participants to explore how relationships support resiliency, especially in challenging times such as these. Her talk will be followed by an open question-and-answer session.

Thank you all sincerely for the tremendous efforts as we approach the beginning of the new academic year.  I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Stay safe, be well.


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have ramifications that are hard to predict. The latest is the concern among international students that a new Trump Administration rule could cut off their studies in our country. We are doing all we can to make sure our students are not affected; please see my message about this from earlier today.

I am very grateful for the work that has been accomplished by the Saints Rise Up Steering Committee which has developed and implemented strong protocols, processes and procedures for the times with which we are dealing. Having open and transparent communication channels to inform the community is one vital element that will allow us to stay strong and informed as a community. As such, going forward, expect to see future updates regarding COVID cases impacting the College coming from SHS Clinic Manager Christine Sandal.

Work continues on preparing our College operations for the return of our students, which will begin in earnest in mid-August with our athletes. All Duluth classrooms have now been reconfigured for safe physical distancing and we are working on similar measures at our extended sites. With each passing day we are more ready! I continue to be impressed with the creative energy and shared sense of purpose I see from everyone. Remember, if you have questions about our planning, visit

As many of you already know, Dr. Diane Vertin has been named Chief Operating Officer for the College. This position was established to provide direct oversight of the College's strategic plan and priorities, and to develop an institutional effectiveness model that will inform the College community and the Board of Trustees in its decision-making for the future. Consistent and ongoing evaluation is more important now than ever as we navigate these challenging times.

Diane will lead preparations for the College's Higher Learning Commission comprehensive visit in 2022-23. She will also oversee the development of new strategic partnerships in collaboration with Dr. Rick Revoir, Dean of Strategic Partnerships, and the Career Center.

As Diane begins her new role, I have asked her to meet with College constituent groups to gather input, expectations and desired outcomes to ensure alignment with the College's goals and mission. Through these listening sessions, we hope to build a strong framework with a focus on accountability and celebrating our successes. Thank you in advance for participating and being part of this important engagement!

Last month the Cabinet members and I, along with the deans, had the good fortune to receive anti-bias Search Advocates training. This very valuable experience also included a cohort of faculty and staff receiving advanced Search Advocates training last month. The Cabinet and I also are going to benefit from reading and studying the book "A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota" as part of our professional development around equity, diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Bergstrom has reorganized our newly named Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion with the help of Sarah Stewart, associate director, and Dan Soulier, student support specialist. A new office website will be unveiled in August. She has been meeting with dozens of students, faculty, staff, community leaders and alumni to get their best thinking on how the College can achieve a new level of equity and inclusion. This is informing how she structures a broadly inclusive advisory committee. In addition, Dr. Bergstrom has joined the President's Cabinet in her new role and we welcome her to our team!

Amy and her team are developing a new Inclusive Excellence tab on Cor to serve as a clearinghouse for information relating to IE. They're working on a plan of programming for the coming academic year, which will include professional development opportunities, book reads, speakers and more. If you have ideas or questions, please reach out to Amy at She'd love to hear from you.

In media coverage this week, we had exciting news for our men's hockey program as Kevin Moore is set to take over as head coach. Welcome Kevin!

As always, I am thankful for all you do to advance our mission. I hope you will have a relaxing and enjoyable weekend! Be safe, stay well!

With gratitude,

This week's update will be a short one as we head into the long weekend. The SRU Steering Committee and respective 30+ subcommittees continue to work diligently on plans to reopen the Duluth campuses and extended sites. This week all efforts were focused on the Employee Reopening document (which will be sent out by Human Resources this next week) and the development of the Safe Return website.

Thanks to the great work by the marketing and communications team along with several folks from the Saints Rise Up (SRU) Steering Committee, the SRU Safe Return website is now operational. The site houses information on our safe return protocols for a number of audiences, as well as frequently asked questions (FAQs) — check it out and please feel free to share widely:

Media coverage

In other news, FOX-TV Channel 21 did a nice story on our new nursing assistant training program. In addition, St. Scholastica's face-covering policies are mentioned in these two stories by WDIO-TV Channel 10 and Duluth News Tribune. I am so grateful for the tremendous work being accomplished as we plan to welcome back our students and employees. I hope you have a relaxing and safe 4th of July weekend!

Take care and be well,

I am writing today to share important information regarding our SaintsRiseUp Safe Return plan for the fall semester 2020-21. I want to thank the Saints Rise Up Steering Committee and the important sub-groups for the work that has been accomplished to date. Although our planning is not complete, important decisions have been made and I would like to share them, as well as let you know how communication will be coming to you as things are further developed. We believe it’s important to keep you informed at each stage of preparations rather than to wait until every aspect is figured out.

As we get ready to welcome our Saints back to our campuses and extended sites, our goal is to provide the best academic and co-curricular experience for our students, faculty and staff, with health and safety being our top priority. We are guided by recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Centers for Disease Control, various professional organizations, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders. While Minnesota shows some hopeful trends in COVID cases, you may have seen the news that the virus has made its way within the doors of our campus neighbor, the Benedictine Living Community of Duluth. Since the start of the pandemic we have eliminated travel between the BLCD, the Monastery and the College. Please join me in praying for their residents and staff.

Meanwhile, many states are seeing COVID-19 cases quickly escalating. The point is, we will need to remain flexible as we approach the start of fall semester. Our goal is to have a plan in place in which we have a high degree of confidence even if COVID-19 infections increase in a second wave. Shutting down in the middle of the semester, as we experienced last March, would not be a desirable outcome for anyone.

The SaintsRiseUp Safe Return plan will guide our overall approach and expected behavior in light of our mission and Benedictine values. Our value of the year for 2020-2021 is COMMUNITY. We define this as sharing responsibility to create and support our Saints community while valuing the uniqueness of the individual, and manifesting the ability to adapt to circumstances without compromising our values. In fact, we are working on a Commitment to Community pledge that we expect to share with you soon.

Here is a sample of signage you will see posted around our campuses and extended sites. Below are some highlights and expectations of our Return to Campus plan, as well as some additional information. Coming soon will be our Employee Reopening Plan, a separate document with more specific information on the phased approach for employee return.

Guided by our values, we have put in place the following expectations:

Face Coverings: Let’s keep each other safe!

  • Effective this coming Monday, June 29, face coverings (masks, shields, etc.) are required in public spaces on campus and extended sites where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as when entering or exiting campus, lounges, hallways, restrooms, etc. In addition, where workstations do not permit at least six feet between employees, employees must wear face coverings at all times. The use of face coverings is encouraged within office suites even if physical distancing measures can be practiced.
  • Employees may bring their own face coverings to work. If employees need a cloth mask, the College will eventually be providing a reusable CSS-branded mask to each employee at no cost. Until then, Mike Turner has masks available.

Monitoring, Testing and Tracing

Thanks to Christine Sandal and her amazing Student Health Service team, along with Mike Turner, we have determined a testing protocol. The College is partnering with the MDH, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic, as well as Essentia to coordinate our testing and tracing efforts.

All employees and students will be asked to self-monitor their symptoms on a daily basis.

  • Students will access our medical records system to “check in” daily. If they are showing symptoms, SHS will follow up with them.
  • Employees will self-monitor using a checklist and inform their supervisor if they are not feeling well. They will check in with their primary medical provider.

Symptomatic Testing
SHS will coordinate testing for those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. A testing protocol has been established with the U of M and Mayo testing partnership.

The College will partner with the MDH on tracing.

Additional Testing Requirements
The College anticipates additional testing protocols for specific groups and in specific circumstances that may trigger a need for testing. Specifically, student athlete protocols are under development and are being guided by NCAA and UMAC conference expectations.

Physical Distancing

It is expected that employees and students will practice safe physical distancing at all times. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are planning for safe spaces on campuses and extended sites. We hope to offer more outside gathering spaces as well. This includes configuring classrooms, student meeting areas, and dining facilities to comply with MDH recommendations.

Working Remotely

Employees who can work remotely should continue to do so for now. Supervisors will discuss any transition to an in-person basis. Once it’s deemed preferable that an employee work in-person, if the employee wants to request permission to continue working remotely, a form will be available. This is under development.

If you have questions, talk to your supervisor or department head. If you are feeling anxious or stressed, I encourage you to reach out to the College’s resources, such as the Employee Assistance Program, for support.

College Pledge

We will be rolling out a College pledge focused on our value of community, which we hope and expect all employees and students will uphold.


Residence halls are being prepared to welcome students back according to the guidelines of the MDH, which recommends two students to a room. We have also identified space in Somers Hall for quarantine/self-isolation in the event that it becomes necessary.


College-sponsored international and domestic travel is suspended. In some exceptional cases, employees may be given permission to travel for critical purposes; however, they will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return. Please refer to the College’s Pandemic HR policy for more information.


A robust communication plan and timeline is under development and will be pushed out over the next couple of weeks.

  • By the end of next week, the SaintsRiseUp Safe Return webpage, /SafeReturn, (not active yet) will be published and will house College-wide plans and COVID-19 communications updates.
  • Attached is a sample of the types of signage that will be posted around campuses and external sites and at all building entrances. These public communication tools explain the expectations of behavior. Please read them carefully.
  • Ongoing and more targeted communications will go to parents, students and employees as plans are finalized. Expect to get updates from the President once a week and more targeted messaging from other leaders with specifics about plans for a safe return.

Fall Start

As announced earlier, fall semester classes will begin as planned on Sept. 8. The mode of academic delivery will be “hybrid,” with a mixture of face-to-face, online and virtual classwork. Fall semester ends on Dec. 23. Our approach remains flexible in the event that the College has to revert to complete remote delivery.

In related news, next week we will be sending out an employee survey. We want to get your perspective on returning to the workplace, and offer an opportunity for comments and ideas.

The more we can know about how we are all doing, the more effectively we will be able to support one another.

Yes, there will remain unknowns. But each week, our path forward becomes clearer. I have trust that we can stick to our SaintsRiseUp Safe Return Plan. Thank you for your continued support!

Stay safe and be well,

Barbara McDonald, Ed.D

I would like to thank all of you who were able to join the Conversation with the President this week. Our gathering is again a reminder of the Rule of Benedict which speaks to the importance of gathering the whole community together for conversation and input, particularly at times of challenge and change. Thank you for sending in your questions, for submitting additional questions and for the time you took to listen with the ear of your heart as we navigate these very difficult times. I am grateful for your perspectives, feedback, comments and most of all for your patience as we work towards a brighter future. Watch for an email next week that summarizes what we covered, including questions that we didn’t have time to address. If you’d like to schedule group Zoom follow ups to our conversation or would like to reach out personally for a conversation, please don’t hesitate to contact Cari McMillan or me so we can arrange for that.

In the midst of great societal challenge and change, it is often hard to focus on our daily routines when these can feel minor to the enormity of what lies ahead of us as we are called to right injustices, respond to the pandemic and navigate our financial difficulties. We look for the strength of our faith and our Benedictine mission which reminds us that more than ever that we are needed as stewards who strive to send forth thoughtful leaders prepared and committed to serve and transform the world. And to achieve that, we need to prepare to welcome our learners back to our campus, to our extended sites, and to our online programs.

Today’s communication will focus on the Pandemic Planning underway through the Saints Rise Up (SRU) Steering Committee including a few updates on fall planning efforts.

The SRU Steering Committee subgroups include over 23 groups working on plans for a safe return to our campuses and sites for fall semester. At present we are planning on a “hybrid” approach of face-to-face, virtual and online combinations to meet the needs, health and safety of our faculty, staff and students. Plans are being guided by the MDH higher education task force which are now providing direction on social distancing protocols, testing and tracing, models for residential living, and so on. In addition, we are focused on safe protocols for employees returning to their work spaces. As per the Governor’s current recommendations, employees who are able to perform their work obligations remotely, should continue to do so. Any employee who has questions or concerns should contact their supervisor.

SRU Steering Committee actions underway:

  • The College has submitted a general plan to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) on the safe return of employees to their worksites. The College is now looking at the specific requirements that will guide the return and what resources we will need in place to ensure safety for all. For example, policies on masks, social distancing, how we “office” and utilize our teaching spaces, and a plan for testing.
  • Academic Affairs committees are working the complex task of fall scheduling and delivery options for the curriculum. Over the summer faculty are invited to participate in the Eue Summer Institute on Virtual Learning which will focus on continued preparation for virtual learning as well as best practices in culturally relevant pedagogy and other topics. We must be prepared to “pivot” as needed, depending on the COVID19 circumstances and a possible “surge”. In other words, assuming the best, but preparing for the worst, should we need to revert to a virtual situation during the fall semester.
  • Student Affairs subcommittees on housing, student life, advising, athletics, are all putting plans in place for a smooth transition this fall. MHD has recently released guidance for residential living and athletics is following guidance from the NCAA to inform their plans.
  • The Marketing and Communication Committee is working on CSS safe return guidelines with FAQs that will be issued soon to all employees. They are preparing a web presence for all plans and materials to be posted. In addition, the SRU communications subcommittee will be preparing video messaging and a PowerPoint presentation that will be distributed to the College. The Committee is also coordinating efforts for a return to campus “kit” for all employees and students which will include masks, sanitizers and other materials.
  • The College continues to consult closely with MDH officials who recently made a visit to the Duluth campus. They overviewed our spaces and consulted with our health, safety and facilities folks on how we might approach areas such as Storm’s Den, our residence halls, classrooms, etc. to maintain MDH recommended standards. Christine Sandal and Mike Turner are in close communication in planning CSS’s approach for testing and tracing protocols as well. In addition, a subcommittee is also focused on the specific needs and protocols for the fall return at our extended sites, understanding that some of those sites located at community college partner locations will most likely adhere to those organizations' requirements.
  • St. Scholastica, together with the Minnesota Private College Council, is working collaboratively in the area of purchasing for needed equipment and supplies to control costs. The CSS Purchasing Department will be centrally coordinating these efforts for our college.
  • The SRU Committee will be pushing out a survey to employees asking for their input with regard to the return to campus. This is under development and will be issued before the end of the month. A similar survey is being considered for our students as well.
  • Domestic Travel: The SRU Committee reviewed requests from Athletics and Enrollment Management to allow for specific traveling around our critical recruiting efforts. The Committee recommended that domestic travel be allowed for these situations upon approval by the supervisor, provided COVID19 social distancing and quarantine protocols be followed. A revised travel form will be developed to allow for the college-sponsored travel exceptions.
  • Campus visits are planned to resume on June 22nd with accepted students. Individual families will be staggered and visits will follow social distancing protocols.
  • The second half of the CARES Act funding has been received and will be applied in large part to offset costs of room and board reimbursements.

I want to sincerely thank all those involved in the many plans under development, and especially recognize Mike Turner for his leadership in pandemic planning efforts! Not all committees were mentioned in this communication, so much more work is underway that will be forthcoming to you as plans develop. It’s with the wisdom and great dedication of our faculty, staff and students that we are able to make the best plans for the upcoming academic year. If you are not involved, but wish to be, please don’t hesitate to contact Mike Turner with your interest.

Thank you and enjoy the weekend ahead.

Barbara McDonald, Ed.D


I am reaching out to provide you with an update on preparations for fall semester 2020. Last Friday, May 15, I received the final recommendation from the Rapid Response Team, an appointed group of faculty and staff charged with determining our best course of action for a safe return in the fall. The Cabinet reviewed the recommendations and approved moving forward with this plan in line with the guidance provided by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Accordingly, we plan to reopen our Duluth and extended campuses this fall, including our residence halls. Courses on those campuses will be taught using a mixture of in-person and virtual methods for the fall semester. Students in our fully online programs will not experience any change to the delivery of their courses.

In making this decision, we have drawn upon the best resources and information available. However, please know that this plan remains flexible and could change if pandemic circumstances require it. The safety of our students, faculty and staff will remain our top priority.

To ensure our success, I have established the Saints Rise Up (SRU) Steering Committee as an advisory leadership body to guide our safe return to campus and sites. The SRU Steering Committee will build on the foundational work of our Pandemic Planning Team, working in tandem with the Pandemic Team to develop work plans and timelines that address each area of the College’s life. We will keep the College community updated throughout this crucial process via email and at

As we prepare to welcome students back this fall, in person and virtually, some of our considerations include:

  • Planning for social distancing on campuses, including configuration of classrooms, gathering spaces, offices, etc.
  • Adjusting course schedules and modalities to keep in-person classes small and provide simultaneous virtual class experiences as needed to serve students and faculty needs.
  • Opening residence halls and food service, following MDH guidelines.
  • Preparing our health services to address testing and tracing.
  • Following forthcoming athletic conference guidelines and decisions regarding fall athletics.
  • Updating our health and safety protocols, including best practice preventative measures to keep employees and students safe.

Moving forward we will, as always, look to the innovative spirit of our founding Sisters and be guided by our mission and Benedictine Values as we make decisions. We will continue to closely monitor guidance from Gov. Walz, the MDH, and the CDC on campus reopening and public health protocols.

We will be providing more detailed information to you as these plans are developed and finalized. Thank you to our entire community as you continue to show an inspiring unity of purpose during this extraordinary time. I am so very proud of the ways in which all of you have come together to further our mission and serve our students. I look forward to welcoming all of you - faculty, staff and our continuing and new students - this fall.

Have a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend!

Barbara McDonald, Ed.D


Congratulations to our graduates! On Sunday, May 10th, we recognized our 2020 graduates with a virtual commencement celebration. A big thank you to the marketing and communication team who pulled the wonderful video together. We congratulate our students for their achievements this semester and wish those moving on to new chapters the very best! We also look forward to celebrating these graduates in person, scheduled for the third week in December. Planning will soon be underway!

Summer and Fall Planning

On Wednesday Governor Walz issued his latest executive orders and shared updates on next steps in easing restrictions. The Stay at Home order will expire May 18th and will be replaced with Stay Safe Minnesota guidelines that allow more businesses and other entities to re-open in a safe manner.

Our Pandemic Team is considering next steps for a slow migration to opening our sites over the summer months. The Team is finalizing the CSS Employee Re-Entry/Safe Return to Work plan following guidelines from the MDH and CDC this week. 

For now, our current campus access protocols will remain in place until the Re-Entry/Safe Return to Work Plan is completed and approved by the Cabinet towards the end of May. Employees seeking permission to be on campus should continue to seek supervisor approval. 

Keep in mind that the Governor’s latest orders emphasized that those who can work remotely should continue this practice. Therefore, we will continue to have employees work remotely if their job duties allow for it. 

In addition, the Governor’s orders continue to prohibit large crowd gatherings. Employees working on site should continue to practice safe social distancing and refrain from gathering in groups. We also encourage all employees to practice these protocols in their daily lives to ensure the safety of the broader community. Even as the Governor “turns the dial” on restrictions, the virus continues to spread. We need to remain vigilant and uphold our responsibility to keep others safe.

By the end of May, we will be launching new protocols to slowly and safely expand employee access to our Duluth sites, in line with MDH and CDC recommendations (more information about extended sites will be forthcoming as well). Stay tuned for additional information to come your way on protocol guidelines as we keep you informed of next steps.

Our cross-functional Rapid Response Team will deliver their fall scenario recommendations today (May 15) and the Cabinet will act on the recommendations next week. Then, between mid-May and mid-June, cross-functional committees will begin forming action plans for all college areas for the fall semester. In parallel, a communication plan will accompany this work so that we can clearly inform our employees, students and families, and the public of our decisions.

Professional Development: Over the summer we are committed to providing professional development for faculty and staff to continue to advance best practices in virtual learning and scholarship. This week’s faculty Professional Development Day included spring semester reflections on what went well and what could be improved. We have learned a lot and want to ensure our faculty and supporting staff are prepared for a number of scenarios going into fall semester.

We must keep in mind flexibility in the event that we need to “dial it back” should the COVID-19 situation require it. We will hope for the best and plan for the worse!

Other Updates

Enrollment Update: Thanks to the collaborative work of academic affairs and enrollment management, our summer strategy is seeing positive outcomes. Our overall summer enrollment goals are on target, with students taking advantage of new courses added to the schedule. Our spring to fall retention appears to be strong as well, although with unknowns for fall term this could shift. The deadline for fall deposits is June 1; at the moment we are lagging from last year and continue to anticipate a drop in enrollment for fall.  We’ll continue to keep you updated as things develop.

Reminder: The Voluntary Furlough/Reduction in Pay program is available through the rest of today, May 15, 2020. This opportunity falls under Phase One of actions being taken to address the COVID-19 budget impact. Further steps will be considered under Phase Two once the analysis is completed on the impact of our adjustments to date. A sincere thank you to those of you who stepped up to volunteer. It’s greatly appreciated!

CARES Act Emergency Funding: The 2,141 CSS students who qualified under the federal guidelines were notified that they would be receiving CARES Act Emergency Funds. Many sent positive messages such as "Thank you so much! This email has lifted up so much pressure off my chest! The finance team will be running the checks and direct deposits early next week. Thank you to all who worked through this process. 

Emergency Funds for students: In addition, students who do not qualify have access to emergency funds that can be requested through student affairs by contacting Megan Perry Spears

Additional CARES Act revenue: The College was awarded an additional $78,571 appropriated in the CARES Act because we have an active NEPQR — Registered Nurse in Primary Care award. The funds support recipients to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19). This was unexpected and gladly received.

The second half of the initial CARES Act Stabilization funds, — $1,137,462 — is being processed and will arrive soon. These funds will partially offset operational expenses incurred to COVID-19.

Travel Restrictions and P-Card Update: Travel restrictions for college-sponsored domestic and international travel are extended until August 15. P-Card restrictions and supervisor approval on spending is also extended through August 15. If you have concerns, please contact your supervisor.

Student Mental Health: If faculty and staff are worried about a student experiencing a mental health concern, they can contact Counseling Services by calling 218-723-6085, or by emailing

The final Title IX regulations from the Office of Civil Rights was announced May 6th, the most extensive changes since the inception of the rule.  Melissa Watschke, Title IX Coordinator has been reviewing critical changes in order to roll out the regulations by the required implementation date of August 14, 2020. While some changes to the Title IX regulations are very concerning, we are compelled to enact the regulations using the mission and the Benedictine Values and a student-centered process in complying with the new standards. In order maintain this lens, Melissa created a core team comprised of Zach Babcock, Campus Security; Teresa Guerrero, The Student Center for Health and Well-Being; Michelle Ruszat Klee, Violence Intervention and Prevention; and the Title IX Deputies Stacy Deadrick and David Bauman, to advise and oversee operations and training of the Title IX office. I want to thank this group for coming together collaboratively as we meet the August deadline requirements.  

Good news coverage

We received excellent news coverage last weekend for our virtual commencement celebration, which included a congratulatory video

Bre Cole, one of our McNair Scholars who's going to a PhD program for virology, was featured on WDIO-TV Channel 10. Steve Lyons talked with a reporter from KBJR-TV Channel 6. Students Mitchell Gertken, Lexie DeWall and Keely Jackson were highlighted in a long piece that led the newscast for FOX-TV Channel 21. We also had very robust social media engagement, including Facebook posts that reached more than 62,000 people. I think the public got the message that the College was honoring our graduates as best we could despite the circumstances!

In this time of great uncertainty, I have witnessed how the Saints community has come together with humility, kindness, and encouragement — to be that hope and light for one another. Thank you for caring for one another and our students, for “listening with the ear of your heart” and for living our Benedictine Values. Together we will lean into our faith, knowing that “this too shall pass”, and continue our creative work as we plan for summer and fall.

Have a wonderful weekend and stay safe!

With gratitude,


As we close out the semester, we are missing one of the most important celebrations of the year, our Commencement, which has been postponed until December. There are many mixed emotions to be sure, deep disappointment, sadness and loss, and a sense of things unfinished.

Despite this reality, the Saints spirit of community has risen up again in creative ways to celebrate our amazing 2020 graduates! Be sure to check out the upcoming May 10th video commemorating our graduating students set to begin at 2:00 p.m.

And thank you to the many programs that are holding special virtual events. And a big shout out to Mayor Larson and the City of Duluth for their plan to light up the Aerial Bridge (May 10th) blue and gold in honor of our Saints. Look for our own Tower Hall to be cloaked in blue lighting as well. Our Alumni electronic kudo board, social media and our website will all be singing the praises of the class of 2020 in recognition of their great achievements and resilience.

And we have YOU to thank for getting our students over the finish line. To a person, you have made a difference, you have lived out our Benedictine Values in the face of adversity, uncertainty and unprecedented change, and you have made us all very proud. Thank you sincerely, for being that hope for our learners and for each other.

Pandemic Planning

With a renewed spirit of Bold and Benedictine, we are turn our attention to next steps in our Pandemic Planning for fall semester. I want to give you a sense of our timelines for decisions moving forward:

Short Term May/June

  • Virtual summer for academic programs: We will continue in our virtual learning environment through the summer with classes being offered on line or in other virtual modalities.
  • Decisions about summer events: At this time, we are reviewing summer requests for events on the Duluth campus on a weekly basis until the Governor lifts the Stay at Home policy. In general, events for the rest of May and June have either been canceled or postponed. You can stay informed by checking out this link:
  • Decisions about Fall semester return:
    • May 15: The Rapid Response Team will submit an analysis report with scenario recommendations for fall scenarios. The Cabinet will review the report on May 17 and decide on the best option to follow.
    • By early June: We will then be putting together a plan of action that addresses each component of the chosen recommendation, including a communication and marketing plan, with goal of a public announcement in early June.
  • Safe Return to Campus: The Pandemic Team has drafted a re-entry plan for employees. This plan will go to Cabinet for approval in the near future. The plan will include flexible options for employees based on individual circumstances. This work in progress follows recommendations and guidelines from the federal government, the MDH, CDC and the American College Health Association.

Long Term

Over the summer months we expect to finalize and implement best practice action plans to ensure the Fall scenario is successful. In addition, the Cabinet will be closely monitoring the financials and will take up additional measures under Phase Two to ensure our financial position.

Grading Policy

Between Thursday, May 14, 2020 at 8:00 a.m. and Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. all students will be able to submit their grade elections for the substitution of Spring 2020 final grades to the A-F or Credit/No Credit option. This is a one-time offer and students will not be able to go back and re-select options. Grade changes will be processed by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 22, 2020. Students are strongly encouraged to work with their Academic Advisor in making their decision.

The link to the online form will be distributed to the College community next week via CSS email, and published on the OneStop page of Cor. A video is also available to students that explains the process.

Fall Commencement

The December Commencement will serve both the spring commencement students as well as those graduating in the Fall. Due to DECC logistics, the commencement exercises will be staged over a two-day period and will be held on campus. We are hoping to expand the celebration to include a week of events honoring the 2020 graduates. Stay tuned for more information as things develop. For questions, reach out to Steve Lyons, Vice President of Student Affairs.

With gratitude,


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Contact Us

If you have questions, please email or call us.
(218) 723-6252

If you're not feeling well, please call Student Health Services or your health provider instead of going in-person.

Student Health Service
Somers Hall, Room 42
Phone: (218) 723-6282
Fax: (218) 723-5953

Emergency and After-Hours Contacts

Essentia Health Urgent Care
400 East Third Street
Duluth, MN
(218) 786-8364

Essentia Health Nurse Care Line
(218) 725-3110

St. Luke's Lakeview Building
915 East First Street
Duluth, MN
(218) 249-5555