President Donahue's Message to Faculty, Staff & Students About Fall 2020

Dear Saint Mary’s Community, 

Normally at this time of year, we would be gearing up for the various festivities and ceremonies that bring us together as a community and celebrate academic achievement. Unfortunately, we will not be able to share in those festivities this spring, but we have much to celebrate. I have never been more proud of our Gael Family. I know that you — our faculty, staff, and students — have gone above and beyond to adjust to distance learning and working remotely from home. We recognize that this transition was not easy and appreciate your steadfast commitment to academic excellence even in the face of far-reaching disruption. Because of each of you and because of all of us, we are ending this semester with strength, grace, and an even more resilient Lasallian community. 

As we continue to anticipate and adjust to the new information about COVID-19 that each day brings, Saint Mary’s is placing its highest priority on the health and safety of our students and community as we plan for providing the best possible educational experience in the fall, consistent with our mission and values. 

Looking Ahead: Fall 2020 Semester 

At this time, we are planning to welcome students back to campus and conduct in-person courses this fall. In doing so, we are committed to continuing to follow the best public health practices and local, state, and federal regulations for protecting the health and well-being of our community members. 

We are fortunate. As a university with small class sizes that facilitate innovative approaches, we will be able to develop appropriate models for modifying the learning environment that adhere to social distancing guidelines and maintain a personalized learning experience that our students expect. 

The Provost has convened a working group comprised of faculty and academic administrators to develop strategies for providing an outstanding in-person learning experience in the fall that complies with the best public health practices. 

As part of its work, the group will explore possible modifications to class sizes and schedules, different ways of using spaces, enhancing the use of technology in instruction, and methods for protecting the more vulnerable members of our community by allowing them to learn or work remotely. 

The group will also plan for additional scenarios should the COVID-19 situation restrict in-person instruction. 

We will be communicating regularly with the SMC community as the details of our plans emerge. 

Welcome Home: Fall Housing and Community Life 

We currently anticipate opening residence halls and townhouses for occupancy in the fall, provided it is safe to do so. We are preparing for a modified program that offers housing for incoming first-year students and continuing students taking into account the anticipated need for continued social distancing and preparation for a possible virus resurgence. 

This will likely mean less dense housing configurations and an opportunity for first-year students to commute from home in their initial year. We are also working to enhance the student experience to meet their needs and ensure that academic and personal support and transformative community engagement and leadership opportunities continue to be hallmarks of our student experience. 

Our summer will revolve around creative ways to bring these new plans to fruition. Student resources and services will continue to be available both on-campus and virtually for students to succeed academically and personally. 

In the spirit of De La Salle,
James A. Donahue