Successful Fall Semester Reopening

Diego Hammana ’24, a first-year student from San Jose, Calif., who is living on campus, expressed his enthusiasm as a new college student. “I was initially worried about living on campus, and not sure how I would make friends with physical distancing and all, but I had nothing to worry about! I have made wonderful friends, and I love living on campus. Even though we all have to be socially distanced, wear masks, and have to check in with a mobile application for daily health screenings, it’s well worth it. Also, I really like how the College is making sure we have fun with safe outdoor activities. And I think the outdoor classes in the open-air pavilions are really cool.”

Fall semester at Saint Mary’s College is well-under way, largely unscathed by the unique challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. After six-months of focused planning— spearheaded by members of the Executive Cabinet and led by targeted teams of College leaders, faculty, and staff—the collaborative effort is being lauded as a successful and resilient planning model. This is affirmed by the successful reopening of the College that includes on-campus housing and in-class instruction options.

“Our primary mission is to deliver a high-quality Saint Mary’s education,” stated Jane Camarillo, vice provost for Student Life and a lead member of the COVID-19 Response Group. “Academic Affairs and faculty at Saint Mary’s immediately began to plan for multiple modalities of instruction through their Academic Contingency Planning Group so that they were prepared for what the Department of Health would allow, as well as what the College aspired to provide.”

Preparing for the fall semester required a comprehensive look at all touch points throughout the College to ensure a well-intentioned and successful transition. “We recognized that we needed a consistent, clear, and principled approach in its fullest sense—physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual,” said Megan Mustain, vice provost for Student Academics and dean of the Core, and a member of the COVID-19 Response Group.

With approximately 462 excited students now living on campus and 61 in-person classes offered (all remaining courses are held virtually), Saint Mary’s is proud that there are no reported cases of the COVID-19 virus on campus since classes started on August 24. Unlike several colleges and universities that had to quickly pivot to return to fully online courses after experiencing a rapid increase in COVID diagnoses, Saint Mary’s has instituted systems and protocols that have yielded a safe campus reopening. “If I had to sum up the characteristics of what attributed to our success for the move-in of residential students, it was our consistent communication with students and families, flexibility and innovation with every challenge thrown our way, and an unwavering commitment to our residential community,” said Evette Castillo Clark, dean of students and a lead member of the COVID-19 Response Group.