The following message was sent to all Mines employees on 5/13/20:
You did it. On Friday, we conferred degrees to 1,080 Mines seniors and graduate students – and gave them a rousing sendoff. Students and their families especially appreciated the personal messages you submitted for inclusion in our first-ever virtual commencement ceremony. The day before that, our continuing students completed the spring semester and progressed toward not-so-distant commencement ceremonies of their own.
Our students were able to finish up their coursework and projects; present their capstone and cornerstone innovations and research outcomes; defend theses and dissertations; and access labs, library resources and student services because of you. All of you. Thank you for your dedication to our students, one another and our university.
It has been only two months since our March 11 decision to transition to remote learning. Since that time, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to change our work and our daily lives. This makes Friday’s milestone all the more impressive.
You helped our students learn – and Mines fulfill its mission – while pivoting to a new delivery mode. You completed your work while shuffling priorities and mastering new approaches and systems. Many of you did this while shouldering caregiver responsibilities as daycares and schools closed their doors and at-risk friends and family members turned to you for support and assistance. Some of you have even been sick or had to care for others stricken by this virus.
Just as we celebrated our graduates and students on Friday, today I’m writing to thank and celebrate all of you. Thank you again—and again—for what you’ve done and continue to do for Mines, our students and one another. And congratulations on all you’ve accomplished at work and in your personal lives in these difficult times.
Planning for fall and the future
Ever since we moved to online classes, we have been focused on engineering a safe and as-soon-as-possible return to campus. I wanted to share that, unless directed otherwise by the state or county, our expectation is to have students back on campus and in classrooms and labs in August. To achieve this, we will need to make changes to how we use our facilities, schedule and deliver classes, support students, monitor the health of our community and more. We will provide details as they develop in the weeks ahead, but I want to begin today by sharing a few brief updates on our efforts.
Academic Affairs units and academic departments are looking at class times, classroom and lab occupancy practices and mixed modes of instructional delivery to support different types of classes. Students and their families are expecting a Mines education, and for it to be delivered safely – and we intend to accomplish that.
Student Life units are similarly focused on how to support student success and sustain a vibrant campus community while enacting best practice health measures. They are planning changes to residence life, dining, health and academic support services, meetings and events, athletic competitions and recreation, and more in anticipation of a return to campus.
Finance, Administration and Operations and local managers are preparing for the expected financial impacts discussed at last month’s town halls, the investments that changes to our fall and spring semesters will undoubtedly require, and other issues unique to the challenge we face. And our Research and Tech Transfer Office, in collaboration with our faculty and academic leaders, safety personnel and others are working out the logistics needed to transition to more department-level management of the research enterprise.
We also have university-level task forces focused specifically on being prepared for the fall semester and issues that will need to be addressed and managed at a higher level, including establishing partnerships for health testing, securing adequate personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, implementing appropriate safety protocols, and analyzing and preparing our facilities for safe occupancy and usage.
In all of this work, our priority remains the safety of our community and the uninterrupted fulfillment of our academic mission. COVID-19 presents some formidable challenges to both of these priorities but we believe that we can answer and overcome them with well-thought out preparation, flexible approaches and a campus-wide commitment.
Each day, as we learn more and uncover new ideas, we will evaluate those that seem to offer the features and flexibility we require to best serve our students, our faculty and staff, our mission and our future. For example, we will likely offer a few in-person labs, classes, and field sessions in Summer II, and use those to learn how to be better prepared for the fall semester. As we continue all this work, we want to keep you up to date on lessons-learned and our plans. To support this, I’ve asked the Communications and Marketing office to create and distribute a dedicated weekly email update to you each Friday.
These are just a few examples of the ways in which our community is preparing for a return to campus. While there will be more to discuss in the days and weeks ahead, I wanted to use this opportunity to share this ambition and also my confidence in our ability to answer the challenges ahead. That confidence is built in part on seeing what we’ve done together – what you have done – to bring our spring semester to a successful completion under such difficult circumstances.
Again, congratulations, and thank you!
Paul C. Johnson, PhD
President and Professor