Baylor, University of St. Thomas to reopen in the fall – Houston Chronicle

Posted: April 29, 2020 at 9:41 pm


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The University of St. Thomas in Houston will reopen its campus in the fall and will resume in-person classes, officials said Wednesday.

In addition, the college is offering free tuition to students in three new online associate degree programs.

Our faculty, staff and students have risen to the challenge of online delivery through the summer, but now were looking forward to getting our community back together on campus, St. Thomas President Richard Ludwick said Wednesday.

The announcement comes after colleges and universities around the country closed campuses and resumed classes online in March due to efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Amid uncertainties during the pandemic, many colleges are continuing classes online through the summer while weighing options for the fall. The University of Texas at Austin announced earlier this month that it will make decision about the fall semester in late June and will continue to plan for all possibilities in the meantime.

Baylor University is already making plans to resume classes and residential life on campus this fall, but the plans are dependent on the continued decline in COVID-10 cases within the Waco area and guidance from government and public health officials, President Linda Livingstone wrote in a letter to the community Monday.

A reopening, however, will not be a normal start, the president said. The university will be required to adapt its models for instruction, residential life, and on-campus activities and will apply a five-phase strategy to reopening campus, starting on June 1 with staff and faculty who are involved in critical infrastructure and research support and then continuing gradually throughout the summer.

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Ludwick said St. Thomas has consulted with students, faculty and staff along with world-class experts, who have attended board meetings and spoken with university officials.

What weve decided from all of that is that we should get back to campus, and the fall seems to be the time to do that, said Ludwick, who noted that students will continue to face technology issues with online and remote learning and that reopening will help mitigate that digital divide.

Underscoring all of that is the need to operate safely for our people and to use the best guidance that comes from our civic, state and federal leaders, and certainly the CDC. Those kinds of policymakers will give us the rubric.

St. Thomas officials will use the time before the August reopening to determine exactly what returning to campus will look like, especially given that pandemic rules and guidelines can change daily, Ludwick said.

The private Catholic university will be preparing for every contingency, including accommodations for those who may not feel ready to return to classroom instruction, Ludwick said. Our community can rest-assured that when we return, we will be following strict expert advice on cleaning practices, social distancing and contact tracing.

So far, Ludwick said officials are considering having classes available online and in-person, but possibly reformatting the traditional classroom, opting instead for learning spaces that might resemble a gymnasium or considering tented outdoor locations that allow the community to learn while social distancing, Ludwick said.

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The university will also open its micro campus in Conroe in fall with two locations the planned nursing facility that will offer up an accelerated bachelors of science program and a campus in downtown Conroe, east of the courthouse, which is still under construction. The university also remains on course to add softball and mens and womens track and field to its 12 existing sports, presuming students are back on campus in the fall.

St. Thomas will also roll out a number of initiatives, including the three new tuition-free degrees, to help students and offset some of the effects of the pandemic, a university release said.

Online 60-hour associate degree programs in cybersecurity, networking technology and electronic technology fields in which officials say jobs are high in demand and offer higher salaries have been developed. The UST microcampus in Conroe will serve as a physical space for students in those programs to connect and meet.

This city has helped support St. Thomas for almost 75 years and at this moment while many are struggling, the university wants to accelerate the way it gives back, Ludwick said. This tuition-free semester is one way to help and provide many people in hard hit sectors a chance to reskill in industries that are thriving.

The school has hired an expert in online delivery to expand its digital offerings and has assigned a personal success coach for each undergraduate student.

brittany.britto@chron.com

Brittany Britto covers higher education at the Houston Chronicle.

Previously, she was a general assignment features blogger and reporter for The Baltimore Sun, where she wrote about arts, entertainment, local notables, and culture.

She has been recognized for her cultural coverage by the Society for Features Journalism. In 2018, she was named a Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellow for the national features organization and won four awards a tie for the most won in one year in recent SFJ history -- for her diverse portfolio and noteworthy features on Baltimores distinct culture.

Brittany is a two-time graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, with a masters in multiplatform journalism and a bachelors in English.

Send your tips and stories to brittany.britto@chron.com, and follow her on Twitter to keep up with the latest.

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Baylor, University of St. Thomas to reopen in the fall - Houston Chronicle

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April 29th, 2020 at 9:41 pm

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