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Conboy and cabinet host student town hall, provide campus updates

| Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Student Affairs Office — in coordination with College President Katie Conboy and her cabinet — hosted a virtual town hall for students Thursday evening. The event was the first in a series of panels designed to give Belles updates about the upcoming semester on campus.

Interim vice president for student affairs Gloria Jenkins began the evening by introducing President Conboy, who expressed her hope that students were gearing up to return to campus.

“We want you to know we’re thinking about you, and we’ve missed you on campus,” she said. “We hope you had a great holiday season, and … that the break has been restful and has given you a chance to reflect to on things that are important to you at the College. We also hope you’re getting a little restless to leave home and get back to us.”

Conboy also took the opportunity to introduce her cabinet to students who might not be familiar with those who hold leadership positions at the College. New members include interim vice president for mission Dr. Molly Gower and interim vice president for college relations Libby Koultourides.

Vice president for enrollment management Mona Bowe reminded students of the importance of pre-matriculation testing procedures.

“We really feel that the closest we can get to starting the semester with zero COVID cases on campus, the higher the likelihood that we’ll be able to complete the semester successfully,” she said.

Bowe also cautioned students not to take their PCR test more than a week before their scheduled move-in date.

“A quick reminder: If you ask for a test kit from Global 7 … hold on to that test kit, until seven days before you’re scheduled to move in,” Bowe said. “You don’t want to test too early.”

According to Bowe, all information regarding testing will be posted and updated on the Saint Mary’s Live Learn Work website.

Bowe also announced that surveillance testing will start for students approved for early move in the week of Jan. 25. All other students with regular move in times will enter the surveillance testing pool the week of Feb. 8.

College official Shari Rodriguez informed students that the same health and safety practices will continue to be in place for the spring semester.

“We were able to stay together and to finish [last] semester together because of your incredible work and your ability to follow some of the best guidelines that we have — check up, mask up, wash up and backup,” Rodriguez said. “So, all together, we were able to complete the semester successfully and we are going to adopt those same practices and keep them going.”

Bowe added that requirements for social gatherings will also initially remain the same as the fall semester.

Provost and Senior Vice President Titi Ufomata urged students to finish registering for classes so the College can make the necessary adjustments to seating.

In addition, Ufomata described the academic modalities that will be in place for the spring semester.

“Most of our classes will be taught using the modified face to face,” Ufomata said. “Some classes [will be] hybrid … and then the third modality is online. As we did last semester, even with the online courses, the faculty will make sure to tune in and contact you directly at least weekly.”

Ufomata also emphasized that all student services will be available for students to use.

Jenkins informed students that the College is working to create spaces for students to safely gather during the winter.

“We’re looking to create a winter space for you — something like was created for you for the fall and the beginning of the school year,” she said. “There’s the possibility that we may have ice skating, we’re looking into that. We’re looking for ways for you to make use of the snow that might come our way, walking around campus when there’s snow or it’s cold [and] trying to find ways to make that fun.”

The Cabinet also announced details for upcoming campus events.

Executive Director of Inclusion and Equity Redgina Hill spoke about a virtual celebration to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. next Monday at 2 p.m. ET.

In addition, Koultourides explained the upcoming 24-Hour Donor Challenge on Feb. 25.

“Thousands of alumnae, parents, friends from all over the country and really all over the world, [will] show their support for Saint Mary’s and for all of you, so keep your eyes out,” she said. “We’ll have emails coming out to you and announcements on how you can be involved, and some fun things that will be happening.”

Director of Athletics Julie Schroeder-Biek told students that they can use the Angela Fitness Center as soon as they are cleared to return to campus by the Health and Counseling Center.

“Students, once you are cleared by Health and Counseling, we welcome you guys back to join us in the fitness center if you’d like,” she said. “Right now, we’re doing 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. And then when you guys get back, we’re going to throw in some afternoon hours to just so you have a little bit more range. We’re thinking about 4:30 p.m.to 6:30 p.m., along with 11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.”

At the end of the town hall, the cabinet took questions from students.

Responding to an inquiry about new coronavirus strains, Bowe assured students that the College will align with all safety guidelines to recommendations from local health officials.

“We do know that [the new strain] has proven to be a little bit more challenging because it can be spread a lot faster, so we will maintain all the protocols we put in place on sanitation and cleaning between classes on public areas,” Bowe said. “If at any point in time the county the state or the CDC changed their recommendations to make them stronger, we will follow those as well.”

Vice president for strategy and planning Dana Strait fielded questions about campus dining in the new semester.

Strait noted that all safety protocols in the dining hall will remain the same, but the College is looking into heating outdoor dining venues. In addition, the College will soon provide students details to new Campus Dining enhancements.

“We’re very close to activating GrubHub for our own campus so that you could use your flex points to order from the cafe, and then swing by and pick it up so you don’t have to wait in line which we felt was really important especially under COVID conditions,” Strait said. “We have an ID machine, that is already been installed on campus, so we don’t have issues with your ID cards like we did last semester. … And then lastly, there will be an expansion of the Belles at Home program so those meals that could be picked up and cooked elsewhere, so that they are more available, not just for on campus students with kitchens, but also for students who are off campus.”

According to Strait, Murphy’s and Spes Unica Cafes will remain closed until the fall, but new menu options are being explored at each location.

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About Genevieve Coleman

Genevieve Coleman is a sophomore at Saint Mary's majoring in English Literature and Secondary Education with a minor in Theatre. When she is not serving as an Associate News Editor, she enjoys petting dogs and watching television with subtitles.

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