COVID-19 Pandemic Brings Extraordinary Efforts to Unprecedented Times

March 26, 2020

Like so many of you, business is not as usual for the communications and marketing team at MBU. We miss our students, seeing spring come to campus, and high-fiving our coworkers for correct comma usage. Though we may be >6 ft. apart, we’re here with you online ... and in spirit. 💛

Springtime is known for its smells and sights rather than its quietness. But as the first blooms and blossoms signal winter’s departure from Mary Baldwin’s hills, the quietness is overwhelming. Hunt Hill is silent, as are the dorms where music should be heard from windows propped open to catch the warm March breeze. Classrooms are emptied. The clock tower in downtown Staunton rings, yet few are left on campus to hear it in the wake of MBU’s unprecedented decision to suspend in-seat classes beginning on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to online study through May Term.

“I do not take this decision lightly and have made it with the health and safety of the entire MBU family in mind, which includes your own loved ones,” said President Pamela Fox in an email sent to MBU students and parents. “I understand the impact this will have on each of you, and I want to pledge the full support of the MBU administration, faculty, and staff.”

Like so many of you, business is not as usual for the communications and marketing team at MBU. We miss our students, seeing spring come to campus, and high-fiving our coworkers for correct comma usage. Though we may be >6 ft. apart, we’re here with you online ... and in spirit. 💛

The Herculean task of adjusting normal campus life to confront a global threat is still unfolding, yet the Mary Baldwin community has responded to this pandemic with the same purpose and determination as it has faced other generationally defining moments of its past. New challenges afford new opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to work together for creative solutions to unforeseen and at times daily obstacles. 

Nowhere has that effort been better displayed than in President Fox’s directive that “no student’s path to a degree will be denied or delayed because of this decision.” A heroic effort by both faculty and the IT department to convert curriculum to a new online delivery mode for all students was accomplished in only five days. Many courses began online even before the March 18 class resumption date.

“Mary Baldwin faculty are an exceptional academic community,” said Provost Ty Buckman. “They encounter obstacles and challenges like taking an entire residential curriculum online with five days’ notice with steely resolve and good humor. It still amazes me when I see this quality in our community.”

According to Buckman, Mary Baldwin enjoys a significant advantage over many other institutions facing the same disruption to their academic programs. Most of the MBU faculty teach online on a regular basis, and the university has been delivering education through innovative means to off-campus students for more than 40 years. 

“We are taking an individualized approach to helping our students finish their semesters and continue their studies,” he said. “Academic advisors and Student Engagement staff reach out to students on a daily basis to see what they might need. We are being diligent to ensure their transition is successful and are working to encourage them to make plans for the future, to see themselves hanging their Mary Baldwin diplomas on the wall.”

Though there remain no positive tests of the COVID-19 virus on campus, MBU has raised its alert level to three. All staff who can work from home are encouraged to do so, as well as those at high risk for complications. By March 24, most students had returned home. Said Darren Jones, associate vice president of student engagement, “We have a small number of students remaining on campus whom we have ongoing communication with on an individual basis to better understand their needs and determine how we can provide additional support.”

Conference rooms have been traded for living rooms as meetings shift from in-person to virtual. To facilitate social distancing, both the business office and student accounts are closed to foot traffic. Staff in both locations remain available to answer questions and manage MBU business through email and telephone. In compliance with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s directive against group gatherings of more than 10 people, Grafton Library and the Center for Student Success have closed effective March 18. The key academic support areas inside the library as well as the library itself continue to offer services remotely to students. Students remaining on campus will continue to have access to computer labs in Wenger 401 and 402.

University business still continues with an air of optimism unique to Mary Baldwin. Campus remains open, and MBU’s popular undergraduate admissions visit days are being transformed into a virtual format complete with a campus tour, an online scavenger hunt, and opportunities for interaction with students and faculty that will be mailed to prospective students in specialized boxes. 

After MBU asked students to return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty converted curriculum to a new online delivery mode in only five days, with the help of MBU's IT department.

With this fluid, fast-moving situation, changes have been made to several campus events regarding alumni and students. Here are the latest updates:

 

Homecoming Weekend and Reunion

MBU leadership has made the difficult decision to postpone Homecoming Weekend and Reunion activities. 

“The health and safety of our MBU community is of utmost importance to us,” said Adrienne Teague, executive director of alumni engagement. “We understand this news is disappointing, and we share your disappointment. Our team is exploring ways that we can deliver relevant and interesting programming to our alumni community through visual platforms, and we look forward to sharing an update soon.”

Several virtual engagement activities for alumni are currently being scheduled. The university will gladly refund any alumni who have paid registration fees for Homecoming activities, or apply the refund to the Baldwin Fund and issue a tax receipt for the donation.

2020 Women’s Symposium

The 2020 Women’s Symposium has been postponed until fall and will be held October 23-24.

May Term

Faculty and administrators are in the process of determining which planned courses may go forward as online courses for May. New courses will be created to replace those that cannot. The university anticipates publishing a course list by the end of March.

Capstone

The Fifteenth Annual Capstone Festival is shifting to a virtual platform to ensure our top performing students receive the recognition they deserve. Once a faculty member completes a nomination form, students will automatically be emailed a notification of the nomination and next steps for submitting a virtual project.

Room and Board

With the successful transition to online instruction and the departure or accomodation of residential students, MBU leadership is currently focusing on this issue. Because this process involves accounting for the use of Title IV federal student aid, the university must proceed with care and will share an update as soon as possible.

Student Belongings

Students will be able to return to campus to retrieve any belongings left behind from Monday, April 6 — Friday, May 1. All students must schedule their return date and time with campus safety at least 24 hours in advance by emailing safety@marybaldwin.edu.

For more detailed information about campus resources and news on Mary Baldwin University’s COVID-19 response, please see our frequently updated FAQ page.

Mary Baldwin’s nearly 180-year history has been defined by its mission to empower tomorrow’s leaders for lives of personal and professional success. What fuels that mission is the very sense of perseverance and determination that has enabled MBU to guide its students through periods of war, sickness, and social turmoil. Just as those darkened times of history ended, so too will the current coronavirus pandemic. And just as has been our story since 1842, the Mary Baldwin community will be found even stronger and more united in its passing.