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.