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University preparing to fully open in fall semester

ISSUED: 1 July 2021

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University is excited to welcome students back to campus for fall 2021 by offering more face-to-face classes, normal residence hall capacity, and expanded in-person activities, including sporting events.

“We are committed to fully opening Shepherd’s campus while keeping the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and guests as our top priority, and we are delighted to see a significant increase in students choosing to transfer to Shepherd for fall semester,” said President Mary J.C. Hendrix.

The Shepherd administration, together with the Board of Governors, chose not to raise fall 2021 undergraduate tuition, in consideration of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students and their families.

The fall semester calendar will return to normal, with in-person new student convocation and campus orientation August 20, and classes starting August 23. Fall break will take place October 14 and 15 and Thanksgiving recess is planned for November 21-28. The last day of classes will be December 3, with final exams taking place December 6-10.

More in-person instruction

Most fall classes will have a face-to-face component, with 71 percent offered as in person or hybrid. Dr. Ben Martz, interim provost, said Shepherd is working to accommodate the needs of all students by offering a mix.

“Some students find it more reassuring to sit in a classroom where they can ask questions while others prefer more self-paced learning with PowerPoints and recorded classes,” Martz said. “Depending on the mix of modes used by the faculty, students can find what fits their needs. Because a hybrid class can usually morph into either mode, students find the flexibility convenient.”

Dr. Richard Stevens, assistant provost for faculty affairs, said recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources have led the university to lift social distancing restrictions in the classroom.

“As we respond to the growing desire for more face-to-face and hybrid courses, we have increased capacities to accommodate more students while maintaining online options for those who desire this learning modality,” Stevens said.

Normal campus life

Residence hall life for students living on campus will also return pretty much to normal according to Dr. Liz Sechler, director of residence life.

“Our residents did a great job of keeping each other safe this past year and we believe this will continue,” Sechler said. “We anticipate that residents will be able to have guests—one of the top requests we received from our fall 2021 residents. We are preparing to open community kitchens, lounges, and study areas so that students can more fully experience the benefits of living on campus.”

Sechler said students living on campus will be required to follow the university’s COVID-19 policies.

“I love it when students are around campus, attending activities, spending time together, and learning from each other,” Sechler said. “We will continue to promote safe practices while students are more fully enjoying the campus experience.”

Sechler said there is currently a six percent increase in students planning to live on campus compared to fall 2020, and the university has more than 150 single occupancy rooms for those who prefer to have their own space.

Due to COVID-19 protocols, most student organizations were unable to meet in person during the 2020-2021 school year and many activities were canceled or took place virtually. Rachael Meads, assistant director of student engagement, said that will change in the fall.

“Student Activities has planned a return to predominantly in-person events including our annual involvement fair, Homecoming spirit week, intramurals, and student club and organization events,” Meads said. “Opportunities for in-person service and leadership development will abound on campus this fall with a focus on helping students connect to one another and our greater community.”

Sports are back

Shepherd athletes can also look forward to a much more exciting year. Chauncey Winbush, vice president for athletics, said the goal is to return to a normal schedule pending final decisions from the NCAA and PSAC this summer.

“Our staff, coaches, and student-athletes are beyond excited to get back to fall and winter competitions this year,” Winbush said. “It will be more than two years since several of our student-athletes have competed in meaningful games. All student-athletes work incredibly hard academically and athletically, with a goal of representing their universities on the court or field. They crave and love competition and can’t wait to represent Shepherd this fall.”

Winbush anticipates the NCAA will require COVID-19 testing protocols for athletics during the fall season.

“We are hoping that our student-athletes will take the initiative to get vaccinated to provide themselves with a better overall experience,” Winbush said.

COVID-19 precautions to continue

The Campus Health Task Force, chaired by Holly Morgan Frye, vice president for student affairs, continues to meet this summer to review and update Shepherd’s COVID-19 policies, which are adjusted as new information becomes available.

Students will be asked to register their COVID-19 vaccines with the university prior to fall semester. Those who do not register will have to participate in onboard testing in August and surveillance testing throughout the semester and will be required to fill out a daily health check form. Anyone who is exposed to COVID-19 and who hasn’t registered a vaccine will be required to quarantine.

“Currently 65 percent of staff and faculty have registered their vaccines in the system, which is among the highest reported in West Virginia higher education,” Frye said. “We are proud of the fact that our employees have been proactive about getting vaccinated and registering their vaccines and encourage students returning for fall to follow that example. We will continue to keep everyone’s safety as our number one goal.”

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