University of Mary plans for return to campus in the fall

University of Mary plans for return to campus in the fall

University of Mary

The University of Mary is planning to resume normal campus life in the fall, with a freshman move-in date scheduled for Sept. 5 and the start of classes set for Sept. 8.

The private Catholic university is well-positioned to deal with new realities resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, the school said in a statement Monday.

“We feel very confident in the staff and teams we’ve assembled on campus, and also our relationships, partnerships and connections with government agencies, health care facilities and the National Guard within the capital city, to implement our plan for our fall semester ‘opening,’” Executive Vice President Jerome Richter said.

One particular asset the school has is that "our expansive and wide-open campus located south of town uniquely gives our students the much needed open space for a safe learning environment,” he said.

The university discontinued in-person classes and the regular schedule on its Bismarck campus on March 18 and fully transitioned to online instruction to finish the semester. The university the previous week had shut down its Rome campus, with Italy at the time being one of the countries hardest-hit by the pandemic. Twenty-five students had been spending the semester there.

U-Mary in late March called off its traditional spring commencement ceremony, which had been scheduled for April 25 at the Bismarck Event Center. The school plans to hold a “double commencement” on April 24, 2021, to honor both this year’s and next year’s graduates.

The school in late March also announced changes to its year-round campus experience, in which students can take courses over the summer to complete their degrees faster. Those classes are being offered entirely online.

The university on Monday said it has made permanent a 10-member on-campus COVID-19 Emergency Response Team that it assembled before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States.

The school has a fully staffed student health clinic on campus that's a satellite of CHI St. Alexius Health medical center. Officials also tout the Crow’s Nest Restaurant on campus, which they say allows students to eat without crowding issues, and the school's 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and the absence of large auditorium-style classes of hundreds of students.

“Our strong online capabilities, remote location, on-campus health care services, and spacious campus with overflow residence hall capacity give us the capabilities to quarantine students, if needed, for a mandatory period of time, while still allowing them to learn online, before transitioning back into the classroom,” President James Shea said.

While the campus remains closed this spring, the University of Mary Fieldhouse remains ready to be used as an emergency field hospital for coronavirus patients. The facility last month was equipped with 200 cots. It would be used only as a last resort, should the state experience a rapid increase of coronavirus cases requiring medical care.

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