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Well Done, Mustangs!

Last Thursday, the Governor of our state announced that the mask mandate that had been in place since the start of the pandemic would be lifted with but a few exceptions. And while CDC guidelines still are recommended as wise counsel for those who remain unvaccinated and others in high COVID risk categories, the news of the lifted mandate made our hearts soar!

Granted, we may not be out of the woods completely and may even see restrictive measures of prevention return at some point in the future, we can take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief (pun intended!). We made it! After nearly two years of continuous precautions that included social distancing, touchless water faucets and thermometers, mask-wearing, and strongly recommending vaccination and booster shots, we can look back and say we did our best to keep everyone safe. And after looking back at the numbers and severity of infections among the campus community residents, those who took all available precautions are still alive and well to learn, teach, coach, and serve.

I cannot overemphasize how proud I am of our campus community for how they rose to the occasion to meet an extraordinary challenge. Immediately recognizing the threat to our campus, the Administrative team, without delay, met to create a plan to keep everyone who came to campus safe. It was the week just before the 2020 Spring Break and our A-team was able to implement protocols that allowed students to remain at home rather than immediately return to campus after the break. The switch to fully remote learning was thrown without a hitch and employees who could work from home were encouraged to do so.

After a summer that saw few cars on campus and only one employee at an office on any given day, our return to campus in the fall limited students to one occupant per residence hall room. Remote dining and no in-person class instruction became normative. Athletics moved their fall sports to the spring, and training was continued in small pods that remained the same group for the entire semester. Any on-campus student who tested positive was relocated to a remote off-site location for 14 days of isolation. Vaccinations that became available a few months later helped many return to campus with a greater margin of safety and, as a result, we were able to open up campus and housing a little more to start the 2021 Fall term.

Remembering all this now helps me look backward at the hill we all climbed together and recognize that it truly was a remarkable accomplishment to have met this challenge in every way it could have been met. We aspired to make campus as safe or safer than any student could expect if they chose to remain at home and continue their studies remotely, and we did just that.

USW is an institution that adapts and innovates. And while I am tempted to say this is because of all the great people who work here and contribute their intellect and energy to making this the University of the Future, I know that God is the source of all inspiration. To Him be the Glory!