President’s Corner: Forging Ahead in Uncharted Waters
It's not much fun working on an empty campus. Kaufman Mall is strangely quiet. No Activity Hour. No graduating seniors posing for photos. No skateboarders.
But make no mistake: Even during the COVID-19 outbreak, our Monarch community has come together, with nimbleness and creativity, to fulfill our educational and research mission this semester and assist our community, providing masks and other resources.
Old Dominion's overriding priority, of course, has been to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff. That's why we shifted nearly all of our employees to telework arrangements last month, moved our 2,880 spring courses online and announced that summer classes also would be delivered remotely.
Information Technology Services, Distance Learning, the Center for Learning & Teaching and our regional higher education centers have worked diligently - compiling an array of resources, holding webinars and providing prompt troubleshooting - to help students and faculty members transition to online learning and teaching.
Our new reality poses other academic and financial challenges for our students, and Old Dominion has responded with flexibility and compassion.
We announced last week that we will provide rebates totaling $8.4 million to students for housing, meal and parking costs for the spring semester. We have waived some late fees, extended payment plans, provided more loaner laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots, and extended pass/fail and course withdrawal options.
Old Dominion has committed $1.6 million to continue employing students who hold part-time campus jobs. For those whose work cannot be performed at home, we created the Learning and Earning Professional Development online program.
And to help students, faculty and staff members encountering serious financial hardship, we established the Rise to the Challenge Fund, which provides emergency relief. Please consider a donation at fundit.odu.edu
Through this anxious period, the selfless, community-minded Monarch spirit continues to burn bright. While I don't have room to cite all of the inspiring stories, one example is the work of our engineering students and faculty, who, using the University's 3D printers, produced face masks for local hospitals. Other Monarchs have manufactured and donated face masks and shields, delivered groceries to elderly residents, and provided expertise on global health, online education, telework, telehealth and cybersecurity.
I also want to express my gratitude to essential employees - from campus police to facilities management - who have continued reporting to work to maintain and secure our campus and to move forward with projects such as construction of our new Chemistry Building and Hugo A. Owens House.
I know this will be a bittersweet time for graduates who had expected to celebrate commencement in May. We do not want to let the week of their scheduled ceremonies pass without acknowledging their accomplishments, so we will involve them in a virtual celebration. We have committed to rescheduling a commencement ceremony later this year. We already have a team planning the details to ensure a commencement worthy of our May graduates - and to provide innovative ways for those unable to return to campus to participate remotely. When the event will occur, though, depends on factors beyond our control and will hinge on guidance from government leaders and medical experts.
We face many other uncertainties on our path forward. But if we continue to follow health guidelines while channeling our Monarch spirit and determination, I feel confident that Old Dominion will navigate a successful completion of the semester and, even in these challenging times, uncover fresh ideas and strategies to advance education and community service.