From the Vice President for Student Affairs re: Preparing for Students in the Fall

July 12, 2021

Good morning, colleagues!  I am reaching out to you today to share my excitement for our preparation to return to campus this fall.  It feels like summer is passing quickly and our students will return before we know it.  I can’t believe we will all be together again on campus in just a few short weeks.  As we are welcoming our new students during orientation, I can begin to feel the energy and anticipation growing.

As we get ready, we could use some help!  In Student Affairs, we are thinking hard about the fact that more than 50% of our students will be having their first in-person experience with Southern this fall.  The large majority of our students who began in the 2020-2021 academic year have had zero or minimal experience navigating campus in person.  Even many of our residential students had all of their classes on-line and limited their activity to their residence hall and Conn Hall.  As such, we will have two classes of undergraduate and graduate students who feel like new students.  Moreover, our third-year students have spent more than 50% of their Southern experience at a distance.  This is a lot of newness (not to mention the faculty and staff who have joined us since March 2020).  We are working to think very intentionally about what all our students’ experience will be like and how to help ensure their success from Day 1.

We hope you all will join us in thinking about these realities as you are preparing for the fall.  Students will likely have some anxiety around social engagement, as they have spent less time socializing throughout the last 15 months and they are less likely to have a solid network of friends or familiar people on campus.  We encourage you to think about how you invite students to explore your offices and services, especially through our Week of Welcome programming (the call for submissions will come soon).  How could you start your classes off with opportunities for students to meet each other and develop a sense of community in the classroom?  What do we tend to take for granted about students’ knowledge of campus that will be different this year?  What might we take for granted that students know that we need to tell/teach them?  These are just some of the questions on my mind and I hope you might explore them with me.

Additionally, we know that a feature of a strong return to campus is a highly vaccinated population.  As you likely know, the CSCU System has mandated the COVID vaccine for our students.  We are working hard to get the word out, but summer is the most difficult time to connect with students.  We are hoping you might help us spread the word.  Attached are a few examples of graphics we are sharing through social media.  If you have a social media account that is followed by students or you have a distribution list (through email or Navigate), could you post or send out a message informing students of this requirement and encouraging them to get vaccinated?  We also counting on a high vaccination rate among our faculty and staff to be a highly vaccinated community.  If you have not done so, I hope you’ll get your shot soon!

Please let me know if you have any questions or ideas as we prepare for our return and for students’ return.  I can’t wait!  A strength of our university is our relationships with each other.  I truly believe that is what differentiates us from our CSU sister institutions as well as others across the state.  It will be tremendously exciting to have our halls buzzing again, classrooms bursting with engagement, the Academic Quad filled with energy, the stadium booming with cheering fans, and our residence halls alive with activity.  I hope you are as excited as I am!

Warmly,

Tracy Tyree
Vice President for Student Affairs