USM Preparing to Welcome Students Back to Campuses this Fall
Wed, 04/29/2020 - 10:09am | By: Jim Coll
The University of Southern Mississippi is planning to resume on-campus operations this fall. The regular semester is currently scheduled to begin on August 24, 2020. These plans could change, as guidance from public health officials monitoring COVID-19 continues to evolve.
In preparation for this transition, modified policies and procedures are being developed for implementation across the institution, including expanded health and safety protocols and flexible course formats, which will allow the institution to adapt more easily to changes in the environment.
“The Southern Miss on-campus experience has proven to be a strong indicator of student success,” said University President Rodney D. Bennett. “The safety and well-being of our students and our entire University community are our top priority, and although our fall semester will look different, our commitment to preparing our students for the world that awaits them has not wavered.
“While many factors are still unknown, the fall semester will undoubtedly be another test of our demonstrated ability to meet any challenge with innovation and determination,” Bennett added. “I am proud of the way The University of Southern Mississippi has responded to this crisis through our support of critical community health and testing needs, and I have no doubt these efforts will only be further enhanced when our full faculty, staff, and student body return to our campuses this fall.”
Specific details will be developed in the coming weeks as USM completes a thorough review of current public health guidelines, with a strategic, measured approach to implementing requirements for protective face coverings, strict social distancing, and increased sanitation of high-traffic areas, along with course modifications.
USM’s academic leaders are reviewing national best practices to guide the institution in the transition to an on-campus fall semester, and faculty are well prepared to adapt to a variety of course delivery formats as this public health situation evolves further. All spring classes are currently being delivered remotely, and online or other remote delivery formats are also planned for summer courses.
“Our faculty completed extraordinary work this spring to move thousands of course sections online in a very short period of time, providing evidence of our position as a leader in online education,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven R. Moser. “I am exceedingly proud of their ongoing efforts to ensure fall course formats will be highly adaptable, should public health concerns necessitate significant modifications.”
Public health guidelines will determine future plans for large gatherings, including athletic events. Changes to student life programming and housing policies will also be implemented in accordance with current health guidance.
Prospective students are encouraged to visit usm.edu/admissions for more information about academic programs, scholarships, and financial aid opportunities. Admitted students should register for a required Orientation session at usm.edu/orientation.
USM will soon implement plans for faculty and staff to begin returning to campuses in a phased approach, beginning in late May and continuing throughout June. Additional health protocols and procedures will be implemented throughout the summer in preparation for fall, following forthcoming guidance from the IHL Safe Start Task Force and ongoing consultation with health officials.
Institutional guidelines will be posted at usm.edu/covid-19 as they are finalized over the summer, and individual units will post additional details on their websites as applicable. All individuals on University property will be expected to comply with updated protocols.