Return to In-Person Working
By Jonathan Sauls, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Success and Administration
I could never have imagined when we extended spring break in March 2020 that we would still be dealing with a global pandemic sixteen months later. It is an extraordinary understatement to note that this has been an unusual year. Despite all of the upheaval and uncertainty, I have been inspired by so many of my colleagues from Student Affairs and across campus who have worked heroically to promote our students’ health and safety, to uplift and support our employees, and to overcome the challenges posed by an ever-changing health environment.
Since May of last year, I have served on the University’s Roadmap Implementation Team (RIT), a committee made of up representatives from across campus, to make recommendations to senior leadership regarding all facets of the University’s response to COVID-19. At its height last summer and fall, RIT was meeting up to one-two hours per day. We still meet regularly to review updated health guidance, fashion new recommendations, and consult with an array of health experts. Through this committee, I have learned more about coronavirus than I could ever have expected. I have also been privy to the thoughtful, innovative, and health-focused initiatives of our Student Affairs departments. Throughout the organization, we have discovered new ways to engage and develop students; to support their physical, mental, and emotional health; and, most recently, to prepare for the return of more of our students, faculty, and staff to campus.
As we head toward the start of the fall semester, there are several noteworthy highlights:
- UNC will be welcoming an impressive (and larger!) class of first-year and transfer students. Summer orientation is already in full-swing, with evident excitement from students, parents and family members. These students will join a sophomore class that includes many individuals who have yet to have an in-person campus experience. As a result, almost half of our undergraduates can be considered “new” students.
- Reported student vaccinations rates are running above 95% with more than 13,000 students already providing vaccination information. Reported rates for faculty and staff are considerably lower at this time, but we also know that many individuals who have been vaccinated have yet to provide that information. To that end, if you have received your vaccination, be sure to complete the link at COVID-19 Vaccine Certification (unc.edu). This information is important in helping the University plan for the fall semester and beyond.
- Updated community standards for the fall semester are likely to be released at the beginning of July. These standards will reflect current guidance from the CDC, NC DHHS, and our campus infectious disease experts among others. As always, these standards may continue to evolve based on additional health recommendations or changes in local conditions.
We have come a long way during this pandemic, but we’re not yet to the end. Even as we transition back into a more normal semester, we must remain vigilant and not take our progress for granted. Let’s continue to uplift and extend grace to one another as we fulfill our mission of supporting our students’ growth. I am proud to serve beside you in that endeavor.