La Sierra University plans fall campus re-opening, spring online

Biology students Kaitlyn Mamora, background, and Caitlyn Pang participate in a SEA-GENES virology lab on campus during fall quarter 2020. (Photo: Natan Vigna)

La Sierra University’s leadership recently announced to students and employees its plans to re-open the campus for fall quarter 2021-22 while keeping operations online through the end of the current school year.

The university’s Emergency Management Team, which last year created and approved the university’s COVID-19 response and re-opening plan, voted on Jan. 19, in light of the national coronavirus vaccine rollout, a return of in-person, onsite operations this September for the next school year. The university moved its operations online on March 16, 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon the nation.

Respective county and state orders last year shuttered on-campus functions for higher education institutions with following state directives for closures based on the pandemic’s prevalence by county. Since coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations soared to new records throughout Southern California during the fall and into the winter months, La Sierra’s Emergency Management Team also voted to continue online operations through the end of spring quarter for the current school year which concludes June 15, 2021. As allowed under state guidelines, some science labs and art studio classes will most likely be held on campus in the spring as has been the case since fall quarter 2020. Students and faculty in such classes are subject to university health and safety measures that include requirements for face masks, physical distancing, cleaning and regular testing for COVID-19. The university will also continue through the current school year’s end a 10% tuition subsidy it first provided in the fall on combined tuition and fees for all enrolled students.

“As vaccines begin distribution, we are optimistic about the future and plan to return to our beautiful campus for fall quarter 2021,” Provost April Summit, the university’s Covid-19 Response Coordinator noted in her message to students and employees. “We will work diligently to ensure a safe return and follow the state, county, and university protocols for all spaces and will publish any requirements on our website prior to the beginning of the fall term. We will get through this challenging time, together. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Emergency Management Team will decide and publicize issues pertaining to the coronavirus vaccine and details of a return to onsite classes and functions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our region and our country, but thanks to the diligence and perseverance of our faculty and staff, our university has remained a safe learning environment, no matter the context. Students have continued to pursue their dreams in spite of the challenges, which is our overarching objective,” said La Sierra University President Joy Fehr. “So many people have endured so much hardship and tragedy—our campus family has not been unaffected—but we hold fast to our faith, the foundation of our hope. We are excited about the prospect of moving beyond the pandemic as we plan for a safe return to campus this fall.”

Since moving online last March, the university has made significant investments in online learning platforms and tools including Zoom video conferencing, Panopto video-based lecturing, ProctorU for online exams and recording equipment for virtual musical performances. The university’s Department of Online Learning rolled out expanded training sessions, webinars, table-top exercises in best practices, one-on-one instruction and other assistance. The Student Wellness Services department adopted Telemedicine and Teletherapy services, and music and art productions, exercise courses, chapel and spiritual life programs moved to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms.

The expenditures and experiences will benefit the university’s programming going forward.

A virtual archaeology event in November through the Center for Near Eastern Archaeology attracted more than 200 viewers from six countries. The three-hour production, which replaced an annual, two-day in-person event involved a 205-slide and video PowerPoint presentation, 100 gigabytes of computer memory and “a lab counter full of sophisticated equipment with three cameras, two light trees, several monitors, and computers galore,” noted archaeologist Doug Clark, the center’s director. This November’s 2021 Archaeology Discovery Weekend featuring Southwest Turkey will include both in-person and real-time Zoom-based archaeological presentations by international scholars.

About La Sierra University

La Sierra University, a Christian Seventh-day Adventist institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus, its service to others and its ‘best value’ educational programming offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime. “To Seek, To Know, and To Serve” are the keys to the mission that drives the university, with all areas of campus encouraging students to develop a deeper relationship with God.

La Sierra University was named No. 1 in the nation for its diverse environment by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Ranking 2021, its third such ranking by the WSJ since the 2017 rankings. Additionally, U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges guide rated La Sierra 13th in the 15-state western region for social mobility and in its 2017 colleges guide listed La Sierra No. 9 in the western region for best value. Money magazine in July 2015 ranked La Sierra No. 8 nationally for value-added education that helps students surpass expectations. La Sierra is a celebrated leader in entrepreneurial outreach and sustainable development through its World Cup-winning Enactus team and in its university-wide service to others. In 2013 the university received the Presidential Award from the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. Established in 1922, the university provides more than 120 bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs. Its faculty include Fulbright Scholars, recipients of National Science Foundation and National Geographic grants and other major awards and fellowships who engage in groundbreaking scientific research, key archaeological discoveries, artistic development and business and education leadership. • Contributed

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