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STU goes virtual, thrives and strives

COVID-19 has upended every single way we live our lives.

Work and schools have gone remote, we are away from families and friends, wearing masks in public is now the norm, and everyone is secluded in their homes to avoid not only getting but spreading COVID-19.

To safeguard the St. Thomas community and follow all health and government guidelines, starting on March 17, all STU’s courses moved to remote learning. All STU classes will continue to be taught virtually for the rest of ‘20 Spring term and Summer terms.  Because all classes continued, services are being provided and credits offered can be earned, STU will not be processing any refunds for the Spring courses.

The STU residence halls remained open until March 27. Residence Hall students will receive a prorated adjustment of their room and board costs from the March 27 date since room and board was available to that date. This adjustment will be issued as a credit, refund or applied to a student’s balance based on the student’s choice.

On March 23, STU’s faculty and staff began working remotely, which meant that STU also transitioned all its student services to virtual settings.

During this transition, the main priority for the university has been ensuring that students can complete their courses for this semester so that their college career is not interrupted. STU has been teaching all of its classes remotely for almost three weeks, and STU faculty, staff and students have demonstrated innovation, adaptability and resilience.

“Our goal continues to focus on high quality education,” said STU’s Provost, Dr. Jeremy Moreland. “We know that our faculty provide a high quality of instruction across modalities. Our entire STU community has demonstrated their commitment to supporting our students as they continue to succeed in this virtual learning environment.”

The new virtual reality

Angelo Milli

At STU, remote learning is nothing new. Prior to March 17, 53% of students were taking at least one online course. Now all STU students are acquiring the essential skills of learning in the virtual world. And many of our students who have never taken online courses, are grateful for the opportunity to continue and complete their classes.

Students like Angelo Milli, a Senior Biology major in STU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering & Health.

“The transition was smoother than I expected,” said Milli. “Transitioning to online learning gave us back the time we spent driving to and from class, and, on top off it, it gave us the possibility to continue our education from the comfort of our own home. I really appreciate all the effort our professors are making in order to deliver the same high-quality education. It really shows their commitment and passion towards our education.”

STU will continue to incorporate new skills learned and best practices into the virtual learning procedures as classes continue through the Summer.

“We believe in our students,” said Moreland. “They are adaptable, smart, disciplined and are growing personally and professionally as they have shifted to this virtual learning environment. “

Finding new ways to engage

To aid in the transition to a virtual world, many of STU’s faculty and staff have expanded their skillsets and job scopes to meet the needs of their students.

Maria Garavito-Bedoya conducting online sessions

STU’s health counselor is providing online appointments and promoting healthy coping mechanisms through online support and chat groups. The Glenn Hubert Student Learning Center is offering students tutoring and academic support through its online tutoring platform, Smarthinking. The Center will be hosting its first ever Virtual Tutor fest leading up to finals later this month.

Faculty are advising students in one-on-one sessions through Zoom, and Career Services continues to provide career coaching to alumni and students alike.

STU Admissions will be hosting an online orientation and is conducting virtual visits. Future Bobcats can even get a $1000 scholarship if they watch a virtual tour video and speak with an admissions counselor.

On May 9th, St. Thomas will hold its first-ever virtual degree conferral. This ceremony will formally recognize the degree completion of our graduating students and allow them to continue on to jobs, graduate school or other life plans. In December, we will celebrate the accomplishments of these graduates by hosting a special commencement in their honor.

Isabel Gamarra

Author Isabel Gamarra

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