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What might students expect when campus reopens? Our Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students R. Sentwali Bakari, PhD, explains.

The Restart, Recover and Reimagine Adelphi effort is the massive planning initiative focused on providing a safe campus environment as well as overseeing the student experience.

Every summer at Adelphi is spent preparing for the ensuing school year, but the task University leaders face this summer is wholly unprecedented. Not only must they review and make adjustments to almost every aspect of campus life, they must do that in an atmosphere of uncertainty over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dozens of leaders from across the University have been working since May to plan for a safe return to campus in the fall,” said Eugene Palma, chief administrative officer and associate vice president. “Our goal is to minimize situations that increase the risk of person-to-person transmission and protect the more vulnerable within our community while providing the atmosphere for an outstanding educational experience.”

Adelphi announced its plans for fall at the end of June, a matter of days after New York state released its official guidance on the restart of higher education. The University’s plans fully comply with state requirements.

Planning for a safe campus environment

Palma is co-chair of two of the eight committees that make up Restart, Recover and Reimagine Adelphi, the massive planning initiative focusing on critical issues of public health and safety as well as ways to provide housing and dining services, advising and mentoring, in-class and online learning, athletics and recreational opportunities, campus jobs, and many other components of the normal college experience.

“Our plans will allow for an evolving public health situation, new state and public health mandates as they become available, and the individual needs of our community members,” said Palma, who co-chairs the committees devoted to public health and operations. “All of our on-campus classes will have remote options, and many of our academic programs are rethinking class formats to include in-person, hybrid and fully online deliveries. This will give us the ability to adapt even in the face of considerable uncertainty and constantly changing challenges.”

Dr. Sentwali Bakari taking a lead role

The Restart, Recover and Reimagine Adelphi effort is as focused on the student experience as it is on providing a safe campus environment. Ronald Sentwali Bakari, PhD, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, is taking a leading role in that effort as co-chair of committees overseeing the student experience—everything from residence halls to student counseling, health services, dining and events, and recreation and athletics.

“Students and their families want a quality experience, and that’s what we’re doing our best to provide,” Dr. Bakari said. “We want to welcome students back to campus in a very safe and responsible way and try to mitigate as much risk as we possibly can.”

That experience begins in July with Orientation for new students, a multiday event that usually takes place on campus. This year, Orientation will be entirely virtual and extend throughout the summer, reaching students across the world with a range of online events. Peer leaders, who typically didn’t interact with new students until they came to campus, will now begin reaching out as early as June.

“Our ultimate goal is to foster students’ sense of engagement and belonging to the University,” Dr. Bakari explained. “We want to affirm their presence and let them know how significant they are to the Adelphi community. We still plan to engage them in various ways; it’ll just be a bit different.”

Staggered move-in dates, social distancing and medical kits

Move-in dates for students living on campus, for example, will be spread throughout an entire week to enforce social distancing. All residential students will receive a residential medical kit with masks, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment. In addition, free disposable face masks will be made available to all students as needed. Adelphi will also post social distancing markers and helpful signage across campus to limit person-to-person contact and the touching of shared surfaces.

“A great deal of communication is required before students arrive on campus so they come in having a good idea of how things will operate this fall,” Dr. Bakari said.

Creating a culture around health safety

Residential life will change as well, based on evolving guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College Health Association (ACHA). Ten percent of on-campus rooms will remain unoccupied for any potential quarantines that might be necessary. Students will also need to complete a social contract to enforce safety protocols in residence halls.

“We’ll need students’ cooperation in being safe and responsible and creating a culture around health safety,” Dr. Bakari said. “We want to emphasize that it’s cool to wear a mask and to worry about your fellow students and staff and faculty. If we’re able to follow this guidance, and practice social distancing, it’s going pay dividends in terms of being able to have the students on campus.”

Offering a mix of small in-person gatherings and virtual events

Meanwhile, events and gatherings will be kept small and in-person or entirely virtual. In fact, Dr. Bakari discovered that event attendance actually increased over the spring when Adelphi launched its remote programs.

“We think the online approach was much more accessible for some people,” he said. “It’s more accommodating to students with mobility issues and tight work schedules. You can just jump online and participate. So this is something we’re going to continue to expand on and improve.”

Internships, student counseling, health services

Internships, like those offered by the Panthers With a Purpose and Jaggar Community Fellows programs, are also expanding virtual opportunities. The Center for Career and Professional Development is working with nonprofit partners and a technology firm to keep the programming running virtually and even expand it to include international nonprofits.

Student counseling and health services will also provide a mix of options including both in-person meetings as well as remote assistance through video and phone calls, as they’ve done throughout the spring.

“I’m very proud of what they were able to do, because this virus has taken a toll on many people’s well-being,” Dr. Bakari said. “We’ve been there to support students under this COVID-19 stress and we will keep doing that.”

Dr. Bakari and his team will continue to optimize their plans throughout the summer as the pandemic evolves and new strategies emerge.

“We want to see enhanced retention and persistence, and part of that is getting students to feel connected,” he said. “We want them to know that they’re valued and we want to engage them responsibly so that it strengthens their love for Adelphi. That’s our goal.”

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