Introduction

“The university itself – its learning, its skills, its zeal, its enthusiasm – remains untouched and its work will go on without interruption.”

— University of Missouri President R.H. Jesse

We offer these words as both a commitment and a truth.

The COVID-19 outbreak remains one of the greatest and most comprehensive challenges the University of Missouri, and higher education more broadly, has faced in this lifetime. Early on, the university outlined our priorities driving our institutional response:

  • To provide all students the highest quality education (a commitment to our community).
  • To support our state’s response to this crisis through research, precision health, engagement and health care services (a commitment to our impact).

As we work to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 moving forward, we also work to reaffirm the university’s core missions of teaching, research, service and inclusive excellence in this new reality.

On May 13, 2020, President of the University of Missouri Mun Y. Choi announced several work groups guided by our medical experts and key university leaders from MU’s schools and colleges, MU Health Care, Mizzou Athletics, Operations and the UM System. In total, 135 individuals are strategizing and planning our return to campus (11 administrators, 34 faculty members and 91 staff members). The groups are:

  • Academics
  • Research
  • Student Affairs
  • Testing
  • Contact Tracing and Quarantining
  • Facilities
  • Athletics
  • Communications

Each group worked within these possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: Full return

We reconvene for in-person learning. We can effectively manage any new cases of COVID-19 and the risk to the general campus population remains low. We continue to follow public health guidelines by implementing necessary changes to class sizes, public gatherings, class scheduling and course instruction. To meet social distancing requirements, the format of some courses change to a blended format, which combines both in-person and online experiences in the same course.

Scenario 2: Limited return

Low infection rates and lifted mitigation strategies would allow us to reconvene for in-person learning, but a second wave of infection forces us to pivot back to a virtual learning environment.

Scenario 3: Remote return

COVID-19 cases increase throughout the summer, and the risk for transmission in an in-person learning environment is too high. Students are unable to return to campus in August. We implement an entirely virtual learning environment for the fall semester, and other on-campus activities remain limited. We evaluate the spring semester at a later date.

The changes we can expect for the academic year 2020-21, and potentially beyond, will impact every aspect of campus life. This new reality will be an entirely different experience for all of us, affecting how we learn, how we discover, how we engage our communities, how we compete and how we use our campus facilities. While keeping each other safe means agreeing to a new standard of living and learning, this next step is simply a new iteration of the very qualities that have shaped Mizzou since our founding.

We’re all in this together.