July 17, 2020: President's MPulse Message on Healthy Fall 2020

Dear Griz family,

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to disrupt every sector of society across the world — including right here at the University of Montana. In response, the UM family has demonstrated a Griz spirit of resourcefulness, collaboration, and resilience in the face of complex challenges. Last spring, University faculty, staff, and students acted swiftly to transition more than 4,000 classes to remote instruction, allowing us to successfully complete the semester. We have sustained this commitment to agile, quick response in all of our planning.

The safety of our UM family and campus visitors is foremost in our minds as we plan for the fall semester and beyond. Our ability to resume campus operations relies on our resilience, adaptability, and commitment to minimizing the risks of COVID-19 infection while enabling our students to pursue an education that prepares them for a bright future.

Immediately, University leaders convened to produce a detailed plan to provide for the safe return of on-campus learning in the fall of 2020. The University of Montana Healthy Fall 2020 Plan is the product of hundreds of hours of research, discussion, and design. Guided by UM faculty, staff, students, and administrative leaders, this plan is informed by health experts within UM’s College of Health and Curry Health Center in collaboration with local hospitals, the Missoula City-County Public Health Department, and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

By empowering the health and safety experts at UM, we have enacted mitigation measures across campus to promote safe learning, safe teaching, and safe living. The Healthy Fall 2020 Plan reflects the best medical information about COVID-19 as applied to on-campus instructional design, protocols for campus living, and detailed procedures for in-person research, campus safety, transportation, housing, dining, athletics, and events.

For example, to promote social distancing, UM has reconfigured every classroom, adjusted the student capacity of our shared learning spaces, and produced tailored entrance/exit procedures for each building on campus. In addition, UM requires all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to wear a mask while in indoor campus environments.

We are confident that these among many other proactive measures we are implementing will promote the health and safety of the UM family, allowing us to continue providing the next generation of world leaders with an in-person holistic, tomorrow-proof education.

But we know that even with our best prevention efforts, there is a likely scenario this fall where a member of our UM family contracts this contagious virus. That is why we have used these summer months to put procedures in place to work with local and campus health officials to test, track, contact trace, and quickly mitigate any potential exposure to COVID-19.

As we implement these important changes across campus, we are also active in the global effort to defeat this pandemic. The National Institutes of Health has invested $2.5 million in our researchers at the Center for Translational Medicine to study the virus. This 40-person research team on campus, led by Dr. Jay Evans, is working hard each day to advance a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

While COVID-19 provides us with a unique challenge requiring us to temporarily adjust our vibrant on-campus culture, it is not the first time UM has had to overcome complex, demanding conditions. For 127 years, our University has faced these down and repeatedly emerged better prepared to develop leaders for a constantly changing world. I am as confident as ever in UM’s future. Our Healthy Fall 2020 Plan will allow us to continue our collective devotion to every student during this health crisis.

Sincerely,

Seth Bodnar
University of Montana President