The Pandemic Is Not Over at St. Mary's University

By: Sara Guerrero and Grace Ibarra, History majors at St. Mary's University

 

As the pandemic spread through our community, St. Mary's University adapted. Everyone on our campus has experienced significant changes in the last two years, as our university transitioned to an online format, for a year, before resuming in-person classes in the Fall of 2021. The university and its community have worked tirelessly to keep us all safe by distributing masks and setting up hand-sanitizing stations throughout campus, as well as placing signs reminding us that the pandemic is still ongoing and providing additional student support services. St. Mary's has changed in response to the pandemic as a result of these initiatives and is now better equipped to meet the needs of the Rattler population.

Stop the Spread

One of the many flyers posted on campus at St. Mary's reminding staff and students that masks are required because of the ongoing pandemic. 

Changes Around Campus due to COVID

The attendance policies following students being sent home due to COVID-19 have changed each semester. These changes depended on both the new CDC regulations as well as the COVID risk level at the university. Campus officials had to make these difficult decisions, adapting as new guidance continually came from the CDC and other health agencies. Because attendance is one of the aspects used to measure how engaged the students are in class surprise, surprise, it was among the many things affected by COVID-19. From Zoom to In-Person, Virtual and Hybrid, Synchronous and Asynchronous, the ability to be truly present throughout the pandemic was difficult for most. St. Mary's attendance policies changed from allowing students the option of making up for a class by only doing the assigned tasks for that day to returning fully in-person with limited courses available online. These changes showed flexibility but also presented challenges as students and faculty had to constantly change and adapt. 

I have to do WHAT to my syllabus???

This in-person course's revised attendance policy for Fall 2021 has been adjusted to allow for more flexibility with student absences. Also, face masks are required in the classroom. 

The Desperate Times Continue

The attendance policy for Spring 2021 will follow the same format of Fall 2021 as we move on to the new semester. 

The New Normal

 Attendance policies for three classroom configurations are further discussed.

Oral Histories: The Professor and Student Perspectives 

Changes around the university, as a result of the pandemic, impacted everyone from students to professors. The pandemic interrupted our sense of community at St. Mary's. Despite meeting over a screen, the years of developing this community allowed students, instructors, and staff to keep connected. In these interviews, Dr. Ronis from the Theology Department, and two St. Mary's students discuss the university's response to the pandemic and how they adapted to the various classroom arrangements of the past two years. 

Dr. Ronis Oral History about the changes she has had to make with online and in-person classes. 

Oral History with St. Mary's student Chelsea Osorio and how she has had to adapt through different classroom environments. 

Student Support Services 

As the pandemic hit the St. Mary's community, it brought with it new hurdles that everyone had to overcome in order to find answers to new problems caused by the virus. Additional mental health and financial support were provided to the St. Mary's community, easing some of the stress brought on by the pandemic. These resources are still available as everyone has been on and off-campus for the past two years and will continue to be a helpful tool to those who feel burdened in any way.  

Link to the St. Mary's University Pandemic Updates and Resources:

https://www.stmarytx.edu/emergency/

Student Support Services

Financial and Mental Health resources available through the university. 

Economic Student Support

The Student Emergency Fund came to the university through the CARES Act to provide emergency economic aid to students. 

Physical Changes on Campus

In preparation for the return of students and staff on campus for this Fall semester of 2021, St. Mary’s had provided daily reminders for the community to be aware that the pandemic is still at play. Signs posted to wear your masks and new hand sanitizing stations have eased the fear of infections as we returned to in-class sessions. Also, new changes in business hours to on-campus facilities, since January of 2021, have been consistent as the year is ending. Updates on their website have helped students and staff stay up to date on new rules and habits that we can maintain to keep everyone healthy and safe. 

Stop the Spread

CDC recommendations provided by the coronavirus updates website from the university. 

Hour Alterations

New facility hours since January 2021 due to staff shortages and increase demand. 

Stop the Spread

One of the many new hand sanitizing stations on campus as a recommendation from the CDC to prevent the spread of COVID. 

Reflection

St. Mary's University has been working diligently for almost two years to prevent coronavirus infections and had provided many resources for staff and students to feel unburdened while the pandemic is ongoing. Their response to the pandemic has utilized the recommendations by the CDC followed by those of the city of San Antonio. With this information, they were able to keep the community informed of COVID cases and provide the necessary tools as we continue to face the new challenges that the pandemic brings. While things are always changing, the feeling of community at St. Mary's never will. Our students, faculty, and staff will always work toward ensuring the best environment for each other. 

The New Variant

The new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has started to make its way into the U.S. as we are still dealing with the Delta variant. 

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