President Miller, admin speak on university’s progress at mid-semester point

The Virginia Wesleyan community has officially hit the midway mark for the fall semester. This semester has introduced many challenges for every member of the campus community, and in an interview with President Miller, Dr. Keith Moore, Vice President of Campus Life and Operation Management, and Dr. Maynard Schaus, Vice President of Academic Affairs, these challenges are discussed in more detail. 

What is the most dramatic change in each of your respective areas that you have seen on a daily basis since the beginning of the semester? 

President Miller: …In 30 years as a college president, it is the most unusual nine or ten months that I have ever seen…[COVID-19] has created the most unusual atmosphere to provide in education.

Dr. Schaus: I think that the way faculty have been instructing. Having half the students in a normal class or having a larger class that is spread out…that’s completely different than what we have had to deal with. For the most part, faculty have been willing to go with it and work with the students. It is ultimately about the students getting a good education.

Dr. Moore: …It has impacted every aspect of campus life, including the academic piece…So everything that we do had to be modified from dining, to living in residents, to congregating as a group, to having a club meeting, to adjusting to seeing people on screens as the norm…what is wonderful about it at the same time is that we are all in this together, and that the students are leading the charge. They have accepted this reality…because they know…this is [their education] what is important.

What do you think the next semester will look like? January term is already scheduled to be online, so are there plans to have the spring semester in person or online? What challenges will affect this decision? 

Miller: A lot of it is still fluid, based on the state and national situation. Our Emergency Response Team has been communicating on a daily basis, and we review information that is provided to us from eight agencies and organizations to give us the best information. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because depending on surges that might occur that might affect those plans.

Schaus: …The intent is to be in person, similar to this semester.

When students arrived on campus, many worried about being sent home midway through the semester like other universities. Do you think that we will get to this point? If so, what do you believe will cause us to get to that point where we would need to leave campus?

President Miller: Our commitment has been to the safety of all individuals, not just the students but also the faculty and staff who provide this environment for a quality education, which is why we have been so insistent and sticklers to what we put in place. It is for everyone’s well being…Everyone has been so cooperative so far…We can not let our guard down because we are doing well. We need to make sure everybody is sticking to the processes and procedures that are put in place because that got us to where we are now…Everyone is out to protect the wellbeing of everyone else and that is what will keep us going. 

What were some of the fears you had for this semester?

Dr. Schaus: …When the cases started to spike, there was some concern raised…the whole team took it very seriously but took a proactive approach of what is necessary to get this under control, [such as] what do we need to change in terms of student behavior to rectify the situation to stop the spread.

What has the Student Activities office been doing to promote socializing on campus while remaining safe? 

Dr. Moore: Sarah Guzzo, the director of Student Activities, has done a tremendous job of finding novel ways to engage students. College….is what you do with your time during your week and to socialize with yours. She has been very creative and working with her staff [Off the Hook]…to see what would work and offered some neat opportunities…She is working to still give a quality out of classroom experience.  

Do you have any comments you would like to share with the community?

President Miller: …I would say that everyday is a new set of challenges because this is so unpredictable, but I can say on behalf of the Emergency Response Team and the President’s cabinet…that this institution has an extremely experienced group that everyday is thinking through every detail and is looking to make the best decision possible for the good of the entire campus community, which gives me a special sense of pride as the President…Is everything perfect? No, but…we are doing everything for the good of the campus community as a whole…I have never seen a campus community rally around each other in a positive way and address something that is a serious national issue and look after the wellbeing of everyone else in the campus community while also maintaining a focus on their academics which is what is so special about this place.

President Miller was able to summarize the goal of this semester very well at the end of the interview. As the interview concluded, he said, “Stay Positive, Stay Focused, and Stay Safe.” The university thanks the community for their continued effort to staying safe and healthy, and reminds students to finish this semester strong.

By Lauren Faulkner