Dear Saint Mary’s community,

We’ve just passed a significant milestone: the one year mark when this pandemic began and all of our learning suddenly shifted online. The nation has suffered a great loss recording close to 550,000 deaths and eternal sadness for families and loved ones. At Saint Mary’s, we’ve all adapted to a university that may look and feel quite different, one filled with masks, social distancing, and virtual events, but is at heart the same Lasallian Catholic family. Now, more than ever, we see hope on the horizon.

We are incredibly grateful for our faculty who quickly shifted to adapt their curricula and become masters of online engagement. And we’re especially grateful for our students who have worked diligently to keep one another safe — all while maintaining a positive and flexible spirit. We’ve had a very successful year thus far due to your hard work and creativity. We’re grateful that so many of the aspects we love about Saint Mary’s haven’t changed despite this pandemic. We’ve held onto hope throughout these past 12 months.

Encouraged by our successes and the rapid pace at which the COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed around the U.S., we want to confirm that Saint Mary’s is planning to return safely to fully in-person teaching and learning in fall 2021. We are so pleased that the vaccine is now being made available to our faculty, staff, and students. We also are encouraged by the newly expanded guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those vaccinated.

This fall, we look forward to a full schedule of activities that reflect our identity as a Lasallian Catholic university. On the Winona Campus, courses will return to their regular mode of operation. We are also excited to announce that, at the undergraduate College, we will return to a traditional academic calendar, not one abbreviated due to pandemic conditions. On the Rochester and Twin Cities campuses, graduate and professional courses will also return to standard methods of delivery, as determined on a course-by-course basis. Please watch here for more information.

We are excited to return to a vibrant, robust, hands-on living and learning environment and to remove obstacles preventing our students from achieving their personal and professional goals.

The safety of our community will always be our top priority, and we will make adjustments to safety protocols and course delivery as needed. We are thankful that many of our community members have already been vaccinated, and we encourage everyone to become vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. Even with vaccinations becoming more available, the CDC and other health officials are cautioning all to remain vigilant and follow safety guidelines. Currently, Saint Mary’s is not requiring the vaccine prior to returning, but this decision is subject to change based on city, state, or federal regulations or recommendations.

We have remained steadfast and resilient and have maintained a caring and connected community. The lessons we’ve learned will ultimately make us better educators, students, and citizens. We ask for your continued patience this spring and summer as plans may fluctuate based on local and federal guidelines and state and regional COVID-19 contagion levels. We promise to communicate with you regularly in our newsletters and will update our Steadfast and Resilient website at smumn.edu/covidplanning.

Together, we are Saint Mary’s!

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