Welcome Back, Bellarmine

June 17, 2020

Dear Bellarmine Students and Families,

Since March, when we moved teaching and learning online to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we have been eagerly anticipating the day when the Bellarmine community could reconvene in person.

I am delighted, therefore, to announce that we will reopen campus and welcome students back for classes on Aug. 20. We can’t wait to greet our new first-year students and reconnect with sophomores through graduate students. For those of us in higher education, nothing is more hopeful, more renewing, than fall semester.

You will notice some changes this semester designed to minimize exposure to, and potential spread of, the COVID-19 virus. I am proud of the approach we are taking to reopening, which balances our desire to provide students with a robust, in-person university experience with the need for health-conscious policies.

A Steering Committee on Contingency Planning that is co-chaired by Bellarmine’s senior vice president and the dean of our School of Nursing and Clinical Sciences has been working tirelessly since May to develop these policies, which adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kentucky public health officials.

The biggest change is to the academic calendar. In order to minimize back-and-forth student travel—and therefore reduce opportunities for students to contract or spread the virus—we will end classroom instruction by the week before Thanksgiving by eliminating the Labor Day holiday and fall break. Once students go home for Thanksgiving, they will remain at home through the end of the calendar year. Final exams will be conducted online. (Students who have a reason to remain in the residence halls, such as winter season student-athletes, will be able to do so.)

We will ensure that students and faculty are appropriately distanced from each other in all classroom settings, whether that’s a lecture or a lab. Our faculty are also busy this summer developing flexible hybrid courses that combine in-person and online delivery that will ensure students have the personal attention that makes the Bellarmine educational experience special.

We will also practice distancing in all public areas, including dining halls, where you will find more “grab-and-go” options than before.

Community members will wear face coverings in community areas—in fact, we will be providing Bellarmine-branded face coverings for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff so that we can be stylish and safe.

Students will still be able to participate in our wide variety of extracurricular activities, although some may be meeting in smaller groups than usual.

Ensuring a healthy return to campus will require some adaptations. But at Bellarmine, where we have an average student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1 and a focus on the individual success of each student, we are in a much better position to make this pivot than larger schools.

Some factors are beyond our control, of course. We will continually monitor news and guidance from Kentucky public health officials and the CDC, and we will keep you updated at our website: www.bellarmine.edu/welcome-back.

For now, however, we are positive, prepared, and optimistic. We remain fully committed to continuing the essential work of educating students in mind, body, and spirit for meaningful lives, rewarding careers, ethical leadership, and service to improve the human condition—while taking the precautions that will keep our entire community healthy.

We look forward to seeing you in August!

Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D.