Ike Boling, a sophomore studying exercise science, had to quarantine twice this semester after contract tracing revealed that he had been exposed to COVID-19.
As a track athlete who prefers to be active, it wasn’t ideal, he said, but the staff’s care made it bearable. Meals were promptly delivered to his room, along with care packages from his family.
“He was comfortable, and I was confident he was taken care of,” said his mom, Carrie Boling.
Looking back at a semester spent under the specter of the pandemic, an unfortunate necessity was that some students had to quarantine, or even isolate if they tested positive, to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
“That’s obviously not what we want the college experience to be, so the challenge for us is to make sure each student feels as supported as possible, in every way,” said Sean McGreevey, dean of students. “The entire campus rose to this challenge, rallying around them and serving their needs. The Bellarmine Difference was demonstrated daily in innumerable ways.”
Dining services prepared almost 5,000 quarantine meals, including a personalized cupcake for every student’s birthday. Health services averaged 25 outbound calls per day. Support staff coordinated about 1,500 tests.
“It takes a village,” said Elaine Surdyke, Residence Life coordinator for the Siena Complex. “It really takes the whole entire university to make this run. I am so thankful for our Bellarmine family that has been able to keep these students happy and healthy.”
Surdyke said her team is available 24/7 to answer any questions. They check on students daily to make sure they get whatever they need. She personally picked up a prescription at CVS, dropped off groceries, printed class papers and let a mom into a residence room to snatch some forgotten items after the student returned home to quarantine.
“It’s all the little things,” Surdyke said. “It’s making sure these students have everything they need while they are quarantining to continue their college education, be comfortable and have things to do.”
Residence Life created a quarantine service room filled with snacks, drinks, hygiene supplies and other items, so if a student needs anything, they could expedite it.
Patrick Riley, a Residence Life coordinator, said for him, the Bellarmine Difference is about exceeding expectations, especially when it’s a task that’s never been asked of staff before, like serving students in quarantine.
“We had a dad call and say, ‘If I were to go into quarantine, I’d want to go into quarantine at Bellarmine University,’” he said. “That’s super gratifying to hear.”
As executive director of The Fayette Education Foundation, Carrie Boling has kept tabs on the COVID-19 response at a few of Kentucky’s other universities as well.
“I’ve been able to compare, and I’m impressed with Bellarmine,” she said. “I felt very much in the loop.”
Erin McCabe, a first-year student majoring in Art and Radiation Therapy, quarantined in October at her family’s home in Louisville after testing positive for COVID-19. She said communication from the university was helpful. Alice Kimble, director of Health Services, or “Nurse Alice” as she’s affectionately called, phoned to check on her. Her professors were understanding and allowed her more time to finish her work.
McGreevey, head of Bellarmine’s Rapid Response Team, which has met 74 mornings since August, said the semester couldn’t have worked without students following the safety protocols and adapting to the needs of a challenging time.
Surdyke said the students she’s talked to are grateful to be back on campus, even with safety requirements such as wearing masks, distancing and survey testing.
“When we left in March, it was a struggle for many of them,” she said. “They missed campus, so when we came back in August, they were so grateful to move back and have some semblance of normalcy… The overall consensus is they’re just happy to be here. They’ve done a good job following guidelines and respect why they’re in place. They understand that’s why we were able to be here in person.”