UMSL preparing to welcome back students for fall semester with support services, events held in person

Fall Expo

Students should expect to find more life on campus this fall with improving public health trends in the St. Louis region opening the door for in-person activities. (Photo by August Jennewein)

With COVID-19 cases plummeting across the St. Louis region and an ever-increasing number of people vaccinated across the state, the University of Missouri–St. Louis is ready to see in-person activity return to campus this fall.

While the university will continue to offer a robust array of online and hybrid courses, students will be able to take courses fully in person with classrooms open at full capacity in the fall. Students also can count on support services to be staffed in person across campus, ready to tend to their needs. Similarly, in-person events will resume as well this fall.

“We are absolutely looking forward to returning to campus, engaging face to face with our students and providing the support needed,” Dean of Students D’Andre Braddix said. “The virtual options for us to engage allowed us to meet the core educational needs of our students over the past year, but we value that face-to-face interaction – seeing our students, seeing the life and activity on campus, having that ability to engage with your faculty member as you’re leaving a class or strike up a conversation with the student sitting next to you. Those opportunities for engagement and connection take place in person much more organically than online.”

Plans for a fall semester much closer to the pre-pandemic normal are picking up with Tuesday’s announcement that, in alignment with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, UMSL is no longer requiring fully vaccinated students, faculty, staff or visitors to wear face coverings or maintain social distancing when entering or occupying university owned, operated or managed facilities and outdoor areas.

UMSL was able to take these steps because the weekly average of positive coronavirus cases in St. Louis County has dropped to its lowest levels in the past year, and more than half of all eligible people across the state of Missouri are at least partially vaccinated. That number continues to grow.

The university is still strongly advising people who are not fully vaccinate to wear a face covering and to practice social distancing when around other people to protect their own health and the health of those around them because they remain at risk of contracting and transmitting the coronavirus. Likewise, it is strongly encouraging all vaccine-eligible individuals to become fully vaccinated as soon as possible and to continue to follow general safety guidelines and precautions.

The positive public health trends are also allowing a reopening of communal spaces across campus, including in the Millennium Student Center with the quiet lounge available for students to study and seating restored to the second-floor rotunda and the Nosh. There should be more variety available in the Nosh and other campus dining spaces, and the expectation is they’ll have increased hours of operation.

Residential dining spaces will feature in-person dining again along with takeout options, and residents of Oak Hall will again be permitted to welcome guests, use common lounges and have access to the pool in season.

The pool is already open at the Recreation and Wellness Center, but Campus Recreation staff are planning to increase the amount of equipment available in the facility, open courts for drop-in play and host intramural sports this fall.

Jessica Long-Pease, the senior director for student affairs, and her team, including in the Office of Student Involvement, have also started planning for in-person events, including orientation sessions in July and August for both freshman and transfer students, and for Welcome Week activities and the Fall Expo in August.

“We’re super excited to welcome students back to campus and to get them back into engagement activities and to find ways for them to connect with other students, faculty and staff,” Long-Pease said. “That whole face-to-face piece is so crucial, especially for our first-time college students, and I think that’s something that they all mentioned they were really missing in the last year. So, to be able to provide that for the upcoming semester is really exciting.”

They also understand that many individuals remain concerned about the risks of COVID-19, and they will continue to provide services and offer some programming remotely to meet students where they’re most comfortable.

The university will also continue to offer accommodations for students and employees related to COVID-19. Students requesting COVID-related academic accommodations should contact Disability Access Services while employees should contact the Office of Human Resources.

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