Dear Ole Miss Parents –
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet with a large number of students to check-in and gather feedback about their experiences this semester. Their commitment to the pursuit of a college education and the passion that they exhibit for Ole Miss is truly outstanding.
I want to share an update with you about a number of steps that we are taking to support our students further for the fall and in preparation for the spring. When we made the decision to resume instruction for the fall semester, we knew it would not be an easy task. Feedback from our students, faculty, staff and families is incredibly important, and it has informed a number of initiatives now underway to enhance student support and campus activities as outlined below.
Academics for Spring 2021
- Offer more in-person (face-to-face and hybrid) courses – We remain committed to holding as many face-to-face courses as we possibly can, and we are looking at new and additional ways to make that happen. Departments are finalizing their course formats for the spring semester, and we will assess those in relation to available spaces to hold classes. Once approved and finalized, course formats will not change unless under special circumstances related to the pandemic. The Spring 2021 course catalog will be made available online later this week.
- Expand the number of places where we host classes, including potentially off-campus locations, to maximize opportunities for face-to-face instruction while also practicing social distancing in the classroom – We will also expand our use of non-traditional spaces on campus to hold classes. It is worth noting that in normal times, we hold relatively few large classes compared to other flagship public universities. That means we have fewer auditorium-style classrooms. As a result, reduced classroom capacities required to maintain social distancing give us fewer options to host our larger classes on campus, which is why we extended our search for space to off-campus venues. We will use any space that will allow for more face-to-face instruction.
- Opened more options for registered student organizations to host activities off campus – The university has launched a pilot to expand student social activities safely. The pilot allows some off-campus social gatherings under delineated parameters and requirements. We hope to expand upon this plan at the conclusion of the pilot. (See Oct. 19 message to students for details.)
- Created additional efforts to direct students to the full range of campus resources including supplemental instruction, tutoring, counseling services, and more. Our Division of Student Affairs contacted all freshmen by text to ask if they needed any assistance. Several hundred responded, and we are working with students individually to address their needs.
- Extended hours of operation for the J.D. Williams Library on campus – On weekdays, the library will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The library will also be open on Saturdays (except on home football Saturdays) and Sundays.
- Expand co-curricular opportunities for student engagement – We kicked off our Bright Pathways initiatives task force, which is developing a framework to offer additional co-curricular activities through academic departments and further engage faculty and students in topics related to their disciplines and programs.
- Make more on-campus spaces available for student organizations and groups to meet – In addition to meeting rooms in the Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union, we will make classroom spaces open to registered student organizations when available. These groups are also being encouraged to meet outdoors.
- Expand student programming – Students can visit the ForUM website for information about the full array of registered student organizations. Please encourage your student to learn more about the hundreds of organizations in which they can get involved and grow their leadership skills at Ole Miss.
- Instituted direct outreach in dorms to check on individual students – The Center for Student Success and First Year Experience is working with Student Housing staff to reach out to individual students who may have struggled in midterms or are known to be struggling in other ways. This “door knock” campaign will allow us to connect students to a full range of campus resources.
- Publicize additional opportunities for engagement to students and faculty — In an effort to enhance our students’ connection to campus life, we created another touchpoint with our students at the start of this semester by launching a weekly student newsletter, The Powder Blue. This publication provides student-focused updates, tips, events, resources and more.
- Add picnic tables around campus to promote gathering places for students – In response to a request from a student leadership advisory council, we are adding 75 picnic tables across campus to allow small groups to gather in order to enhance social connections across our campus community. We want our students to be able to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.
Please know that we are striving every day to make the most of this environment for our students. Our focus has never wavered in our mission to transform lives and communities through higher education. We will continue to work hard each day for your student.
Glenn F. Boyce