University News

Staying Safe, Staying Golden: WNE Rises to Meet the Moment as the COVID-19 Pandemic Unfolds

Published: May 07, 2020 | Categories: Alumni
As the Covid-19 Pandemic unfolded, the Western New England University community rose to meet the challenge to support our students. Here are some highlights:

On March 30, all classes were moved to remote learning for the remainder of the spring semester and throughout summer sessions. The University reimbursed students over $3.9 million for housing and meal plans for the six weeks remaining in the spring semester. Undergraduate summer courses were discounted to a new rate of $450 per credit. Graduating seniors were offered a waiver for two free graduate courses if they enroll in a full-time master’s program in the upcoming academic year.

The Office of Development quickly created a Student Emergency Fund drive to assist undergraduate and graduate students with emergency needs, which raised $6,040. A separate Law Student Emergency Fund raised $32,313. Through the CARES Act Student Emergency Relief Grant Aid the University also moved quickly to disburse grant aid of $1,342,302 to full-time students eligible for federal aid who applied for reimbursement for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus.

Student support services, including peer tutoring, academic advising, counseling, career advising, student disability services, diversity services, spiritual life, and library access also moved virtual to help students navigate online learning and prepare for final exams.

The Office of Student Activities got creative with virtual programming, including a Virtual 5K, plus virtual games, open mics, painting, meditation, yoga, and even therapy dog sessions. Clubs sponsored a virtual Last Lecture and used social media to host virtual events.

The Career Development Center offered virtual career fairs and resume workshops, including a webinar on how to successfully job hunt in the midst of the crisis. The School of Law and College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences also offered online career support to students and alumni.

Admissions efforts continued on all fronts, including a live virtual Accepted Students Day for undergraduates (viewed 2,000+ times). The effort doubled student/faculty-produced videos on our YouTube channel. Capitalizing on a national trend, a multimedia Stay Local/Go Far campaign was launched to recruit students from throughout the region as the deadline for first year and transfer students to apply for admission was extended to August 15.

Using Zoom, the School of Law held an Open House and offered virtual conferencing with student ambassadors. The School also offered programs to help prospective and current students navigate the changes to the administration of LSAT and Bar Exams. The College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences conducted individual video calls with prospective students and interview/info sessions online.

Admitted students/families received ongoing support from financial aid advisors, faculty/student led panel series, a weekly video series introducing community members, and a Virtual Athletics Prospect Day. Coaches remained in close contact with current and incoming student-athletes. Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR) was reimagined as a series of virtual information sessions to onboard new students for fall.

At press time, we are moving forward with plans to welcome students to campus this fall barring extensions to state mandated closings. Extensive contingency planning is in place to support the continuation of student learning at WNE.