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Dec. 31, 2020 LA GRANDE, Ore. – Fall term at Eastern Oregon University was both markedly different than any other, and also surprisingly the same.
New students arrived on campus and moved into the residence halls, but this year they wore masks. Hands-on learning in labs and performance classes took place outdoors or at a distance. Through it all, on-campus students, faculty and staff took steps to ensure the ongoing safety of the university community.
“Our mission is to provide access to a high-quality university education for students in our region,” said EOU President Tom Insko. “That would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of every person on campus.”
While many on-campus classes were held via remote-access, about half were still taught in-person with physical distancing, masks, and other hygienic practices in place. Student clubs and activities carried on, such as the annual “Duck Hunt” and Get Out the Vote efforts organized by student groups. Monthly scholarly talks took place on Zoom, and EOU even hosted a virtual art show. Music and theatre students recorded an old-timey radio performance that broadcast locally and over the internet. Student-athletes continued to serve the community by packing 2,000 at-home STEM learning kits for fourth graders in rural Oregon.
Junior English/Writing student Emily Andrews said she was anticipating a struggle to adapt to online learning, but she found faculty and classmates engaging even from across a screen.
“I thought the quality of learning and class time might be hindered by remote-access, but I still got a lot out of classes and connected with professors the way I would in a classroom,” Andrews said. “I still wanted to go to class each day, and I knew I could have a conversation with my professor even though we’d only met over Zoom.”
With a fully remote internship and an on-campus job, Andrews said she had concerns about making time for classes, but she achieved a 3.74 GPA and remained in touch with campus life.
“I was expecting the online and hybrid classes to be difficult to balance because this was my busiest term so far, but I actually managed to still be on the Dean’s List,” Andrews said. “It was a lot easier to manage everything than I expected it to be.”
Meanwhile, positive case rates allowed the university to focus on delivering high-quality instruction. Less than 70 students and just 14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since September. A mass testing event for all on-campus students prior to the start of the academic year saw less than 1% of students test positive.
The university launched a full-scale “Healthy Mounties” media campaign during the summer encouraging students and employees to abide by health and safety guidelines. EOU’s mascot, Monty Mountaineer, played a starring role in PSA videos and digital signs on campus.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have remained committed to delivering a high-quality EOU education while protecting our community’s health and well-being.” Insko said. “Low rates of infection during Fall Term and the academic success experienced by our students is proof-positive that we are meeting those goals.”
EOU plans to test all on-campus students at the beginning of Winter Term, and will hold classes remotely for the first week while awaiting test results.
Visit eou.edu/coronavirus for additional information about EOU’s response to the pandemic.
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