As the 2020-21 academic year comes to a close at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, there are multiple success stories that wouldn’t be surprising in a typical May.
More than 1,500 students graduate on Saturday. The campus’s American Marketing Association chapter reigns supreme. A Warhawk is headed to the NFL. A physics professor has received a U.S. patent. And UW-Whitewater Enactus will represent the U.S. at the World Cup.
But this was not a typical year.
From classroom learning to athletics to student organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the university to operate in different ways in order to be successful. And it required the participation and commitment of faculty, staff and students to take every step possible to stay well and protect one other.
“I’m immensely proud of the way our university community came together to carry out our academic mission and to serve the greater community,” said Chancellor Dwight C. Watson. “The challenges were many, and the ever-changing nature of the pandemic added additional complications, but we persevered as a Warhawk family.”
To date, UW-Whitewater has conducted nearly 80,000 COVID-19 tests — about 55,000 for faculty, staff and students on campus, and about 25,000 at testing sites for community members. Multiple partners help to fund and support the testing programs, including UW-Whitewater, UW System, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Robust COVID-19 testing helped keep case numbers down,” said Matt Kiederlen, chief of police and chair of the Emergency Operations Committee, which led the execution of UW-Whitewater’s COVID-19 response. “When you combine that with mask wearing, social distancing and adjusted room capacities, it allowed us to safely offer more in-person experiences this year. At this point, our antigen positives are less than one percent.”
UW-Whitewater’s COVID-19 Office/Hotline has responded to 13,000 phone calls and emails, providing critical information about health, safety and university operations. Meanwhile, the contact tracing team has assisted more than 3,000 faculty, staff and students.
And as vaccines have rolled out across the country, University Health and Counseling Services made sure faculty, staff and students were informed so they could take advantage of vaccine opportunities.
“When supply arrived, we quickly and efficiently distributed vaccines on campus. By May 20, we’re projected to have given about 1,800 doses, including the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. About 196 of those were given to community members,” said Julie Martindale, director of health services.
Now, UW-Whitewater looks toward summer, when popular athletic, music and academic camps will take place with established safety protocols.
And it’s looking like a much more normal fall semester.
“We’re looking forward to in-person classes as they were pre-pandemic, residence halls as they were pre-pandemic with extended move-in processes, along with dining halls, athletics, arts and other expected activities,” Watson said. “We do not yet know what, if any, modifications will remain in place as we return in the fall. Just as our protocols under COVID-19 have been based on county, state and federal health department guidelines, our path to a safe fall 2021 will continue to be based on this guidance.”