Students, Faculty, and Staff-
Several weeks ago, I shared with you Concordia University Chicago’s Return to Campus plan, which spelled out our decision to reopen campus this fall with a mix of on-campus, hybrid, and online courses. In that moment, the document reflected the best possible plan for continuing to offer an exceptional education, both on campus and online. If we have learned nothing else in 2020, it’s that conditions surrounding COVID-19 continue to evolve, and we must be flexible enough to change plans accordingly. Amid ongoing prayer and detailed research and planning, it is again necessary to adapt our plans to further protect the University and our people against the growing pandemic.
As a result, CUC announces today that all classes for the fall 2020 semester will be delivered in a 100% online format. Reducing the number of face-to-face interactions will provide a significantly better opportunity for the University to sustain a safe campus environment. Our first priority remains the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We also extend our care and concern for the welfare of the wider Concordia-Chicago community, which includes those who live with, or come into close contact with, our students.
Our most meaningful work here at CUC is to form students for lives of influence and service for the common good. This is the purpose that draws us together as a welcoming Christian community dedicated to teaching and learning. Therefore, we are excited to announce that campus housing will remain open and available this fall for all who wish to live and learn together with their peers. Those who are able to join us as residential students will continue to take part in vibrant student life and engaging experiences throughout the fall, even though we know campus life will look a bit different from normal, with safety precautions like social distancing and mask wearing.
The shift to online learning this past spring stretched all of our gifted faculty to expand their teaching skills. Over the course of this summer, most of our faculty members have participated in additional training to strengthen their online teaching. We will also implement the use of Zoom across the University, which should enhance our students’ online learning experiences. I am confident our faculty are well prepared to provide an outstanding learning experience for our students this fall.
Classes will begin on Monday, August 24, as originally scheduled. On campus, you can expect offices to be open for business. Student services will provide regular support, both in-person and virtually. We are also looking forward to a non-traditional fall sports season, which will offer student-athletes exciting new opportunities. Our music ensembles will move forward with plans to practice for and deliver virtual concerts this semester. Residential students will still have the opportunity to participate in on-campus worship and events, and all students can connect with one another through the many virtual events we have planned. All of this, and much more, will be contained within forthcoming revisions to the comprehensive Return to Campus plan.
Our Admission and Student Life teams are working diligently to finalize updated plans for student check-in. Likewise, residence halls will open with revised options, with the goal of providing nearly every student who chooses to live on campus with a single room. Please see the housing FAQ linked below, and watch for separate communications about check-in processes in the coming days.
Each of you also plays an integral role in the success of our safe return to campus this fall. Keep an eye out for details about our new Cougar Care Commitment, through which we will all pledge to care for ourselves and one another. We will also be introducing a new smartphone app that will assist those on campus with conducting a daily personal health assessment, and will provide CUC with the data needed to conduct contact tracing on campus, should it become necessary.
We are grateful for your patience, as we work to respond appropriately to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present. The current situation is unusually fluid and subject to change. In the midst of this unprecedented uncertainty, the University seeks to provide clear and consistent direction to members of its extended community. Our intention, beyond protecting the health and safety of our University community, is to avoid the disruption in learning that would occur if the pandemic forced us to close the campus. Given our long and rich history, we are committed as a Lutheran university to demonstrating integrity by aligning our practices with our beliefs. This includes making decisions that help us provide a rigorous, transformative education to all our students, while doing everything we can to protect the members of our extended University community.
Most importantly, we will still provide an education that keeps Jesus Christ at the center of all we do. Concordia-Chicago remains faithful to our Lutheran identity and our formation of students through the pursuit of truth. Our students will continue to discover how God is calling them each day to serve others and grow in faithfulness.
Of course, no plan is perfect amid a pandemic that is fraught with uncertainty. And yet together, as the Concordia family, we have continued to endure and adapt to constant change. I could not be more proud of the resilience exhibited by you—our students, faculty, and staff. Please continue to lift each other up and provide the support needed to move forward with the new academic year.
In a year unlike any other, God’s wisdom and grace continue to guide our steps as we journey together. I invite you to join us as we open the academic year in praise and celebration of His glory during our virtual Opening Service on Sunday, August 23.
Dr. Russell Dawn, President