Coping with COVID-19: Westminster College Prepares to Meet the Challenge
Dr. Kasi Lacey, Westminster’s Dean of Student Life, rarely stops smiling, even during a crisis. “This is not our first rodeo,” she says determinedly about Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) and Westminster’s long history of overcoming challenges.
Lacey is confident Westminster will weather the worldwide pandemic but recognizes the College is not immune to the extreme stresses being felt throughout the country right now. On March 18, the College announced the difficult decision to move all classes online beginning March 23 and ending with the last day of finals on May 7. Students and faculty will use college-issued Digital Blue iPads for online coursework throughout the remainder of the semester.
The decision came after an initial announcement on March 13 that delayed the return of students from spring break one week. Students and faculty were alerted that online coursework would take place during that time. Lacey says the current extended physical campus closure through May protects all students, faculty and staff from the threat of disease.
“We are doing our best to stay apprised of the latest recommendations at the federal, state and local level and are closely monitoring the response of others in our higher education and local communities,” Lacey says.
Her comments reiterate President Fletch Lamkin’s remarks in a letter on March 18 to students, faculty and staff. “In deciding to move to an online format for the remainder of Spring Semester 2020, we are taking appropriate precautions to prevent the possible spread of infection,” Lamkin explained.
In another letter on March 20 that updated the campus on the latest COVID-19 situation in the local area, Lamkin emphasized that “this is not the time for false bravado or disdain for regulation.” He further implored the Blue Jay Nation to work together and to stay healthy and safe.
In keeping with Lamkin’s recommendations, most Westminster offices began operating remotely on March 19. All campus-sponsored activities and sporting events have been canceled or postponed (refer to the end of this article for a list of major cancellations, postponements and closures).
Meanwhile, Lacey says that her heart goes out to the students, particularly seniors, who currently may feel afraid or uncertain about the future.
“The only thing I can say to our students right now is I am sorry this is happening, and you all deserve better,” Lacey says. “I am incredibly sad that your spring semester has been altered, athletic seasons have been cut short, the format of your classes have been changed, conferences and trips have been canceled or postponed. … Change is hard, and this is so unexpected for us all.”
Lacey adds that students need to take care of themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually right now. She says Westminster’s Wellness Center has reached out to students regarding counseling and health services and that options are available remotely. “We have multiple options for providing counseling and are making telehealth appointments,” she explains.
Students, faculty and staff who are interested in talking with a counselor should contact the Wellness Center at (573) 592-5361 to discuss options and availability.
In addition to the Wellness Center, all campus offices can be reached during this time of remote operations by accessing Westminster’s website at www.wcmo.edu. Faculty and staff who are working from home were encouraged last week to forward their phones and can be reached as usual through the Faculty and Staff Directory found on the site.
Students, faculty and staff will continue to receive information and support in the weeks to come from a variety of departments. Most correspondence will be found on Westminster’s COVID-19 page on its website at www.wcmo.edu.
Beginning this week, campus can expect ongoing support throughout the semester from the Center for Faith and Service (CFS) via CFS’s social media accounts. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate. “If anything sparks your interest, feel free to join in,” says Kiva Nice-Webb, CFS Director and Chaplain. “We’re all in this together during this time, and we’re happy to do our part to help us all make the most of it.”
Lacey echoes Nice-Webb’s sentiment and says the College is encouraging students to reach out to faculty, staff and fellow students if they need additional support. Student Life continually monitors emails, phone calls, text messages and social media. Lacey says the department is happy to help.
“One of the fortunate aspects of working at a small, private college is that we have the honor of working closely with our students, faculty and staff,” Lacey reflects. “We are committed to the personal and professional development of our students, which is highlighted even more in times of stress and crises, and we are going above and beyond to pay special attention to students’ lives at this time.”
To reach out to Lacey, email Kasi.Lacey@westminster-mo.edu. To contact Webb, email Kiva.Nice-Webb@westminster-mo.edu. You can reach the Wellness Center at (573) 592-5361.
The following Westminster events or facilities have been canceled, postponed or closed until further notice:
- S. Lewis Legacy Lecture: Rev. Larry Brown
- In-Person SOAR Events: Virtual SOAR events will take place as an alternative
- All Blue Jays sporting events and SLIAC sports throughout the United States
- Alumni Weekend 2020: Rescheduled to coincide with Homecoming 2020 – moved to Oct. 2-4, 2020
- The Brauer Lecture: Dr. Arthur Brooks – Tentatively rescheduled for Spring 2021
- Churchill Fellows Weekend: Rescheduled for later in the year; date to be determined
- America’s National Churchill Museum is closed to the public until the COVID-19 threat has passed. Please visit their website here to access a variety of Museum resources during this time.
- Westminster College’s physical campus: Students who need to retrieve belongings are to follow strict guidelines emailed to them on March 18. Forms to fill out for this process are found, after properly logging in, on MyWC.