Tag Archive for COVID-19

Adherence to Safety Protocols Results in Safe and Successful Fall Semester

campusWesleyan’s careful planning, creative problem-solving, and exemplary adherence to safety protocols have resulted in the campus community staying together this semester. For the third week in a row, Wesleyan has 0 reported cases of COVID-19.

“This is a proud and happy moment for us all,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a recent Public Health Update. “At the same time, it is a precarious moment. We understand that the pandemic is still with us and that the public health context can change at any time.”

With these considerations in mind, Wesleyan will hold Thanksgiving Recess from Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Monday, Nov. 30. Classes resume remotely on Tuesday, Dec. 1, with all classes and exams conducted online for the remainder of the semester. Students may return to campus for the spring semester beginning Friday, Feb. 5, and classes will begin online on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

“These are challenging times, but I am heartened by the many ways that you have risen to these challenges,” Roth said. “Thank you for all you are doing to care for yourselves and one another.”

Pictured below, while practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, students enjoyed a sunny afternoon on campus Oct. 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Working at Wes during a Pandemic: Hurteau Helps Science Library Adapt to New Social Distancing Guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the way faculty teach, students learn, and staff work to help the University. In this article, we spotlight Linda Hurteau, Science Library assistant, who has helped make the library a safe environment for patrons and staff alike.

The once busy and bustling Science Library, which stays open until 2 a.m. to accommodate those who study late into the night, is open for service this fall semester. However, the pandemic has drastically changed the way students interact with and use the library. And no one knows this better than Science Library Assistant Linda Hurteau, a 16-year veteran of Wesleyan Libraries.

“Most people are aware that Sci Li has always been the ‘noisy library’ because, from the basement to the second floor, the building is basically designed for students to be more social and group-study-friendly,” Hurteau said. “Without the ability to study in groups during this semester, we have less student traffic, and it feels very different and much quieter.”

Prior to the pandemic, Hurteau would come to campus prepared for a busy day of dealing with the remnants of the day before: searching for requested books, fixing jammed printers, maintaining copiers, working with fines and fees, putting furniture back where it belongs, and dealing with various building issues.

“I’d deal with so many students every day, and as any student who used the Science Library knows, we are a science library and supply store in one. We had always had available for any student pencils, pens, markers, staplers, scissors, folders, envelopes, and just about any other office supply they needed for their classwork. Obviously, lots of unseen projects are always happening, with library materials coming in and out and back on the shelf.”

But nowadays, Hurteau has altered her daily routine to emphasize keeping her library community safe.

Although students continue to frequent Sci Li to use public computers and printers, or to study or relax, the facility’s capacity may not exceed 50 percent. All library-goers and library staff wear masks at all times and practice social distancing.

Like students who first arrived on campus, the books also go through a quarantine period (of four days) before being recirculated. “We have the book stacks closed or off-limits at this time, and I think many students actually prefer it this way,” Hurteau said. “They request their books online, and we have them ready for students to grab and go in the lobby.”

The circulation desk is now lined with a clear, plexiglass wall to provide the staff and student workers with separation from the public. And the library’s lobby was reconfigured, by Hurteau, to allow for a safe and redirected traffic flow. You simply follow the oversized arrows.

“I have designed and constructed many parade floats on land and water for various holidays or other reasons. Anybody who works with large-scale temporary mediums knows we use lots of duct tape, cardboard, and zip ties,” she said. “I must have 50 different colors of duct tape. Using a couple carpet runners and those under-your-desk-chair carpet protectors, and making bright neon arrows out of duct tape on them, gets attention. It works very well for us.”

Hurteau credits the operating successes of the Science Library and Olin Library during the pandemic to early planning. Library staff began COVID-19 discussions as early as February and developed hypothetical scenarios and talked out various solutions to potential problems.

“Despite what some people may think, library people are very adaptable,” Hurteau said. “We knew we needed to successfully finish the semester.”

Hurteau recalls discussing how faculty could have all their course content available online; how the libraries could accommodate students’ needs in their pursuit to finish the academic year and earn their degree; how to deal with late books and waiving fines; how the campus community would retrieve their library materials; and who would and could work remotely.

“It was very obvious from the start that most of the circulation and reserve staff would still need to come to campus and work in the buildings. Once everything settled down from the spring 2020 semester, the digital requests for fall 2020 started coming in. Tons of scanning is still being done to upload for faculty course requests and reserves.”

Hurteau worked from home full-time for only two weeks and continued to manage 40 student workers through emails and Zoom meetings. “Once it was decided that the Science Library could offer many of the services we previously had through contactless means, it was (almost) business as usual,” she said.

In addition to working at the Science Library, Hurteau volunteers as a team captain for Wesleyan’s Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT).

“CERT members and Physical Plant staff have been . . . unsung heroes to many during this time,” she said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic and up until two days ago, it was mostly CERT members who would deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner to students in quarantine on- and off-campus and be responsible for all the PPE kits on campus, from ordering and filling the bags, to distributing them to students, staff, and faculty. CERT members also would be the people on campus at 6 a.m., setting up the COVID testing tent, and in the evenings they would be the ones to pack it up for the day.”

Students Explore New Reality through Dance

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the third of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center. Kolcio also is a core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs at Wesleyan. This fall, she’s teaching DANC 216: Contemporary Dance Technique: Dancing During Pandemic; DANC 435: Advanced Dance Practice A; and DANC 445: Advanced Dance Practice B.

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Katja Kolcio, pictured in the background in black clothing, teaches her Dancing During Pandemic class Sept. 4 near the Wesleyan softball field. Students keep a 12-foot distance between themselves. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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Twenty-five students are enrolled in the Dancing During Pandemic course.

In a standard Wesleyan dance technique course, students corral inside a studio setting and work to develop artistic virtuosity in a particular dance genre: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, West African, South Indian, and Afro-Brazilian.

But when the pandemic and its effects fundamentally altered the way people interact, communicate, and engage with one another, Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, decided to design a course specifically focusing on bringing attention to the physical experience of our new reality. So she created the practice-based course DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic, open to all students.

“It’s common to feel too busy to dedicate attention to our physical sensations and experiences, or to the way in which new ideas or realities encountered in the world resonate within us,” Kolcio said. “So with this course, we examine, ‘How do we physically and socially navigate the new environment?’ We need to fully engage in our physical selves and awareness and bring greater attention to the ways humans utilize our physical and creative capacities.”

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression


Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

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Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.

Cooperation, Careful Planning Drive Successful Reactivation Efforts

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Following a mandatory two-week quarantine, students continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week on campus. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Following a carefully coordinated return to campus and an initial period of remote learning during Connecticut’s mandated two-week quarantine, just two students and three employees at Wesleyan have tested positive for COVID-19 to date this fall. The low positivity rate, well under 0.1% of the entire campus population and tracked regularly on Wesleyan’s COVID-19 dashboard, reflects the care and planning that have gone into preparing the campus for the fall semester, as well as commendable adherence to safety protocols by the Wesleyan campus community. More than 15,000 tests have already been conducted.

Students are required to wear masks in all public spaces.

Students and Wesleyan employees are required to wear masks in all public spaces.

“Our positivity rate on campus is lower than in Connecticut and we’re very pleased about that,” said Rick Culliton, associate vice president and dean of students, during a virtual All-Staff Convocation on Sept. 10. “We know that’s because of the hard work of our students, and of our testing to be able to isolate . . .  watching all of the students wear masks, having physical distance between each other, and adhering to what we’re asking them to do has really been a very positive thing to see.”

Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs, noted in a Sept. 6 message that the community’s care and diligence in following quarantine and safety protocols helped the University maintain positivity rates “well below the levels predicted by modeling.” This allowed Wesleyan to move forward into its first week of in-person classes, which saw the University maintain its low case count throughout the week. Wesleyan was recently among schools highlighted for “seemingly crack(ing) the code” in effectively navigating an in-person opening.

Culliton and President Michael Roth ’78 cited Wesleyan’s Reactivating Campus plan as a crucial part of these efforts, specifically the Community Agreement, which suggests that all members of the Wesleyan community “must act in a manner that demonstrates respect and consideration for the health and safety of others and are prohibited from creating a health or safety hazard.” Students, faculty, and staff must undergo regular COVID-19 testing, adhere to social distancing standards, and wear face coverings in classrooms and outside private spaces. They must exercise precautionary sanitization practices including regular hand washing, limiting gatherings on campus to a maximum of 25 individuals, suspending University-sponsored travel, and not permitting campus visitors. In addition, all students were required to participate in a 14-day quarantine upon arriving on campus.

Faculty Share Insights on Teaching during a Pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the first of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an online or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Naho Maruta from the College of East Asian Studies; Alison O’Neil from the Chemistry Department; and Ron Jenkins from the Theater Department.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, chose to teach her fall 2020 classes entirely online because several students in her Japanese language classes are international students who were not able to make it back to campus this fall due to travel restrictions. Even her foreign language teaching assistant is working remotely from Japan.

“It’s important we’re live and synchronous because we have lots of conversation activities,” Maruta said. “Luckily, all students in my class are either in the Eastern Standard time zone or in Asia time zone, so having an 8:50 a.m. class works for both sides, even synchronously.”

During a regular semester, Maruta would create “language partners” by pairing students in upper-level Japanese courses with Wesleyan students from Japan, but with most native Japanese students off-campus, she began a new collaboration with Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

Classes Begin Online during Quarantine Period

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university community was under a quarantine period from Aug. 24 to Sept. 6. Students were asked to take a COVID-19 test prior to leaving home, were tested again upon arrival, and will be tested twice a week as the semester gets underway.

Through multiple platforms, including Zoom and Moodle, faculty taught all classes remotely during the first week. Following the quarantine period, faculty have the option to teach courses entirely online, in-person, or through a hybrid system through the Thanksgiving break, after which all faculty are prepared to return to distance learning.

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, taught her first DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic course online during the quarantine, but she'll move to in-person classes for the rest of the fall semester. "While the world is telling us to be remote, it's important, more than ever, to be together in a physical way," she said. The pandemic is changing how we relate, stand with each other, talk and communicate, and make meaning in groups ... so one of the most important ways to find our way forward is to explore: What does it mean to be in this new world? How do we orient ourselves in new conditions? How can we feel, how can we relate to one another in our physical selves?"

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, taught her first DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic class online during the quarantine, but she’ll move to in-person classes for the rest of the fall semester. “While the world is telling us to be remote, it’s important, more than ever, to be together in a physical way,” she said. “The pandemic is changing how we relate, stand with each other, talk and communicate, and make meaning in groups … so one of the most important ways to find our way forward is to explore: What does it mean to be in this new world? How do we orient ourselves in new conditions? How can we feel, how can we relate to one another in our physical selves?”

Damien Sheehan-Connor, associate professor of economics, is teaching ECON 222: Public Economics through Zoom.

Damien Sheehan-Connor, associate professor of economics, draws a “Utility Possibilities Frontier” figure on an iPad during his remote ECON 222: Public Economics course. This fall, Sheehan-Connor is teaching his class exclusively through Zoom. “So far it seems to be going relatively well, though it is early,” he said. “I give lectures using some mix of slides and drawing on the ‘board’ while posing questions to the class and welcoming questions that the students have.” Although he teaches in a similar way online to how he taught in-person, the most drastic change has been in how he assesses the students. He’s reduced the number of exams and added a research paper to the course requirements. “The remaining exams will also be ‘open book.’ This is not a big change since my exams tend to emphasize problem-solving and demonstrating understanding rather than testing knowledge of facts,” he said.

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Sasha Rudensky ’01, associate professor of art, is teaching ARST 253: Digital Photography I through a hybrid system, however she’s teaching Photo I in-person only.

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, is teaching ENVS 361: Living in a Polluted World. This course treats the occurrences and origins, natural pathways, toxicologies, and histories of the major environmental contaminants.

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, is teaching ENVS 361: Living in a Polluted World. This course treats the occurrences and origins, natural pathways, toxicologies, and histories of the major environmental contaminants.

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“My goal is that you learn something in this class,” Varekamp said during a remote class on Sept. 3. “I’ll do anything to make that happen.”

 

Class of 2024 Attends Virtual Orientation Program

class of 2024Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state regulations, Wesleyan is delivering its annual Orientation Program virtually through live Zoom meetings, townhalls, and webinars.

Orientation activities began in mid-July, where members of the Class of 2024 and transfer students participated in sessions on charting a course through the open curriculum, sustainability at Wesleyan, wellness, financial aid, student employment, career center information, and working with an academic peer advisor. They also learned the Wesleyan fight song and participated in virtual social events including a virtual escape room, Jeopardy!, drag race bingo, and a magic show.

Sudbury, Mass. resident Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 chose to defer her on-campus enrollment until the spring semester due to the pandemic, but has participated in several first-year orientation webinars.

“After my orientation meetings, I would hang back to ask the leader a question. Multiple times, that simple exchange led to sharing experiences about what spring term was like for each of us or developed into a really in-depth talk about life on the Wes campus. As I started having more of these conversations, not only did I welcome all the information, but I also enjoyed listening to all the personal, on-campus stories these students told. In spite of sitting in my home, I already felt connected to the community,” she said.

Ladiwala also attended several social events, including a virtual escape room.

“After my group completed this fun exercise, we just stayed back and talked for around 20 or 25 minutes about moving in, what dorms we were in and how quarantine was going for us. Even though I am deferring, I was still included in that conversation which really meant a lot to me,” she said. “Even though orientation is over and classes are starting, I am excited to stay in touch with all my Wesleyan friends and am really looking forward to being on campus in the spring!”

Students also participated in several health and safety webinars on returning to campus, COVID-19 testing, and the importance of quarantine.


During an "End of Summer Bash" social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader.

During an “End of Summer Bash” social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader in Zoom “breakout rooms.”

Students Accelerate Their Research Skills through New Summer Bootcamp

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This summer, McNair Fellow Mohammed Ullah ’22, participated in a virtual McNair Bootcamp where he created a hypothetical study titled “One Drug for All RNA Viruses.” “My idea was to make a single drug for all RNA-based viruses, and based on my findings and all the online research I did on the drugs, techniques, etc., I was able to come up with a proposal based on my idea and expand it into something that can happen for several years,” Ullah said. “With the resources and knowledge from a biochemist and virologist, this idea/proposal is something that can happen in real life if people took an interest in it.”

This summer, 12 Wesleyan students who identify as first-generation/low-income learned more about research methods and proposal-writing through the first McNair Bootcamp.

Held in conjunction with Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program and the Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholars (WesMaSS) Program, the bootcamp provided a solution for summer research students who were unable to transition their in person research projects into remote research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You certainly don’t want students doing organic chemistry in their kitchens back home,” said bootcamp co-founder Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry. “Many types of research aren’t able to be translated to ‘virtual research’ in response to campus closing down, so we wanted to make sure these students didn’t have a ‘lost summer’ with respect to their growth as researchers.”

Taylor and Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the McNair Program, focused their new program on teaching students how to conduct independent research. Students learned to brainstorm, build hypotheses, work collaboratively with peers, write a research proposal based on the criterion of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program application, peer-review a research proposal, edit and improve a research proposal, and ultimately craft and present a research poster.

Wesleyan Takes Safety Measures as Students Arrive on Campus

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan is taking many measures to make the campus experience this fall as safe and healthy as possible for all students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to testing students twice weekly for COVID-19, Wesleyan is configuring classrooms, dining areas, and other locations to allow for a minimum of six feet of social distance; janitorial staff is frequently disinfecting and sanitizing areas; and many classes are being offered as a hybrid of in-classroom and online instruction.

Members of the campus community are expected to wear a mask or face covering at all times outside their individual residence or office; maintain a six-foot distance from one another to reduce the risk of infection; and avoid gathering in groups.

“It is critically important that every Wesleyan community member does their individual part for our methods to be effective,” said Wesleyan’s medical director, Dr. Tom McLarney. “Most in-person social events and parties will be prohibited. While this is difficult and contrary to the typical campus experience, these are difficult times. One super-spreader event can overwhelm the campus’s ability to care for our students, and could ultimately result in closure.”

For more information, visit the Reactivating Campus website. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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COVID-19 testing on campus is taking place in a large tent on Andrus Field, with six-foot distancing enforced at the testing site.

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Following arrival to campus, students will be tested twice weekly for COVID-19 to detect the disease in the pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic stage. In addition, in order to comply with the state’s latest guidance, Wesleyan is implementing a mandatory quarantine for all students on campus from Aug. 24 through Sept. 7. (Students arriving after Aug. 24 must expand their quarantine beyond Sept. 7.)