Thanksgiving is a perfect time for people – and even colleges – to pause and reflect on the many things they have to be thankful for, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Reflecting on what has been a successful fall 2020 semester to date, Alfred State College (ASC) is thankful to have welcomed students and faculty back to campus this past August and to have just recently completed in-person instruction last Friday, among many other achievements. The lessons learned from this fall’s successful semester have helped to shape ASC’s plan for offering in-person instruction again for the spring semester.
“We are thankful for the best semester we could offer given the challenges we needed to overcome,” said Alfred State President Dr. Skip Sullivan.
Alfred State began this fall semester with guarded optimism, like many other colleges and universities. Due to the unique hands-on programs at Alfred State, however, Alfred State had among the very highest number of in-person classes offered across the entire SUNY system, with 87 percent of ASC’s sections delivered in person, compared to 16 percent for SUNY overall and 31 percent for colleges of technology. This helps students who benefit from and purposefully chose applied programs. In addition, Alfred State’s residential population was at 93 percent occupancy (within a 3-4 percent range of typical occupancy).
The summer planning to build a comprehensive reopening plan went into implementation with the college’s faculty and staff working hard to provide the best possible student experience. In addition to taking classes in person, Student Life was diligently working to keep students engaged.
While Athletics was not able to compete against other colleges, the teams were able to practice their sport, and the department’s coaches assisted with recreational opportunities, offering 238 recreational programs including Wednesday walks and Monday stretches. Student Engagement offered 530 programs, within a 5 percent range of the previous year’s 557. To avoid having crowds at events on campus, the college used innovative approaches and video platforms to share its marquis events such as Alfred’s Got Talent.
In order to make the semester even possible, the college needed to test heavily for COVID-19. Its Health and Wellness Services team and many staff volunteers completed nearly 10,000 pool, antigen/rapid, and PCR tests to make sure ASC could nimbly mitigate any infections on campus.
“Intense contact tracing efforts allowed the college to learn much about how a virus could spread on campus,” said Dr. Gregory Sammons, vice president for Student Affairs. “Our classrooms (lectures) proved to be a safe environment as no transmissions of the virus were attributed to attendance in lectures. The limited spread we have faced occurred in apartments, suites, and among tight social circles.”
In addition to all of these achievements, the college is also thankful for the support of students, faculty, staff, and community members.
“We are thankful for you,” Sullivan told the college community. “Without you, we would not have been successful in offering the best possible semester. We consistently operated well below the statewide or county’s positivity rates. When we needed to adapt the end of the in-person instruction due to a county surge, we put safety first and changed our final week’s methods. With the highest percentage of in-person classes and occupancy, we did this thanks to you. This Thanksgiving, we are truly thankful.”