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Latest update on campus operations

COO Larry Sampler reflects on the first weeks of fall 2020 in the first entry of a new Early Bird series.

By Larry Sampler, chief operating officer

September 2, 2020

Larry SamplerDear Roadrunners,

To keep our campus community members in the loop with the latest developments during this atypical fall semester, I’m going to be sharing an update in the Early Bird every other week. These dispatches will focus mainly on campus operations and planning, but also on answering some of the top-level questions I’m hearing from all of you.

I spent much of last week walking around campus, visiting classes and speaking with many of the approximately 2,000 students, faculty and staff on campus for fall. So, I can say with confidence that the first two weeks of the semester have gone very well. From my observations, most of our campus community members are complying with the health and safety measures we put in place. I want to thank everyone who has had a role in communicating and enforcing those guidelines. And I appreciate your continued vigilance, as faculty and staff do set the tone for students.

I want to give a special shout out to the Welcome Back Ambassadors who volunteered to greet students and remind them to mask up as they entered buildings. When I ran into these folks on campus, I would ask them to role play scenarios and, to a person, they were prepared to diffuse any difficult situations. President Davidson volunteered as an ambassador as did Angie Paccione, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. All told, the program was a huge success.  

With the Ambassador Program now finished, and despite a relatively successful return to classes, we need to continue to keep our eyes focused on the health and safety of our community. One thing I have heard from a few Roadrunners is that the relatively empty buildings feel a little eerie. While I haven’t experienced that myself, I do think it’s a reminder that we need to be careful about who has access to our buildings. That’s one of the reasons we’re now asking all Roadrunners to display their MSU Denver ID badges at all times while on campus.   

On the health front, our Health Center at Auraria team continues to demonstrate strong leadership for the campus. I was reassured by a conversation Health Center Director Steve Monaco recounted for me that he had with a public health investigator from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. On the call, Steve explained the procedures we have instituted, and the investigator said we are doing exactly what we need to be. Now, we just need to keep up the good work.

All of this makes me optimistic that we will be able to have at least some more in-person classes on campus for spring 2021, while also building on the strong foundation we have put in place for online coursework. We should have more to report on what the spring semester will look like in the weeks to come. Right now, we have a “Dream Team” working group examining every space on campus and every creative idea from the community to see how we might increase capacity. That group is an offshoot of the Roadrunners Safe Return Committee. This work needs to be complete by Oct. 2, when we have to finalize the course schedule in order to have priority registration begin on Oct. 26.

The pandemic continues to present us with new challenges, but I am comforted by the fact that our president and Board of Trustees have empowered us to do the research and make the best possible decisions for the members of the MSU Denver community. I am so appreciative of the faculty, staff and students who have contributed to this shared effort. I look forward to the day when all of us can be back on campus together.  

Please know that we will continue to communicate relevant information to all of you as soon as we have it. We hold an operations call every Thursday morning with about 50 people, representing every group at the University. I’ve asked the folks on that call to please share all pertinent information with their teams and stakeholders. Our President’s Cabinet, Board of Trustees and Budget Recommendation Committee meetings are open as well, if you want to listen in and raise your voice in this process.

I hope that you will.

With gratitude,

Larry Sampler

Vice president for Administration and Finance and chief operating officer

Topics: Access, Administration, Health, Safety

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