Coronavirus: UND Today roundup

Even remotely, UND community comes together in teaching, research and service

Twamley Hall

UND archival image.

We are in this together.

As the COVID-19 pandemic grows and Grand Forks has seen its first cases, Interim President Dr. Joshua Wynne and Incoming President Andy Armacost sent a joint message to the University community, emphasizing that the campus will face this challenge together, and continue to operate as One UND.

“Our top priority is to take care of our UND community,” the presidents’ message said. “This begins with looking out for each other, giving you timely information, and helping to set expectations during this time of uncertainty. Most important is your safety and health. We will face this challenge together — we are one.”

President Wynne was also one of three physicians – along with Grand Forks Mayor Dr. Michael Brown and Grand Forks Public Health Officer Dr. Joel Walz – to write a joint editorial in today’s Grand Forks Herald, where they encourage the Greater Grand Forks community to continue physical distancing and to take care of both physical and mental health.

“While you must practice physical distancing, it is important to keep up your mental wellbeing, social connections, and physical health,” they wrote. “Our community and region have been through tough times together before. We are in this together. We will get through this together. And if we do the right thing, put the health of the community first, we will emerge from this stronger as individuals, stronger as families, and stronger as a community.”

Continuing UND’s mission

As the University community practices physical distancing, and remote study and work, UND continues its mission of teaching, research and service, and is working to keep everyone as informed as possible. The coronavirus updates blog is a one-stop shop for the latest information. Readers can also subscribe and be notified when new posts appear.

Two forums were held last week, one for students, and another for faculty and staff last week to answer questions via Zoom.

Students will complete the semester remotely, and faculty and staff will work remotely until further notice. UND’s priority is to help students successfully complete the semester and their coursework, and the University has made a variety of support options available to assist students, faculty and staff. This includes BlackBoard training, technology assistance and academic help.

Flight training has been suspended. “As Interim President of the University of North Dakota, a practicing physician and certified pilot, I cannot, in good conscience, allow flight training to resume at this time, while promoting the safety and wellbeing of our students and campus community,” said President Wynne.

On Tuesday, it was announced that, in addition to the cancellation of spring commencement, summer commencement has also been canceled. Summer Session will be conducted entirely online.

Undergraduate students will also have the option to request a “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” grade from faculty rather than a letter grade.

Students who are studying remotely and are no longer on campus have requested refunds of room and board, and will receive a 30 percent credit. UND apartment dwellers may also receive a credit. Student parking will also be refunded upon request.

The work continues

The pandemic has also affected research and travel. Travelers returning from certain states are required by the State of North Dakota to quarantine for 14 days. Travel was earlier suspended by the University, and Minnesota Governor Walz issued a “shelter-in-place” directive for Minnesotans. For UND, this means that all faculty and staff who live in Minnesota must work remotely if they are able. Essential personnel will continue to report to work.

Even though the campus is empty, faculty continue to work, often in new ways.

The College of Education & Human Development created a resource for parents who are suddenly home-schooling their children. The “Top 10” guide contains advice on creating learning environments for children around daily activities, such as laundry or cooking dinner, along with useful tips on helping children learn.

UND microbiologist Nadeem Khan, who researches influenza at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, is studying the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. Those links could eventually help find a solution to the coronavirus, but it will take time.

And UND counselors and Wellness Center staff offered advice on how to survive social distancing and stay fit, healthy and resilient. Their top advice: create new routines, clear mental clutter, and focus on the present. They even provided “social distance bingo” and a chair exercise routine.