Bradley University's fall semester during the COVID-19 pandemic was unlike any other in the school's recent history.
Tim Shelley recently spoke with BU President Steve Standifird about lessons learned to carry forward into next spring.
Steve Standifird: It was a semester like none other, for sure and challenging in many ways for the world, not just for us. But I feel good about where we're at. As you know, we were able to keep our our students on campus through the things gain up to the Thanksgiving break, which was our plan from the very beginning. And after an initial early blip with a quarantine, that happened a couple of weeks, and we were able to really do, I think, a good job of keeping the virus under control on campus and letting students focus on their learning experience.
So I think it went well. Obviously, next semester is going to be another test for us. But we feel good that we have a plan in place, and have some idea on how to navigate our current environment, which again, we expect to continue to be challenging, but at least now we have some experience on what really works to help mitigate the spread of the virus on campus.
Tim Shelley: Because that two week all-student quarantine you did -- it really seemed to cut down on the positivity rate for the rest of the semester, and got you all the way through. So what did you learn from that, that you can apply potentially next semester?
SS: It's a great question. We actually learned a lot. And what we really learned is, our students, I gotta say, from the very beginning, were doing everything we thought was right.
And what we discovered early on, and the world has now discovered, is that this is such a contagious virus that even in small group settings, it can spread rather rapidly. And that's really what got us into trouble early on, and what helped us get to the semester.
And one of the things I really want to emphasize, I want to do a shout out to our students, once we understood what we needed to do the type of behaviors we needed to engage in, in terms of really keeping those social interactions into a tight group, distancing whenever possible, wearing masks, they did it they did exactly what we needed to do.
And the reason we got through this semester successfully, was, quite frankly, because of the amazing work of our students. And now we know now we know what really drives the spread of the virus. And we know what behaviors are necessary to keep it from spreading.
TS: I know there's the testing regimen you rolled out. So just talk a little bit about that. How did that go? And what's the plan for next semester?
SS: Testing is obviously important. It was a key part of our process. We did a both symptomatic and then asymptomatic testing, and there were the asymptomatic people that weren't showing any symptoms. It really helped us get a gauge on where we might have some challenges we didn't even know about. That will continue.
We're still working through our testing regimen for next semester. As you probably know, the ability and the type of testing continues to evolve with a great partnership with OSF and that will undoubtedly continue. But there might be some other options that come up that we don't even know about yet. So we'll continue to pay attention to that.
Honestly, though, the piece that really was absolutely critical for us that we found was as important as the testing is the contact tracing. So once we had a positive test, to be able to quickly identify where that came from, where there might be some additional exposures and get out in front of those exposures before they had a chance to spread more was a really important piece. And that is absolutely something we will continue to do into next semester, as well.
TS: President Standiferd, was there anything else you wanted to tell the campus community at large, or tell the city of Peoria at large, just about what's going on at Bradley or what they should know here as we move through winter break into the spring semester?
SS: Thank you for asking. I really do want to give just a tremendous shout out to our students. What we expected them to do, what we needed them to do, in terms of their behaviors this semester, to help mitigate the spread of the virus was incredibly challenging. And they rose to the challenge.
And you know, one of the things that you'll hear in the media, if you watch, is, the spread of COVID, and students' impact on that. I am actually increasingly of the mind that if you really want to understand how to mitigate the spread of the virus. Our students are great role models for that they did a really spectacular job this semester.
And it wasn't easy, they're stressed. They're working hard. And we're all trying to navigate this together. But I just want to give a shoutout to our students for really doing what they needed to do to help us all get to this crisis, and they really should be complimented for their efforts.
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