After a year of online interactions, USF is preparing to welcome incoming and returning students to campus in full celebration in the days leading up to the summer and fall semesters.
During Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Provost Ralph Wilcox said campuses have been preparing essential plans to resume students and faculty support services starting June 1. Student Success offices will start increasing in-person hours and availability throughout the month of June, with predictions to be fully operational by the start of the Summer B semester, according to Wilcox.
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the university announced May 18 that it will be lifting all of its mask mandates and physical distancing both indoors and outdoors with the exception of clinical settings, the Student Health Center and the USF Carol and Frank Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare.
“We will begin to bring more faculty, staff and students back to campus beginning next week, June 1, and ramping up our on-campus class and other activities by June 28, which is the first day of our Summer B session, with a full resumption of all activities and services by the fall,” Wilcox said.
“All of our employees, faculty and staff are expected to be fully vaccinated and we strongly encourage all students to do likewise, consistent with CDC guidelines.”
While USF plans to fully return its campus operations, the administration emphasized the university’s preparedness to shift to remote operations depending on the virus’ circumstances. He said the university will continue to offer services as well as student programs and events remotely based on students’ needs across all three campuses.
Students will start experiencing in-person events as soon as the Summer B and fall semesters start, according to Wilcox. This summer’s Week of Welcome (WOW) will be held from June 28 until July 4 across all three campuses and feature a series of events to welcome incoming and returning students to campus.
In an interview with The Oracle, Dean of Students Danielle McDonald said the schedule for WOW has not yet been finalized as departments are still able to submit events. Once a final itinerary is created, students will be able to find all of the events listed on the Center for Student Involvement’s (CSI) website.
Since the university wasn’t able to host in-person events over the past year due to the risks associated with COVID-19, McDonald said the university looks forward to welcoming back on campus and celebrating USF’s most famous in-person events.
“Fall is going to be full of activities,” she said. “We will be having the Week of Welcome, CSI and [the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE)] will do their programming of events. They are putting together their programming calendar just like it would have been in fall 2019.”
One of the most famous events, however, will not be held this year — the balloon drop.
McDonald said the event won’t be held due to space limitations since the event usually receives a high number of attendees each year, and many are turned away due to lack of space.
To welcome students back on campus to what it used to look like before COVID-19, each campus will be hosting separate events throughout WOW.
Over the summer, Tampa students will get to experience a “Summer in South Florida,” featuring the Student Involvement Fair as well as weekly Tuesday on the Lawn events. The St. Pete campus, on the other hand, will be hosting an average of three to five events per week, while the Sarasota-Manatee campus will host “#HowToCollege” workshops and a Summer Beginnings celebration. Details of each event have yet to be released.
Faculty success is also one of USF’s priorities as it prepares to fill its classrooms to full capacity. Wilcox said the university will be hosting a monthly Early Career Faculty Workshop Series as well as planning workshops on multidimensional faculty mentoring, among other initiatives supporting faculty success on campus and remotely.
Supported by the Office of the Provost, a New Faculty Orientation will also be hosted between Aug. 9-12, right before the start of the fall semester Aug. 23. The orientation will feature both in-person and virtual workshops and informational sessions to “integrate faculty across all three campuses.”
While the orientation has been offered over the years, Wilcox said he anticipates excitement for the resumption of on-campus activities and new class schedules on each campus as USF fully reopens June 28.
“This is a heavy lift … intended to ensure that not just our students but our faculty and staff supporting academic delivery and student success are back and up to full speed as so many of our students are expected to return to our campuses,” Wilcox said.