Serving the MissionInterview with a College Registrar
University of Providence Great Falls, University Center
These days, colleges and residence halls are evolving as schools find new inventive ways to face a pandemic. I recently spoke with Brittany Budeski from the University of Providence in Great Falls, Montana, about the school’s response to COVID-19. My ears perked when she told me their plan to address the virus is mostly “mission focused.” Protecting the health and well-being of their students and staff—especially the vulnerable—is the school’s primary goal.
I asked Brittany what happened last March when most schools were sending students home.
Like other universities, many students left campus in March to quarantine offsite. Unlike many schools, however, school leadership at Providence understood early on that some of their students may need stay on campus and isolate, rather than leave. Brittany suggested it was an unusual move made in the spirit of the school’s mission to care for one another. In a few cases, for example, the school felt a long trip home would likely mean more exposure to the illness. In other cases, they felt students could face food insecurities and/or unsafe home environments if they were to leave. With this in mind, Providence opted to transform a portion of their housing into single occupancy living space for safe quarantining.
What has been the school’s greatest COVID-19 challenge?
Brittany told me their challenges include keeping people safe, healthy, and connected to the school and one another. To meet these challenges and to help keep people engaged, staff have been calling students, one-on-one, just to check-in. Part of the outreach effort is to connect students to resources, such as clinical mental health counseling. Counseling services are specifically aimed to support students remotely through the many uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brittany explained having to spend money on things they hadn’t planned on has been particularly challenging. She commented: “It’s been unfortunately common to hear of students with multiple family members who have lost jobs. There are currently students on campus who find themselves facing a variety of hardships such as being unable to afford housing or food service.”
In order to help their students, the University has spent extra money on:
- COVID-19 testing and mitigation
- Increased IT infrastructure
- Extra supplies for students who find themselves in isolation or quarantine facilities
- Building materials including plexiglass to help with physical distancing
Have there been any bright spots?
One bright spot is the new sense of community and bonding that has occurred on campus. She suggests there is a feeling that this is a struggle they are tackling together. The overall idea of helping one another connects back to something Brittany mentioned several times: The school’s mission to serve the vulnerable.
Ron van der Veen, FAIA, LEED AP,
Registrar | COVID Response Coordinator
University of Providence