State of the University Address covers integration, online learning, COVID-19 and more

by Evi Arthur / Editor-in-Chief

The Wabash and Auditorium buildings.

President Ali Malekzadeh began the 2020 State of the University Address by thanking the Roosevelt community. “I want to continue thanking every one of you for all of the hard work you are doing around the clock: teaching, maintaining the operations of the university and all of the students who have adapted to the virtual course work and classes.” 

During the address, held via Zoom on Wednesday, April 8, President Malekzadeh emphasized the importance of higher education continuing despite the pandemic: “We’re one of few industries that must continue to operate in order to maintain a pathway for students to succeed and earn a degree. The road to a degree must continue no matter what.”

Campus buildings are closed except for essential personnel, which includes “maintenance, campus safety, building engineers, human resource staff, residence halls, advisors, payroll and mailroom staff,” according to Malekzadeh. Those working on campus are still maintaining their distance and being careful about not having too many in the office at one time. 

Malekzadeh announced the $50,000 raised for the student emergency fund and that $23,000 was granted to students on the morning of April 8. Malekzadeh also confirmed that the fund is available to Robert Morris students as well. 

Melissa Hogan, dean of the college of pharmacy and chair of the COVID-19 task force, mentioned that it is still necessary for students and employees to report any confirmed cases of COVID-19 to Vice President of human resources Toyia Stewart or Vice President of student affairs Jamar Orr. “This is to ensure that we can notify the public health department and inform direct contacts, as well as the community at large, if the person has been on campus in the previous 14 days,” Hogan said. 

So far, there has only been one confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus, and the person is currently recovering. None of the known contacts have contracted symptoms of the virus. 

Hogan also mentioned that many of the faculty in the college of pharmacy is currently helping care for ill patients in Chicago hospitals, and half of the class of 2020 is “on rotations in community pharmacies serving as frontline health care providers,” Hogan said. Furthermore, lab supplies from the college of pharmacy and clinical supplies from the Robert Morris nursing program were donated to Mount Sinai after the hospital provided “needed personal protective equipment to essential Roosevelt staff.”

As for the integration with Robert Morris University, 1,300 new students moved class to Roosevelt’s buildings on March 10 and employees received new IDs. So far, RMU’s and RU’s admissions, human resources and finance systems have all been integrated, and other systems’ integrations will continue to be worked on by task forces, expected to be done in July. 

All summer term one classes will be offered fully online, and whether or not later summer term classes will follow suit will be decided on in late April. An updated summer course schedule will be available May 1. 

On March 19, Roosevelt announced that the May 8 commencement ceremony was canceled, but has since sent out a survey with three possible dates to reschedule: Friday, June 26, Monday, July 27 or Saturday, Aug. 8. Malekzadeh said the results of the survey “along with guidance from local and state authorities” will determine the decision. 

However, Malekzadeh also emphasized that graduating seniors will still be earning their degrees on time, despite the postponement of commencement. 

“We realize that any rescheduled date may not accommodate everyone,” Malekzadeh said, “but we’re hopeful to see that by the end of this pandemic or the easing off of the pandemic, if the state allows us, we can get together again.”

“On a positive note, even the mayor has said Lollapalooza has not been canceled, and this event is of course in our backyard. We’re looking forward to that,” said Malekzadeh. 

President Malekzadeh announced the winners of the Roosevelt University Presidential Award for Social Justice, which awards those in the Roosevelt community for their “outstanding commitment to social justice,” according to the award webpage. The winners were Barbara Anderson, the head of instruction and learning in the Roosevelt library; Associate Professor of theatre and director of the theatre conservatory Ray Frewen; and Jackson Newsome, a student in Roosevelt’s clinical psychology doctoral program.

President Malekzadeh also took the chance to announce two Roosevelt faculty who won the Fulbright Scholar awards: journalism professor John W. Fountain and Dr. Margaret Rung, professor of history and director of the center for new deal studies. Fountain will spend a year in Ghana on a combination teaching and research scholarship, and Rung will spend the spring semester of 2021 in the People’s Republic of China.

The Address closed out with an opportunity for the audience to ask questions. During which, school administrators re-iterated their decision to not go to a pass/fail grading system, confirmed that federal work-study students will continue to be paid, went over the criteria for having a Laker Grant approved and affirmed that all athletic scholarships will be honored.

Furthermore, Mike Cassidy, vice president of enrollment and athletics, said that the decision day priority deposit deadline has been moved to June 1.

Going forward, President Malekzadeh encourages students to persist. “Some of us who are a little bit older than the students understand that there are cycles in life, that there are ups and downs and recessions and unfortunately pandemics. Please persist. You will succeed,” Malekzadeh said. “Be kind to your fellow students, to your faculty, to the staff of the University. If we’re kind to each other as a community and persist, we will succeed. So hang in there.”

A recording of the Address as well as a full transcript are available on the Roosevelt blog. More information on the university’s COVID-19 response is available on the emergency response blog.

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