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The following communications were sent to the seminary community regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus. This page will be updated.


 

March 31: Message from President Brian Blount

Dear Friends,

In these challenging times, I continue to be thankful for all the wonderful ways in which each of you has responded with patience, grace, creativity, and love as the seminary has had to make significant adjustments in its life and work. The good news is that we continue the work. Classes are meeting online. Staff continue to support teaching and learning. The trustees continue to give guidance and support. And it’s all happening from home. I continue to pray for the intervention of God’s healing strength for those who have become ill, for the supply and encouragement of our medical practitioners and researchers who are on the front lines of this pandemic, for the instilling of wisdom in our governmental leaders who are making critical decisions, and for all of us who are doing the best we can to stay encouraged as we join this critical moment of engagement by staying home and maintaining distance whenever we need to go out. Be safe.

As you know, the governor of VA has now issued an executive order that all Virginians stay at home. Given that the governor of NC had already issued such an order, this means that both of our campuses are now under these stay-at-home instructions. Because the VA governor’s order extends through June 10, it is clear that we should not wait until April 15 to make a decision regarding the Richmond graduation exercises, scheduled for May 16. A physical gathering for graduation must be canceled.

However, it is important that we mark the moment for our graduands in Richmond, as in Charlotte. Even as we grieve the loss of an event so important in the lives of our 2020 UPSem class, we press forward with creative ideas about how we acknowledge this incredibly significant life passage for our students. We have been thinking of options.

As you know, the Charlotte graduation will mark the moment with a virtual, zoom based ceremony on the assigned day of April 18. The Richmond community will mark the moment with a virtual, zoom based ceremony on the assigned day of May 16.

I know that Charlotte students are already in conversation with Dean Boyce and the Charlotte staff about how they can make this as joyous an occasion as possible even given the limitations. I trust that Richmond students will also work with Dean Walker to think about creative opportunities for marking the moment.

Even though the technological celebration is limited, we consider it a better option than postponing graduation, as a postponement would make it impossible for all graduates to attend. International graduates, graduates who move to other parts of the country, and graduates whose new job requirements would make it difficult to return to either campus would be highly disadvantaged. And yet, the virtual graduation need not be the only celebratory moment for the class of 2020. We hope that graduates on both campuses will work with staff to plan an alternative physical gathering in the Fall or at some other time during the coming academic year (perhaps Sprunts?) where we can gather as many of the graduates as possible for a celebration in person. Staff will be exploring such opportunities with graduates as the academic year comes to a close.

Finally, as you all know, many people have lost employment during this time. We recognize that such a sudden loss of income can be very difficult for students and their families. We have therefore established a small emergency fund to help students procure groceries, medicine, and other necessary supplies. All gifts through this fund will be shared anonymously. If you have such a need or know of someone who does, please ask them to email Dean Michelle Walker.

She will facilitate our support.

 


March 25: Message from Academic Dean Richard Boyce

We solicit your prayers for one of our students who tested positive for the coronavirus. This student was present on our Charlotte campus on Saturday, March 7. However, as this student’s symptoms became evident only in the past few days and it has now been three weeks since the 7th, it must be assumed that this student’s exposure to the virus followed, rather than preceded the last visit to campus. Thus, we do not believe any who attended class on that day are under threat of infection from this student. Let us keep this student in our prayers, and let us all remain vigilant regarding our own health, and the health of those around us.


March 25: Message from President Brian Blount

Dear Friends,

In this latest update, I bring you news of recent deliberations regarding UPSem’s response to the ongoing coronavirus situation in our country and world. As you know, in this time of shared sacrifice, UPSem is making significant adjustments to support communal goals of protecting the most vulnerable in our midst and shielding the health care system so that it can serve us all. I am grateful to each of you for your patience, creativity, energy, love, humor, and willingness to adapt during this very stressful time.

As I have watched and listened (from an appropriate distance), I have been so deeply appreciative of the ways our community has responded to this challenge. Students continue their studies. Faculty continue their teaching. Staff continue their efforts to support teaching and learning. And you do it with a gracious spirit that causes me to pray with thanksgiving each and every night. While we cannot control this virus, we can control how we respond to it and to the changes its presence imposes upon our lives. The way you have lifted each other up and stepped up your efforts to think creatively and act productively buoys my spirit. I am grateful to God to be a part of a community of such dedication and caring. Yes, we still have some difficult challenges ahead of us. But I am convinced that we have a wonderful reservoir of strength and faithfulness to engage those challenges successfully. As the Apostle Paul said, we have these treasures in earthly vessels. I have glimpsed that spiritual treasure in watching you in these past weeks. I am thankful.

Now, for news…

I start with Charlotte. Given the continuing need for social distancing, and the governmental pronouncements mandating this distancing into the near future, we are moving Spring 2 courses online.

We have also determined that Charlotte graduation exercises, scheduled for April 18, will be observed online. While we hope to mark the event with an in-person event of some type in the future, we also believe that it is important to mark the moment at the assigned time. So, staff, faculty, and trustees will work together to offer as creative an online event as possible. More information will be forthcoming to the Charlotte graduands in the coming weeks.

In Richmond, we had already determined that May term courses will be online.

The annual Sprunt lectures, scheduled for May 4-6, also will occur online. You can obtain more information about the adjusted schedule and register for the online lectures and conversations by clicking here. I hope that you will join us. If you haven’t been able to participate in Sprunts in the past because of the distance involved, here’s your chance to “do Sprunts!” (Please note, though, that “online seating” is limited and will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, all the proceedings will be recorded, so if you miss it, you’ll be able to view later.)

The Spring Meeting of the Board of Trustees also will occur online. As always, I’ll send along highlights from the meeting.
Richmond graduation exercises do not occur until May 16. We will, of course, continue to monitor events closely in the next several weeks. Earlier, I promised that we would make final decisions about all events for the 2019-2020 academic year by April 15. Given recent government assessments about the continuing need for social distancing well into the near future, it appears at present that the Richmond graduation will occur online. We will, however, continue to monitor up to April 15 before making a final decision.

More updates certainly to follow.

Blessings to you all. And be safe.

 


March 18: Message from VP for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean Ken McFayden

Dear Friends,

As you are aware, the Program for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (PETAL) offers writing guidance and support for students, as well as tutoring in biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) on the Richmond campus.  As so much is changing in our midst, with a recent shift to online classes, please be aware that we can make academic support available to you.

For writing support, please email Shea Tuttle at shea.tuttle@gmail.com to see what arrangements may be made by email, telephone, Skype, or Zoom.  As you may recall, her role is to give students one-to-one feedback as they seek to improve their skills in writing, with reference to specific course goals and assignments. Her role is not to edit and revise papers for students but to scaffold the learning process, building on a student’s strengths and offering tools and strategies for growth.

For tutoring in biblical language on the Richmond campus, please email the tutor to make similar arrangements through Skype, Zoom, etc.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns as you proceed…

 


March 18: Message from Seminary Librarian Christopher Richardson

Dear Richmond and BLP Students, Faculty, and Staff,

In light of President Blount’s recent announcement about campus closure and staff working from home, I’m writing to update my March 13 email about access to Library collections and services.  What follows is a revision of my previous email, though I have only added some highlighting to section 1.

  1. Access to Electronic Resources

With the use of your library card number and PIN (the first three letters of your last name), you may access a wide range of high-quality resources from the following pages on our web site (library.upsem.edu):

o   Electronic Books:  Search our online catalog (at https://library.upsem.edu/) to access thousands of catalogued ebooks, including many of the most-used biblical commentaries.  After entering your catalog search, limit results to our Electronic Resource library from the top of the left-side menu of the results page.  Our online guide to Finding and Using Ebooks provides helpful tips on this, and our guide to Digital Reference Sources at UPSem organizes eBooks that you might typically find in a library’s Reference Room.  Another great source of book-length research materials is our ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database, which offers over a million full-text dissertations, with over 70,000 new dissertations added yearly.  Many of our online databases also offer eBook content, including (to name a few):

 

If you would like to request that specific eBooks be added to our collection, please submit that request through the Request a Title form on our web site.  New electronic books can be added within a matter of days.

If you attempt to use an eBook and are denied access, we may need to purchase expanded user rights for it (i.e. access for more than one simultaneous user at a time).  Please address requests for expanded user rights for specific titles to Electronic Services Librarian Ryan Douthat atrdouthat@upsem.edu or 804-278-4217.

o   Electronic Journals: To find out whether our Library offers a particular journal or magazine in electronic format, use our E-Journals Full Text Finder tool.  Search by journal/magazine title and, if we have it, the system will detail our coverage in particular databases, all accessible from the Library’s Online Databases page.

o   Electronic Interlibrary Loan: If you would like to access to a journal article that we don’t own, please contact Mengistu Lemma (mengistu.lemma@upsem.edu) or fill out our online ILL request form here.

o   Online Databases: If you haven’t explored the full range of resources on our Online Databases page, this would be a great time to learn more.  A few examples, not including those already listed, include:

 

o   Historical Serials Collections:

 

o   Streaming Video

The Films on Demand database, accessible through our Streaming Content page offers 39,222 full films and 313,790 film segments, viewable from anywhere.

o   Archives and Special Collections

Our Digitized Documents and Archival Image Collections include materials from the Seminary’s archives and special collections that have been digitized by our Library for the first time.

  1. Access to Physical Resources

While the campus is closed and staff are working from home, our physical library collections and spaces will be inaccessible.  On-campus book delivery will also not be possible.

We will still extend due dates and cancel fines as needed and you may still return borrowed items to Morton Library by placing them carefully in the book drop beside our main entrance.

  1. Access to Help from a Librarian

Though members of the Library staff will not be on campus, they will still be ready to assist you in a variety of ways. Voicemail messages can be retrieved via email.  Here are the best individuals to contact for specific things:

o   For questions related to our electronic collections and services, including tech support or login errors, please contact Electronic Services Librarian Ryan Douthat at rdouthat@upsem.edu or 804-278-4217.

o   For remote reference and research assistance, please contact Reference and Archives Librarian Paula Skreslet at pskreslet@upsem.edu or 804-278-4333.

o   For help related to your library account and checkouts, please contact Circulation Supervisor Lisa Janes at ljanes@upsem.edu or 804-278-4335.

o   For remote library instruction via Zoom, help using digital tools, or copyright-related questions, please contact Instructional Services Librarian Dora Rowe at drowe@upsem.edu, via cell phone at 804-387 3974, via SKYPE at live:lvaeryn, or via Facebook at dora.rowe.1

o   For questions related to book requests or other recommended library acquisitions, please contact Technical Services/Serials Librarian Irina Topping at itopping@upsem.edu or 804-278-4314.

o   For Electronic Interlibrary Loans, please contact Technical Services Assistant Mengistu Lemma at mengistu.lemma@upsem.edu.

o   For details concerning Charlotte campus library access and services, please contact Charlotte Library Director David Mayo at dmayo@upsem.edu.

o   For help with anything else, please contact me, Christopher Richardson, at crichardson@upsem.edu or 804-278-4311.

Members of the Library staff may be in touch with you while working from home to announce new digital resources, new or updated research guides (including new guides for Ordination Exam prep), new services, or requests for collaboration.  We will miss seeing you in person but will do our best to serve you throughout this unusual situation.  Please stay safe and stay in touch.

 


March 18: Message from President Brian Blount

Dear Friends,

As you know, efforts are intensifying throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and indeed the entire United States to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.  I appreciate very much all the sacrifices each of you is making to help us prepare the Richmond and Charlotte campuses to participate in this process.  At this point, in light of Virginia Governor Northam’s recent mandate, I need to ask you to make another adjustment.

After good conversation in ESP, we have decided that it is prudent to close the two campuses and have staff work remotely from home.  This new working arrangement will begin at close of work today.

Your ESP supervisor will be in touch with you about the process for making this adjustment.  During the campus shutdowns, some services will still be required.  Mail will be delivered.  Gifts to the seminary will need to be recorded.  Seminary bills will need to be paid.  Prospective students will send materials or make calls.  We are making provisions for such services to be handled through scheduling that will have only a very minimum of people in campus offices at any given time.  Staff who can work from home will be attending to voicemails and emails as usual.  However, given that we will not be in our offices, it is probably best to use email as a first option.  The Office of Student Life and the Office of the Chaplain will remain resources for Richmond residential students.  The library will continue its support through electronic resources.  Courses will continue online.  And, so will meetings!

Also, please do remember that everyone will continue to be paid as usual.

At present, I do not have a date for return to regular campus working hours.  Much will depend on how the situation evolves over the next several weeks.  ESP will be meeting via ZOOM to reassess matters continuously.  You may assume that this work from home strategy will continue through the month of March.  I will send out updates on a regular basis as ESP conversation continues and the situation develops, hopefully, for the better.

I realize just how challenging this is for all of us.  I appreciate your patience.  Let us continue to hold each other in prayer and be of support to one another in whatever ways we can while maintaining the required social distancing.

Be safe.

 


March 15: Message from VP of Finance Mike Cashwell

As an additional precaution to help prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus, beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, we will be keeping the doors to Watts Hall locked all day. Entry will require a key card. Please remember to have your key card with you if you need to enter Watts Hall. All campus key cards provide access to Watts.

We will also post notices on the entrances to Watts that provide phone numbers of building occupants visitors can call to be let into the building if they have a legitimate need for entry. Folk delivering packages will be advised to leave those packages under the covered entryway at the front of the building, or if a signature for delivery is required, to call the posted phone numbers.

Mike Cashwell

 


March 14: Message from Charlotte Library Director David Mayo

Dear Charlotte Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Given President Blunt’s recent announcement about new protocols of the seminary due to the coronavirus, the library would like to pass along information on the many ways you can access electronic resources and patron services from March 16th through April 15th.  We are committed to getting you the library resources you need for your classes and research. Here is information about that access as we envision it now.

  1. Access to Electronic Resources

With the use of your library card number and PIN (the first three letters of your last name), you may access a wide range of high-quality resources from the following pages on our web site (library.upsem.edu):

  • Electronic Books:  Search our online catalog (at https://library.upsem.edu/) to access thousands of catalogued ebooks, including many of the most-used biblical commentaries.  After entering your catalog search, limit results to our Electronic Resource library from the top of the left-side menu of the results page.  Our online guide to Finding and Using Ebooks provides helpful tips on this, and our guide to Digital Reference Sources at UPSem organizes eBooks that you might typically find in a library’s Reference Room.  Another great source of book-length research materials is our ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database, which offers over a million full-text dissertations, with over 70,000 new dissertations added yearly.

If you would like to request that specific eBooks be added to our collection, please submit that request through the Request a Title form on our web site.  New electronic books can be added within a matter of days.

If you attempt to use an eBook and are denied access, we may need to purchase expanded user rights for it (i.e. access for more than one simultaneous user at a time).  Please address requests for expanded user rights for specific titles to Electronic Services Librarian Ryan Douthat at rdouthat@upsem.edu or 804-278-4217.

  • Electronic Journals: To find out whether our Library offers a particular journal or magazine in electronic format, use our E-Journals Full Text Finder tool.  Search by journal/magazine title and, if we have it, the system will detail our coverage in particular databases, all accessible from the Library’s Online Databases page.
  • Electronic Interlibrary Loan: If you would like to access to a journal article that we don’t own, please contact Mengistu Lemma (mengistu.lemma@upsem.edu) or fill out our online ILL request form here.
  1. Access to Physical Resources

o   Print (and Ebook) Reserves

        I will be contacting all faculty members with print items on reserve to determine which are still needed this term.  I have attached a list of reserve resources that are available as ebooks. For the remaining books available only in print, I will work within copyright laws to scan the remaining items to provide digital access.

o   Book/Item Delivery

Should there be book(s) that you need that you cannot find electronically in the catalog or anywhere else call David Mayo at 980-636-1665 and we will see if there is a way to get you the resource(s).

o   Reference Books

Though books in our reference collection do not circulate, the information in them is still accessible with the help of David Mayo at 980-636-1665. There is also the guide to Digital Reference Sources at UPSem which organizes eBooks that you might typically find in a library’s Reference Room.

We will extend the due date for all materials as needed. 

  1. Access to Help from a Librarian

Though the Library building will be essentially closed, the Library staff on both campuses will still be inside working hard to meet your information needs.  This includes providing help with a variety of potential concerns via phone or email. Here are the best individuals to contact for specific things:

David Mayo at dmayo@upsem.edu or 980-636-1665

  • For remote reference and research assistance
  • For help related to your library account and checkouts
  • For questions related to book requests or other recommended library acquisitions
  • For reserve book assistance

o   For Electronic Interlibrary Loans, please contact Technical Services Assistant Mengistu Lemma at mengistu.lemma@upsem.edu.

o   For questions related to our electronic collections and services, including tech support or login errors, please contact Electronic Services Librarian Ryan Douthat at rdouthat@upsem.edu or 804-278-4217.

We look forward to working with you during this unusual period and beyond.

Sincerely,

David Mayo, M.Div., MLIS
UPSem Charlotte Library Director


March 13: Message from Seminary Librarian Christopher Richardson

Dear Richmond and BLP Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Please know that the Seminary’s Library staff is doing all that it can to ensure your access to essential resources and services while our physical building is closed from March 16th through April 15th.  Here is some information about that access as we envision it now, though additional resources and support efforts may be announced in days to come.

  1. Access to Electronic Resources

With the use of your library card number and PIN (the first three letters of your last name), you may access a wide range of high-quality resources from the following pages on our web site (library.upsem.edu):

o   Electronic Books:  Search our online catalog (at https://library.upsem.edu/) to access thousands of catalogued ebooks, including many of the most-used biblical commentaries.  After entering your catalog search, limit results to our Electronic Resource library from the top of the left-side menu of the results page.  Our online guide to Finding and Using Ebooks provides helpful tips on this, and our guide to Digital Reference Sources at UPSem organizes eBooks that you might typically find in a library’s Reference Room.  Another great source of book-length research materials is our ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database, which offers over a million full-text dissertations, with over 70,000 new dissertations added yearly.  Many of our online databases also offer eBook content, including (to name a few):

 If you would like to request that specific eBooks be added to our collection, please submit that request through the Request a Title form on our web site.  New electronic books can be added within a matter of days.

If you attempt to use an eBook and are denied access, we may need to purchase expanded user rights for it (i.e. access for more than one simultaneous user at a time).  Please address requests for expanded user rights for specific titles to Electronic Services Librarian Ryan Douthat at rdouthat@upsem.edu or 804-278-4217.

o   Electronic Journals: To find out whether our Library offers a particular journal or magazine in electronic format, use our E-Journals Full Text Finder tool.  Search by journal/magazine title and, if we have it, the system will detail our coverage in particular databases, all accessible from the Library’s Online Databases page.

o   Electronic Interlibrary Loan: If you would like to access to a journal article that we don’t own, please contact Mengistu Lemma (mengistu.lemma@upsem.edu) or fill out our online ILL request form here.

o   Online Databases: If you haven’t explored the full range of resources on our Online Databasespage, this would be a great time to learn more.  A few examples, not including those already listed, include:

o   Historical Serials Collections:

o   Streaming Video

The Films on Demand database, accessible through our Streaming Content page offers 39,222 full films and 313,790 film segments, viewable from anywhere.

o   Archives and Special Collections

Our Digitized Documents and Archival Image Collections include materials from the Seminary’s archives and special collections that have been digitized by our Library for the first time.

  1. Access to Physical Resources

 o   Print Reserves

        Librarians will be contacting all faculty members with print items on reserve to determine which are still needed this term and which need to be made available most urgently.  Then, after finding out which of those items we already own in digital format, we will work to either acquire or scan the remaining items to provide digital access.

o   On-Campus Book/Item Delivery

We are organizing a new Library service that will deliver circulating library items to you on campus in a “socially distant” way, to ensure that circulating Library books are still available to you.  More information about this service will be provided next week, once we’ve worked out the process of providing it.

o   Reference Books

Though books in our reference collection don’t circulate, the information in them is still accessible with the help of our Reference and Archives Librarian, Dr. Paula Skreslet.  Please send related inquiries to Dr. Skreslet at pskreslet@upsem.edu or call 804-278-4333.

We will extend the due date for all materials as needed.  You may return borrowed items to Morton Library by placing them carefully in the book drop beside our main entrance.

  1. Access to Help from a Librarian

Though the Library building will be closed, the Library staff will still be inside working hard to meet your needs.  This includes providing help with a variety of potential concerns via phone or email. Here are the best individuals to contact for specific things:

o   For questions related to our electronic collections and services, including tech support or login errors, please contact Electronic Services Librarian Ryan Douthat at rdouthat@upsem.edu or 804-278-4217.

o   For remote reference and research assistance, please contact Reference and Archives Librarian Paula Skreslet at pskreslet@upsem.edu or 804-278-4333.

o   For help related to your library account and checkouts, please contact Circulation Supervisor Lisa Janes at ljanes@upsem.edu or 804-278-4335.

o   For remote library instruction via Zoom, help using digital tools, or copyright-related questions, please contact Instructional Services Librarian Dora Rowe at drowe@upsem.edu or 804-278-4324

o   For questions related to book requests or other recommended library acquisitions, please contact Technical Services/Serials Librarian Irina Topping at itopping@upsem.edu or 804-278-4314.

o   For Electronic Interlibrary Loans, please contact Technical Services Assistant Mengistu Lemmaat mengistu.lemma@upsem.edu.

o   For details concerning Charlotte campus library access and services, please contact Charlotte Library Director David Mayo at dmayo@upsem.edu or 980-636-1665.

o   For help with anything else, please contact me, Christopher Richardson, at crichardson@upsem.edu or 804-278-4311.

We look forward to working with you during this unusual period and beyond.  Sincerely,

Christopher Richardson, MLIS, Ed.D.
Seminary Librarian
Associate Director, Office of Institutional Effectiveness


March 13: Message from VP of Finance Mike Cashwell

Friends,

I want to make sure all are aware that we have stepped up our cleaning on the Richmond campus in our efforts to reduce the COVID-19 risk. In addition to our normal cleaning, wipe-down, sweeping, etc. we have begun a weekly treatment of all high traffic areas using electro-static disinfectants. These disinfectants are applied using special equipment that adds a static charge that causes the disinfectant to adhere to surfaces (top, bottom and sides) of all furniture and fixtures as it works to kill off foreign substances that can cause or spread disease.

Of course we have also supplied hand sanitizer and (when we can find them in stock) disinfecting wipes at strategic locations around campus.

Glad to answer any questions.

Mike Cashwell

 


March 12: Message from President Brian Blount

Dear Friends,
As you all know, the situation related to efforts to prevent the occurrence or mitigate the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 has caused significant shifts in the operations of schools across our country. Union Presbyterian Seminary is, of course, similarly impacted. We have made significant adjustments in our communal life together already. Because of changing circumstances, we have concluded that we need to adjust a bit more. I write to share the following adjustments with you:

  • On Monday, March 16, 2020, all Spring Term classes on the Richmond Campus will be shifted to an online format. The Academic Dean’s Office is in conversation with faculty and staff about this shift. This online format may include an increased use of Blackboard, as well as the incorporation of Zoom videoconferencing technology, in proceeding with classes. In moving forward, we are examining ways to increase support for faculty and students in using technology in classes on the Richmond and Charlotte campuses.
  • All May Term classes operating from the Richmond campus will take place via an online format.
  • Immediately, all Spring 1 term classes on the Charlotte campus will be shifted to an online format. Classes scheduled for March 14, 2020, will therefore be held online. The Academic Dean’s Office is in conversation with faculty and staff about this shift.
  • The Charlotte and Richmond Deans will meet in the first week of April to determine whether the Spring 2 Charlotte classes will meet face-to-face or online.
  • All campus events (including chapel, community lunch, etc.) on both the Richmond and Charlotte campuses are cancelled and/or postponed through April 15. Reassessment will occur by April 15. Appropriate seminary staff are in conversation with event leaders and participants. Staff will make every effort to hold upcoming events (student awards presentations; faculty meetings, departments, etc.) using online technologies.
  • The William Smith Morton Library and the Library on the Charlotte campus will be only open electronically until April 15, when circumstances will be reassessed. Library staff will be in touch with students about access procedures for reserve materials during this time via email. Students with specific needs related to research required for courses or degree programs should contact Christopher Richardson, Seminary Librarian.
  • Staff will continue to work in on campus offices at present. Staff are, however, reminded to remember principles of social distancing and proper handwashing hygiene. If it becomes necessary to initiate a work-from-home plan, further instructions will be forthcoming about implementation procedures.
  • Realizing that we are a graduate institution and that many of our Richmond students have actually moved to Richmond and call Richmond and/or the campus home, we leave the decision of leaving campus/returning home to the discretion of individual students. The Student Life and Chaplain’s Offices will provide further information about communal on campus living and meal preparation that practices social distancing.
  • All international travel for seminary related business is suspended until further notice. Seminary employees traveling domestically on business for the seminary must confer with the ESP member supervising their area before traveling.
  • The seminary advises strongly against personal international travel at this time. The seminary advises strong caution for all nonessential personal domestic travel. Please be

mindful that we are part of one community. Individual travel may well impact the entire community if and when the traveler returns to campus.

I realize that this note does not address several issues of importance to many: graduation exercises in Charlotte and Richmond, the Sprunt Lectures, and more. Because those events occur after April 15, we are waiting for that time of reassessment before making hard decisions about these key events in the life of the institution. We will share information regarding those later planned events as soon as possible on or before April 15.

These adjustments are difficult for all of us. There will be glitches, to be sure. There will be frustration, I am certain. But we are a strong community of faithful believers who know that our mission, preparing leaders for the church of Jesus Christ, is so important that the struggles and sacrifices we make to accomplish that mission will not deter us, but, indeed, only embolden us to press forward with even more urgency and determination. You know the text: “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14 NRS)

 


March 11: Message from President Brian Blount

Friends,

At its meeting on March 10, 2020, the Executive Staff of the President considered the seminary’s contingency plans in response to the fast-changing situation related to the coronavirus COVID- 19. While there is no cause for alarm, it is prudent to plan for potential complexities in our living, working, and worshiping together as a result of the virus. The goal, of course, would be to prevent its occurrence, if possible, and to mitigate its spread, if necessary. We know from information shared by the Centers for Disease Control that the best way to do that is to limit interpersonal contact as much as possible. That is to say, to increase social distance between persons so as to limit the potential for spreading the virus from one person to another.

Now, it is important to note that we have not had any case of COVID-19 on our campuses. Neither has anyone moving in and out of our community contracted the virus. We are thinking ahead. Our primary goal is, as I know you are aware, to ensure to the best of our ability everyone’s safety and good health.

With those thoughts in mind, ESP shares the following thoughts:

  • Until further notice, UPSem-related international travel to countries with Level 2 (or above) exposure to the virus is suspended. Unfortunately, this means that the May 2020 travel seminar to the Middle East is cancelled. Faculty leaders for this travel seminar are in touch with students who were planning to participate.
  • While UPSem cannot mandate policies related to personal international travel of UPSem students, faculty, and staff, we encourage all members of the campus communities to give serious consideration to cancelling or postponing any non-essential international travel plans that you may have between now and June 1, 2020. We also strongly recommend, per advice of federal agencies, that you do not travel by cruise ship during this period. UPSem does remind everyone that we are part of the same community. Please make yourself aware of CDC guidelines and restrictions regarding international travel. We also ask that, should you travel internationally, upon your return to the country and before your return to campus, that you be in touch with your supervisor (if staff), your Academic Dean (if faculty), or your Dean of Students (if a student). Depending on your area of travel and the circumstances in Richmond and/or Charlotte upon your return, we may ask you to self-quarantine for 14 days as recommended by the CDC.
  • At present (and please be mindful that these considerations may change quickly), UPSem has no restrictions on seminary-related domestic travel. Do be mindful, however, when traveling for the seminary or personally, of travel alerts regarding cities where there has been demonstrable COVID-19 viral activity. We encourage you to give serious consideration to cancelling or postponing any non-essential travel to such cities. Should you travel to such a city, upon your return, please be in touch with your supervisor, Academic Dean, or Dean of Students. While doing any form of traveling, please be mindful of all CDC recommendations regarding matters such as intentional hand washing, the keeping of one’s hands away from one’s face, etc.
  • Follow guidelines on the seminary’s COVID-19 alert page regarding personal health. The FAQ page should be of particular assistance. Should you feel ill, please consult your physician, but also be mindful of others in the community and remain home until you are
    feeling better. The idea is not only to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but also to prevent the spread of other more common illnesses.

Given the fact that neither our Charlotte nor Richmond campuses has experienced known viral contraction, we are not at present cancelling classes or restricting campus gatherings. Please be attentive to the seminary COVID-19 alert page on our website and to future communications, as this situation could, of course, change.

Should it become necessary to close our campuses for a period of time, please be assured that all faculty and staff and student workers will continue to be paid. We make this pledge with the understanding that faculty, staff, and students have agreed to suspend voluntary travel to level 2 or above areas or travel on cruise ships.

In the meantime, I do want you to know that we are making contingency plans related to:

  • Moving courses online so that students would be able to continue their work and their progression toward completion of degree requirements.
  • Continuing to provide essential library resources and services online to students, faculty, and staff.
  • Planning work from home strategies for staff.
  • Planning meal preparation scenarios for students living on campus.
  • Planning operational strategies regarding the processing of institutional and student mail services.
  • Planning operational strategies regarding the provision of IT services on and off campus.
  • Planning for notification regarding potential cancellation/adjustment of on campus gatherings.

ESP will be closely monitoring issues related to COVID-19. We will make adjustments as they become necessary and will update you accordingly.

In the meantime, further information will be available on the seminary’s website.

If you have questions, also feel free to email, call, and/or visit my office.

Brian K. Blount
President and Professor of New Testament


March 1: Message from President Brian Blount

Dear Friends,

Given the publicity of late, I know that we are all aware of the concerns revolving around the possible progression of the coronavirus in the United States.  While this is not a time to be alarmed, it is prudent for us all to be thinking of contingency measures, as suggested by government agencies and officials.  I am writing to assure you that we are indeed strategizing about contingency plans here at UPSem.  I have asked members of the Executive Staff of the President to begin outlining contingency procedures related to their particular areas of supervision.  For example, I have asked the Deans to consider temporary, as needed, online instruction of ongoing classes using Zoom and/or Blackboard, should there come a time that we need to suspend in-class teaching for a time.  In such an example, there would be a twofold objective.  First, to prevent any spreading of the virus among faculty, staff, and students.  Second, to continue meeting classes in an online format so that students would continue progress in their particular programs.  Again, I offer classroom considerations as only one example.  Contingency planning for all areas of our seminary life and work together (e.g., library access, travel seminar viability, food service) is being strategized.

Just as one purchases insurance with the hope of having to use it infrequently or not at all, we are having these conversations.  I just wanted you to know that planning is in process.  If and when a need might arise, we will be ready with plans in place.

As always, in the meantime, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email, call, or set up a visit.

Brian K. Blount
President and Professor of New Testament