NEW WILMINGTON — Despite a global COVID pandemic that defined 2020, Westminster College remains committed to providing a robust in-person living-learning atmosphere, pursuing new partnerships and enriching the student experience.

While many colleges and universities across the nation suspended on-campus learning during the fall, Westminster College finished the fall semester — and 2020 — strong and in-person. The solid preparedness plan that enabled students to return to and remain on campus in the fall will also guide the College through 2021.

After a spring of remote teaching and learning, officials spent summer 2020 developing a preparedness and response plan to welcome students back to campus in the fall. Westminster’s Pandemic Plan addressed academic instruction models, expected physical distancing and hygiene practices, and the monitoring of health conditions on campus. Enhanced educational technologies and digital solutions were also implemented to better meet students’ needs whether learning in-person, remotely or somewhere in between.

Just two weeks after hosting four socially-distant in-person commencement ceremonies in early August — most colleges canceled their 2020 commencements — Westminster eagerly and cautiously opened its doors to students.

“We knew that in order to reopen our residential campus last fall, we had to do it the right way — safely, responsibly and carefully. We wanted the campus to move forward and thrive through the end of the semester,” said Westminster College President Dr. Kathy Brittain Richardson.

By adhering to the College’s detailed preparedness and response plan and condensing the fall calendar to avoid mass exits and returns of students, positive COVID numbers remained relatively low throughout the fall semester.

Campus and student events — such as the homecoming and the Professional Networking Symposium — adopted virtual online formats, and the College forged ahead with campus projects and new initiatives to benefit the student experience.

Construction continued on the three-story, 27,000-square-foot addition of Hoyt Science Center, which will house six teaching laboratories, three research laboratories, 10 faculty offices and student collaboration spaces for the growing number of STEM majors. The facility will be finished this month.

Construction of new sports fields wrapped in November, further developing the Titan Corridor, the College’s vision for expanded and centralized athletic spaces. Completed in the fall were the UPMC Sports Complex, the home to the men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse programs; a new women’s softball field; and a new baseball field complex.

The College also established new initiatives this fall such as joining the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center’s Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance and establishing a 3+3 program with Widener University Commonwealth School of Law.

Westminster entered 2021 and the spring semester, which began on Jan. 19, with the same guiding philosophy and continued health and safety protocols in place. A compressed calendar, in which spring break week was replaced with monthly self-care days for students, was adopted. Mandatory COVID screening was required of all students and employees prior to the start of the spring semester. The College is planning for an in-person spring commencement, scheduled for May 8.

About Westminster College: About Westminster College: Westminster College is nationally known for its collaborative environment, outstanding experiential learning programs, focus on student success, and the effort invested in making higher education affordable and attainable to all students. Established in 1852, Westminster is proud to be the first college in the country open to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex or religion from its founding charter by the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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