Around the State: Universities continue to make COVID-19 adjustments

ETBU President Blair Blackburn presents Hanna Perry with the Spring 2020 President’s Award. This award is given each semester to a graduate who represents a Christian leader, scholar, and servant within the campus and local community. Perry graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Biology.

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ETBU faculty and staff select a Professor with Distinction each semester for his/her excellence in service, scholarship, teaching, and integration of faith and learning. This year’s recipient, Dr. Warren Johnson, has served at ETBU as a Professor of Christian Ministry since 2005.

East Texas Baptist University held its spring commencement ceremonies on June 13, and graduates were allowed to choose whether to participate in-person or virtually. During the socially distanced ceremonies, 173 students received undergraduate degrees and 20 earned graduate degrees. Texas Sen. Bryan Hughes, who represents District 1, gave the charge to graduates. Hanna Perry, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in biology, received the President’s Award, presented each semester to a graduate who represents a Christian leader, scholar, and servant on campus and in the local community. She was a mentor and president both of the Alpha Chi National College Honor Society and Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society. Off campus, she has been involved in various ministries at Immanuel Baptist Church in Marshall, and she volunteered at Sam Houston Elementary School and Dayspring Therapeutic Equine Center. Warren Johnson, a professor of Christian ministry since 2005, also was recognized as a Professor with Distinction for his excellence in service, scholarship, teaching and integration of faith and learning.

Lester Towell (second from left), recipient of the Howard Payne University Outstanding Faculty Member Award, is pictured with (from left) Cory Hines, HPU president; Jill Underwood and Paul Underwood of Underwood’s Cafeteria, sponsor of the award.

Howard Payne University recognized Lester Towell, chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems, with its Outstanding Faculty Member Award and Katrina Lynn, business and human resources coordinator, with the Outstanding Staff Member Award. The HPU Facilities Department received the newly created Outstanding Department Award, recognizing all members of the department for their service. Laci Sutton, assistant professor of nursing, and Nicholas Ewen, associate professor of theatre, received certificates for excellence in teaching. Custodian Renee McClung and Head Baseball Coach Stephen Lynn received certificates for excellence in service.

Wayland Baptist University will begin fall classes at its Plainview campus on Aug. 12, one week earlier than originally scheduled. “Our COVID-19 Response Team was charged with planning the fall semester,” President Bobby Hall said. “Evidence indicates that instances of the flu typically increase in the late fall and that COVID-19 could spread in a similar pattern during that same timeframe. It also appears that travel increases the potential for exposure to the virus. Based on this research and planning, a revised academic calendar has been adopted for the Plainview campus.” Classes will meet on Labor Day, Sept. 7, and there will not be a fall break. In-person classes will conclude prior to Thanksgiving, Nov. 20, and finals will be given online the week following Thanksgiving, Nov. 30-Dec. 7. All changes apply only to the Plainview campus. External campuses and online class schedules remain unchanged. Graduation ceremonies are scheduled Dec. 12, with appropriate protocols taken to ensure the health and well-bearing of participants. The spring semester classes begin Jan. 11.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor announced it is adjusting the starting and ending dates of its fall semester, when the university plans to resume in-person on-campus classes. Move-in Day and Welcome Week begin Aug. 8, and the first day of classes is scheduled Aug. 13—both 11 days earlier than originally scheduled. The last day of final exams will be Nov. 24. Commencement remains scheduled for Dec. 11. University leaders recognize a surge in local COVID-19 cases could recur at some point in the semester, making it necessary for UMHB to move all classes to an online format for the rest of the term, as it did in the spring semester. If so, starting the semester earlier will give students additional days in a face-to-face format. Completing final exams and classes prior to Thanksgiving reduces the risk of students contracting the coronavirus while at home, then returning to campus and inadvertently spreading the virus to others. Currently, the spring semester is scheduled to begin Jan. 11, 2021.

Dallas Baptist University plans to resume in-classroom instruction on July 6 in conjunction with the beginning of the second summer term for a selected group of classes, which will be implemented with social distancing guidelines. DBU administration announced plans to proceed with fall semester activities and classes as scheduled, including in-classroom teaching, as well as on-campus activities and other events. During the COVID-19 lockdown, DBU was considered an essential business, and about 500 students remained on campus. All instruction was moved to an online delivery system. While DBU never closed or required students to leave campus, it initiated plans for altered student services in order to maintain campus health and safety. Recently, the California non-profit Educate to Career, which ranks schools according to their ability to successfully transition students from college into well-paying jobs, ranked DBU as a top-tier institution for its response to the COVID-19 crisis. According to their report, DBU provided students with a robust online education, led by experienced faculty, all while being prepared to welcome students back in the fall.

Wayland Baptist University in San Antonio is offering an unusual graduation ceremony for its summer commencement in light of COVID-19 health protocols. Eight “walk through” mini-sessions are scheduled June 19 at 8300 Pat Booker Rd. in Live Oak to allow time and space for all participants to practice social distancing and reduce the total number of people in the building at one time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The column was revised a few hours after originally posted to include one item received after the deadline.  

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