COVID-19: Winthrop Faces Unprecedented Challenges Together

March 24, 2020


  • Winthrop has moved to remote instruction for all courses for the remainder of this semester
  • Center for Student Wellness is offering telephone triage and telemental health supports
  • Spring Commencement ceremonies are postponed

Winthrop Eagle statueROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA -- Due to COVID-19, Winthrop University, and the world, is facing a new way of life. Although the Winthrop campus remains closed, over the last two weeks the university community has banded together in new ways to deliver a retooled Winthrop experience of the same quality and personal touch that students and their families have come to expect.

Interim President George W. Hynd, members of Winthrop's senior leadership, and Critical Incident Management Team have consulted with state and local officials to navigate this unprecedented situation.

Complying with Governor Henry McMaster's executive order for all public colleges and universities, Winthrop moved to remote instruction for the remainder of this semester, giving students the opportunity to complete their spring 2020 course work. Faculty and staff are working diligently to accommodate student needs and expectations. Human resources and finance and business personnel continue to keep the university's employees working and its processes and operations moving forward.

"Despite this being a challenging situation, Winthrop’s strength is our family-like concern for each other and our tradition of delivering a student-centered experience," Dr. Hynd noted. "We will learn a lot, be stretched at times, but ultimately come through this a more resilient community."

In the trenches to successfully deliver remote instruction are faculty and instructional support personnel within the Academic Affairs. The Winthrop Office of Online Learning team created a resource page for students as well as a continuity of instruction website to help faculty prepare with streamlined resources, a quick start guide, and tips on facilitating engagement with students, generating digital content, and creating effective assessments.

"I am deeply impressed by the resilience and problem-solving efforts I am seeing across Academic Affairs. We are reinventing our jobs and roles daily, in response to rapidly changing conditions. Responding to this environment requires patience, creativity and teamwork," said Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Adrienne McCormick.

Faculty members like Education Professor Marshall Jones, who has extensive experience in online teaching and learning in the Richard W. Riley College of Education, shared that expertise with peers who are creating video lectures and using conferencing tools like Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, and the conferencing tools in Microsoft Teams to communicate in real time with students.

"Many of us have experience teaching online, so the teaching isn’t as hard as moving class activities, like lectures, discussions and activities online in a week ... but we worked hard over spring break to be ready for this," Jones said. "As always, we are focused on the student and focused on learning. The most important thing is ensuring our students get the help they need," he added.

Communications and Information Technology employees continue to work to keep the campus community connected, engaged and informed. Library staff are offering eBooks, databases and other resources which can be accessed remotely. Additionally, reference librarians are making themselves available via e-mail, chats and virtual Book-a-Librarian appointments. 

Along with the challenge of remote instruction, the care of the university's students has been a priority for staff in Student Affairs and University College. Bringing study abroad students home and supporting international students as they make travel decisions has kept International Center staff working long hours.

Similarly, with the decision to close residence halls in order to limit the number of individuals on campus and thus the potential for COVID-19 spread, the Residence Life team continued services to residents with severely extenuating circumstances, while implementing a plan to safely allow all other resident students to retrieve belongings and move out of the halls, even as word came that a resident student tested positive for the virus.

To ensure that students receive appropriate support during this stressful time, Center for Student Wellness moved to telephone triage and telemental health supports, while simultaneously working with the Department of Health and Environmental Control to answer key questions on possible scenarios for on-campus exposure or spread.

Essential employees remain working on the campus, including police, environmental health and safety, and Facilities Management employees who are deep cleaning campus facilities and preparing for the Winthrop community’s eventual return.

The difficult decision also was made to postpone spring Commencement ceremonies. In an e-mail to the campus community, Hynd provided assurance that students' Winthrop experiences will not end without appropriate recognition and celebration. 

In addition to Commencement ceremonies, all internal and external events have been canceled or postponed for the immediate future, including alumni-focused events and activities.

Additional updates will be provided, including when the campus may resume normal operations, as appropriate. In the meantime, please continue to visit Winthrop's COVID-19 website for information. 

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