The Newsroom has solicited a series of letters for students as they return to campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s letter is from Department of Emerging Media Chair Mark Neužil, PhD.

Dear Tommies,

As one of the 800-plus faculty members at St. Thomas, I want to welcome you back to the most unique school year any of us will experience, and that includes everyone from first-year students to professors and staff who have been around a very long time. Memorable, it will be.

You chose St. Thomas, at least in part, because of the personal connections we are known for – among classmates, faculty, staff and alumni. We will still connect but in different ways. Whether you are taking classes all online, in-person or one of the blended formats (or likely a combo platter of all three), you enter a community of scholars and learners that has a tradition dating back to 1885, when the university was founded.

And this university community has successfully faced serious challenges in its 145 years – the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression and world wars have all thrown up obstacles. And now here we are in 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic is causing St. Thomas and schools across the country to rethink how we teach. George Floyd’s killing in our own backyard is causing us to rethink what we teach.

There are many, many changes afoot. For example, even if all your classes are in person, more schoolwork will be done virtually. To that end, your faculty and staff have been busy all summer designing and redesigning classes. New technologies are installed in classrooms and labs. But even after all the time and talent invested in new course content, design and equipment, an important virtue to hold close will be patience. There will be class periods filled with fumbling, bumbling and stumbling as we all learn the new gear. When St. Augustine said, “patience is the companion of wisdom,” he did not have data speed and a poor Wi-Fi connection in mind, but you get the idea.

Our chances of having a successful fall semester depend on us working together. By now we all know how to behave to limit the spread of the virus; if we act like Gadarene swine, we will be home lickety-split. You’ve seen it at other schools.

At St. Thomas, your professors are here to help. We have dedicated our working lives to teaching and scholarship, and if ever there was a teaching opportunity, this is it. Reach out to us if you are in need. Those personal connections matter to us, too.

Sincerely,

Mark Neužil, PhD

Chair, Department of Emerging Media

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