SMITHFIELD, RI – Health and safety. Academic excellence. Innovation, resilience, and determination. These are the guiding principles and characteristics for Bryant’s fall 2020 reopening amid the formidable challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health and safety of our community is our highest priority,” says President Ross Gittell. “We are committed to opening the campus and will work relentlessly over the coming months to protect the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty while providing the transformative residential and in-class experience our students expect from a Bryant education,” said President Ross Gittell.
“The power of our community is one of Bryant’s most treasured assets."
Bryant’s greatest resource is its people, and every individual is committed to doing their part to work toward a successful and healthy semester that begins on August 25. The University is leveraging its foundational strengths, lifted by a spirit of determination and an unwavering commitment to excellence and to one another, to prepare to safely return to campus to live and learn together.
Bryant’s Reopening Plan, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), and infectious disease experts, was approved by the state with commendations for its clarity and comprehensiveness. The plan for a safe and successful reopening include:
Expansive 438-acre expansive and safe campus and a tight-knit, supportive community mobilized, unified, and committed to students’ safety and success
Academic excellence, innovation, and small class sizes, all longstanding hallmarks of a Bryant education
Rigorous campus-wide health and safety measures and comprehensive weekly testing
Ongoing communication university leaders with all constituencies
“This crisis has revealed the character and grit of our community of scholars."
Bryant’s large campus and relatively small population – about 3,500 undergraduates, about 80 percent of whom reside on campus (94 percent of freshmen) – make it possible for dedicated faculty and staff to provide a safe environment conducive to rich living and learning opportunities.
“Bryant is fortunate that our student demographics align with the Northeast region, with many students coming from states where cases of the virus are stabilizing or in decline,” says Gittell. “We are also fortunate that our campus lends itself to safety and security, with the expansive landscape and a single point of entry.”
Academic excellence, innovation, and small class sizes
Bryant faculty continue to rise to the new challenges of teaching and learning to develop innovative ways to engage students inside and outside the classroom. In fact, about 35 faculty members volunteered their time for the Summer Research and Innovation Village to provide experiential opportunities for students who lost their internships because of the coronavirus.
“This crisis has revealed the character and grit of our community of scholars. I continue to be impressed and inspired by the way faculty are adapting and innovating to enhance the educational experience during this challenging time,” says Provost and Chief Academic Officer Glenn Sulmasy, JD, LL.M, “They are promoting academic excellence and fostering Bryant’s culture of innovation and research.”
Small classes are nothing new at Bryant University, and this longstanding strength will be an even bigger advantage this fall. For the past 20-plus years, average class sizes have been in the range of about 27-30 with a student faculty ratio at about 13:1. Building on this strength, the university will use a hybrid model to deliver engaging and effective campus-based experience and instruction.
Faculty-student interaction has always been a hallmark of a Bryant education. Therefore, this fall semester it is encouraged that a significant majority classes be held synchronously – be that in person, hybrid, or online, depending on the class. We are, however, in an unprecedented situation, so faculty may choose, for practical or pedagogical reasons, to integrate some asynchronous activity into their courses.
“We estimate that about 40 percent of courses will be taught totally in-person and onsite. About 55 percent will be taught in a hybrid format, and less than 5 percent of courses will be fully remote. About 95 percent of first-year-predominant courses will meet in-person,” says Sulmasy. “These numbers are a testament to Bryant’s leadership, nimbleness, and dedication to quality education.”
In preparation for delivering on-campus instruction this fall, Bryant has invested nearly $500,000 in technology and system upgrades for the majority of classrooms – a figure that is expected to grow, say those leading the effort.
“This has been the biggest investment in classroom technology since the opening of the Quinlan/Brown Academic Innovation Center in 2016," Sulmasy adds. "It reflects our commitment to offering the best educational experience possible this fall—as well as our ability to quickly pivot and rise to the challenge.”
Rigorous campus-wide health and safety measures including comprehensive weekly testing
University leaders, faculty, and staff are working nonstop to develop systems and protocols to ensure the health and safety of students and the entire community when campus reopens.
Health and safety plans include community-wide participation in daily screening, face mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning by each individual in addition to the facilities staff. For more information about Bryant’s health and safety measures, please visit https://covid.bryant.edu/our-health/health-safety.
A significant part of Bryant’s reopening strategy is an aggressive testing plan. The university’s testing strategy includes weekly testing for all asymptomatic individuals on campus, with results in 24 hours from the labs at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. For testing of those with symptoms, Bryant has purchased the GeneXpert Xpress System developed by Cepheid, one of the world’s leading providers of molecular diagnostics, to conduct this a highly sensitive, rapid test right on campus. With this test, results will be available in less than 45 minutes.
There’s a lot to get done in the next 100 days from move-in to the last day of exams, and communication is critical to success.
Ongoing communication with all constituencies
There’s a lot to get done in the next 100 days from move-in to the last day of exams, and communication is critical to success. The Bryant.edu/Reopening website is continually updated with all the latest information on academics, health and safety, campus life, athletics, working, visitor information, and FAQs.
President Ross Gittell and his leadership team are committed to ongoing regular communication with the Bryant community. A weekly email to all constituents provides updates on the latest safety measures and processes for a smooth reopening and operations throughout the semester. Additional messages, digital communications, and publications are developed for targeted groups to address specific needs and concerns.
“The power of our community is one of Bryant’s most treasured assets, and we will ask everyone to be considerate and follow best practices for diligent cleaning and frequent hand washing, cloth face coverings, social distancing, and close attention to group size,” says Gittell. “We have important and difficult work ahead to try to ensure a productive, engaging and healthy fall semester for our students.”