Even before the spring 2020 semester had ended, William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe had initiated a rapid planning process led by a presidentially appointed, multi-disciplinary Plan Ahead team. The Path Forward incorporates feedback from key leadership: the Board of Visitors; leaders of the faculty, staff and student assemblies; the Emergency Management team and the president’s Cabinet, and was approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The plan infused William & Mary's mission and values into our approach for the fall.
As we returned to campus, our governing themes were flexibility, safety, wellness, equity, collaboration, innovation and service. A hallmark of the fall semester was engaging the creativity of William & Mary in pragmatic solutions to support our communities under pandemic conditions.
About Path Forward
The fall plan reflects ongoing, robust collaboration between the universities in the Virginia public higher education system and the commonwealth’s education and health departments. As public health officials improve understanding of how to safeguard communities while returning to in-person life and work, William & Mary evolves our practices to reflect what we learn and updated guidance.
Much uncertainty lies ahead. As federal, state and local public health guidelines further develop, some things will not be in our control. President Rowe and W&M's leadership team determine how to adapt appropriately. We use the best information we have to safeguard safety and health, in the service of the community’s overall well-being. And we will communicate regularly.
A hallmark of the fall semester was engaging the creativity of W&M students in pragmatic solutions to support our communities under pandemic. No single path or solution met the needs of all. We trusted and empowered our expert faculty and staff to solve challenges in ways consistent with their disciplines and schools, and with the best interests of our community in mind.
And we trusted in our students. Collaboration and partnership between staff, faculty, students and our surrounding community were the superpowers that made us successful in the spring and fall of 2020. That partnership will continue to be essential going forward.
In the fall of 2020, William & Mary presented a “direction of travel,” not a blueprint for implementation, to the university community. Because no university had faced such challenges, we set up structures to ensure that our assumptions could evolve with new data and new information. Our implementation unfolded in a phased way over the summer.
In July, William & Mary phased in with care and deliberateness the safeguards in our physical plant and workplace practices that were crucial to protecting staff, faculty and student health. Those on campus began to see rearrangements in the physical environment, plexiglass barriers, increased use of protective equipment and other adaptations being put in place.
A Commitment to Community
The intentional work of cultivating deep human connections within our community is front of mind for William & Mary. Because of this, our campus has the ability to embrace and sustain the kinds of changes that learning and working together under pandemic require.
All members of this community are expected to commit to specific safeguards for one another’s health. We will call each other in: to these shared commitments, to awareness of vulnerabilities that may be hard to see. Because we respect and value one another's different contributions to W&M’s mission when we lapse, we will immediately correct our course with goodwill and renewed dedication.
To keep our community abreast of the university's decision making and plan for fall, we held several town halls.
W&M Town Hall
Path Forward for Fall
July 20, 2020
W&M Town Hall
The Science and Decision Making Behind the Path Forward
August 5, 2020
Students & Families Town Hall
What You Need to Know for Fall 2020
August 6, 2020
Faculty & Staff Town Hall
Fall 2020 Semester
August 11, 2020