USG: Resilient in Turbulent Times

Dear Friends,

I’m sure I speak for many of you when I say that, even a month ago, as we were just beginning to see the spread of Coronavirus in America, I would never have believed it if you told me that at this time:

  • Most Marylanders and others around the country would be self-isolating in their homes and that social distancing would be a required practice;
  • Our health care systems would be stretched to their limits;
  • Most businesses would be physically closed;
  • Schools across the region would be closed;
  • All university classes would be transitioned to distance learning platforms; and
  • The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) would be supporting students fully through remote services.

I would never have believed all of that would come to be, but that is indeed where we find ourselves today.

What I would have believed and do believe now more than ever is that what makes me so hopeful and confident we will get through all of this, together, is that we are so fortunate to be part of an extraordinary and resilient community.

Over the past few weeks, our team at USG has been doing an incredible job in coming up with innovative strategies and solutions for delivering services on a remote basis, to support students, faculty and fellow staff members.

  • Our leadership team has been in constant communication and joint planning efforts with our university partners, under a carefully coordinated, statewide effort that has been so ably led by Dr. Jay Perman, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM).
  • Our staff has been creative and tireless in finding innovative ways to serve students and the greater USG community, while teleworking and balancing the same challenges that everyone is experiencing, as they are managing family responsibilities and carrying out their professional duties on a remote basis.
  • Perhaps most importantly, we have been inspired and buoyed by the resilience and dedication of the students that we serve at USG, representing the nine Maryland public universities that offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs on our campus.

I want to share one example of the resilience and dedication of students at USG. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been on countless conference calls and virtual meetings. But one call that gave me the most hope in this difficult time was a virtual town hall we held for student leaders. It took place in the midst of spring break week – when many people around the nation were reacting with outrage over news reports showing students in large numbers on Florida beaches.

At the very time that was happening, we were having a rich discussion with 16 student leaders who represent our various universities through the USG Student Council and the USG Graduate Student Association. Each of the students was deeply engaged in the conversation and provided outstanding feedback on students’ concerns, helping to guide our strategies to support them.

While we are doing all we can to help students with technology needs, accommodations, food insecurity challenges and financial support, many people have also asked us how they can best help students at this time.

If you are interested in supporting students at USG who are in financial need as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, a USG Emergency Assistance Fund has been established. Donations can be made online and designated for this fund via this web page, by accessing the pull-down menu on the “Contribute to” line and selecting that fund.

Like educators across Maryland and across the nation, one of the most painful things for all of us is that the students who have worked so hard to earn their degrees, and will be graduating in 2020, will not be able to celebrate their accomplishments with traditional commencement ceremonies. At USG, it means we will not be able to host celebratory year-end events, such as our Student Achievement and Leadership Breakfast and our Graduation Celebration.

Due to the current circumstances, unfortunately we will not be able to host these major student events or any events on campus until at least May 31. We are working hard to transition as many events as possible to a virtual format.

But make no mistake – we will be celebrating the accomplishments of these deserving students and soon-to-be graduates.  And most importantly, we are all committed to enabling students to graduate with their hard-earned degrees. Our Student and Academic Affairs team is collaborating with our student leaders and working to develop a game plan for virtual celebrations that will ensure these students will be honored. We will keep you posted.

I know many of you may have questions about USG operations and services, as we conduct our work on a remote basis. The short answer is that our campus buildings will not be open to the public through at least May 31, but USG remains open. Services are being provided remotely, business operations are continuing, and we are working in close coordination with our university partners and USM, as classes shift to distance learning and online platforms.

For updates on how the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting USG, I encourage all of you to check the USG website and our COVID-19 page. You may also want to sign up for USG Alerts and follow USG on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

I know you have heard this phrase many times in recent days and weeks, but it is true.

We will get through this… together.

Thank you for your attention, your patience and your support of the USG community. I wish the best for you and your families at this very challenging time for everyone across the world.

Stay well and safe. Please stay in touch with each other.

Dr. Stewart EdelsteinDr. Stewart Edelstein
Executive Director, USG and Associate Vice Chancellor, USM
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