Fall 2021 at UTSA
Last week’s winter storm was difficult for many in our community, leaving areas of San Antonio and Texas without water, electricity and access to other essential needs. We are proud of the persistence you continue to show and encourage you to seek out UTSA’s emergency resources if you need assistance. We are also very grateful to our staff who left their families and homes to work on campus during and after the storm, keeping everything running under severe conditions.
As we turn our attentions to the future, with plans for the summer term in place, we write today to provide an update about our planning for this coming fall.
The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccinations means we can optimistically plan for a fall semester that is much closer to the traditional UTSA experience we all know and love. We are preparing for extensive in-person classroom instruction and a fuller array of on-campus activities and services this fall. As always, these plans may change as we continue to closely monitor the pandemic over the spring and summer.
The fall semester will feature extensive in-person learning experiences for our students, and we encourage faculty to take advantage of the flexibility that comes with enriched modality options.
While some courses may be fully in-person or fully online, most courses will be hybrid with a combination of in-person and online instruction. A variety of new hybrid course structures will offer different ratios of in-person to online class sessions per week.
In a sense, this approach gives us the best of both worlds, leveraging the innovation, convenience and on-demand access to online course materials with the immediacy and connectedness of face-to-face classroom experiences. Importantly, these flexible modalities will allow us to pivot quickly if needed, should the public health situation change at any point prior to or during the semester. The Registrar will release more information on fall course scheduling soon.
To further inform fall course planning, we are conducting a survey of all UTSA students to better understand their modality preferences for lecture and laboratory classes. These data will be shared with department chairs and deans.
We are also working to upgrade classroom technology at both the Main and Downtown Campuses that support innovative instruction and enhance our capabilities. As part of the Academic Success District Initiative, this effort entails upgrading standard sets of equipment by classroom function, with the goal to provide greater consistency for faculty teaching and student learning experiences.
While details of specific services are still to be determined, we will offer expanded housing options for students and increased technology services campus-wide.
Many other services—such as the Student Union, Campus Rec and the UTSA Libraries—will resume normal operations under appropriate public health guidelines. Virtual campus services and office hours have been effective and well received, and will remain available to accommodate student needs.
At this time, we ask department leadership to begin actively planning how best to offer in-person services and activities this fall, while also ensuring virtual services and office hours remain available.
Over the last year, we saw significant innovative processes and efficiencies implemented throughout the university that demonstrate the many ways we can continue offering high-quality services with a primarily remote workforce.
As we plan for the fall, we encourage offices to explore whether some or all of their employees may continue to telecommute without impacting their ability to offer a full-range of services. These decisions will be made by leadership on an office-by-office basis.
We understand that many of you will have questions about work modalities and your specific circumstances. We encourage supervisors and managers to begin fall planning now and reach out to your HR Business Partner for support.
Public Health Guidelines
UTSA’s Public Health Task Force will continue to monitor progress and local warning indicators, ensuring the university is following guidance from UT System, the State of Texas and the CDC. Later this spring, the task force will make recommendations for a safe return to campus this fall after considering the latest public health best practices, testing protocols, community vaccination levels, vaccine availability and the status of COVID-19 variants. Soon after their report is released, the task force will host a town hall to invite community dialogue, questions and feedback.
We know students planning to graduate in May are awaiting news regarding our plans for Commencement ceremonies. We are currently developing plans to offer modified in-person ceremonies for the spring 2021 graduating class, as well as for those students who graduated in May and December of 2020. We anticipate these ceremonies will be college-based. More information will be provided in the weeks to come.
A Last Note
While our fall planning is still in the early stages, we are confident that all of you will be able to capitalize on the creative gains over the past year as we work to ensure our Roadrunner community can enjoy an active campus and traditional college experiences this fall. We will provide updates on our fall plans throughout the coming months, as well as opportunities for dialogue through community town halls.
Lastly, we strongly encourage you to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as you are eligible. The vaccines are safe, effective, and crucial to winning the fight against COVID-19. Learn more about UTSA’s vaccination program for faculty and staff.
This year has been challenging and the pandemic is still deeply impacting our community–yet there is cause for hope. As we’ve said time and time again, all of you have shown remarkable resilience. Thank you for your patience and for your continued dedication to UTSA throughout our journey.
Kimberly Andrews Espy
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President for Business Affairs