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Spring update and looking towards fall

Hi, everybody. I’m reaching out to the Forester community at Memorial Day weekend to give you all an update on Lake Forest College just after the end of what has to have been one of the most challenging spring semesters we have ever experienced. With the coronavirus sweeping the country, as everybody knows, we had to send the vast majority of our students, faculty and staff home in March. And everybody completed all spring semester courses remotely online for the first time in history. It was a big challenge for all of us, as it was for colleges across the country. I could not be prouder of the way our students, faculty and staff supported each other, rose to the challenge and completed this semester in very impressive fashion. I’d like to talk now about some of the actions we’ve taken this spring and then looking ahead to some of the planning that we’re doing for the future. 

Because we understand the burden the coronavirus has placed financially on students and families, we developed an initiative quickly this spring to allow every student at the College, both current students and those who will be with us for the first time this fall to complete a full credit-bearing course this summer for free. We’re helping students in that initiative advance their college careers at no expense to them. We’ve established two initiatives to help those graduating seniors as well. First, a robust mentoring program for every graduating senior who chooses to take advantage of it, involving many of our alumni nationwide and many other friends of the College as well, who can help students through mentorship, prepare for careers and in many, many cases, I hope, actually attain them quickly. Further, in cooperation with our partner, the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, we developed another initiative to provide free sessions this summer. Again, no cost to graduating seniors in either leadership development or business skills development. In both cases, providing them with things that can really benefit them as they look for jobs in times ahead.

At the same time those things are underway, campus development continues. In August, we expect to launch the renovation and expansion of historic College Hall—soon to be called Brown Hall—one of the most exciting campus projects we’ve had in years. In addition, this summer we’ll complete the new Oppenheimer Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Jean and Frank Mohr Varsity Lacrosse Field, which will allow us a year hence to establish both women’s and men’s varsity lacrosse teams for the first time in years. Finally, as I’ve talked about before, our partnership with nearby Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science is moving ahead rapidly. And we’re developing for this fall a new health professions program for all students interested in developing one or another profession in health care. And if there ever were a time when that’s relevant to all of us, now is that time. In addition, we’re working hard with Rosalind Franklin on the establishment of a nursing program for the first time in the College’s history, a joint program in nursing that we expect to launch within the next year or so.

Now, let me conclude with just a few words about planning ahead. First of all, as we look to this fall semester, that’s immediately in front of us. We have three active faculty and staff planning teams on campus who are working on all dimensions of what that experience needs to require for us to return to campus for a Lake Forest College experience this fall. They’re looking at how we establish appropriate testing protocols for students, faculty and staff on campus; contact tracing, if those tests reveal that somebody has tested positive for the virus here and isolation requirements or availability of isolation places for students, if they test positive and need that self isolation for a period of days to protect them and the rest of the community. In addition, we’re looking at all of our buildings individually to make sure that we have appropriate occupant—new appropriate occupancy—limits for them, new traffic patterns inside the buildings, again, to ensure and protect safety and the movement there. Finally our faculty are working very hard this summer on plans for their courses this fall so that they can pivot, if circumstances require that pivot, from onsite instruction to remote instruction if we need to do that for a period of time. But again, our plan and all of our planning going into that is to be on campus this fall. We’re very excited about that prospect. I’m happy to say with all of that planning underway that our enrollment is strong. We expect to enroll this fall nearly 500 students—new students, both new first-year students and transfer students together. And as I look ahead at how to make the fall semester as enriching as possible for everybody, I thank you for being part of this strong community that means so much to all of us, that shores up the College in good times and bad. For that I’m truly grateful and I give you all my best wishes for continued health and safety.

Thanks very much.