March 26, 2020

Dear Alumnae/i and Friends of Dominican:

As the isolating elements of COVID-19 take hold, we are all looking for ways to connect, and so I write — to wish you good health, and to share a bit of news. The fact that I can write indicates that Dominican is in relatively good shape, having “gone virtual” in a matter of two weeks.

Let me begin by saying how enormously grateful I am to faculty and staff for their Herculean efforts to adapt to this new normal. It is a testament to the resilience of community and mission. In a matter of 10 days, faculty helping faculty, with the support of IT, moved over 650 classes online! At the same time, staff are continuing their usual work, remotely, with our first priority being the quality of students’ experience. All spring semester events through mid-May have been cancelled, postponed or moved online, including Commencement, which breaks my heart — but safety first.

We have adopted "CaritasNow" as our anthem — wanting to lead with hope and care during this stressful time. As we migrate to online, we are also working with our community partners to be of support. University Ministry and Civic Learning have provided students with guidelines for staying socially engaged at home. Some of our nursing and PA students are volunteering in local hospitals. And, we just got approval from the State of Illinois to reopen our Goedert Center to support the childcare needs of essential employees.

I will not sugarcoat the magnitude of the disruption — especially for our students. In week seven of the season, our men’s volleyball team was ranked fourth in the country, DIII, vying for the opportunity to host the NCAA tournament — all gone. We pulled over 300 interns, student teachers and practicum students from hard-earned, half-completed placements all over the city. Another 50 students had to forego spring break study trips to Venezuela, Trinidad, and Guatemala. These are lost moments of connection, more unsettling because the endings were so abrupt.

Of course, there are opportunities beyond the immediate angst. All of the above has challenged us to leverage our technology resources, like never before — and there is no going back. Students seem to be adapting well to online tutoring and tele-counseling, neither of which will replace face-to-face engagement, but both are now viable alternatives in the future. And, dare I mention that an empty campus can accelerate facilities projects, like the Learning Commons.

Still, these are unprecedented times. We are all challenged by health and financial concerns of a magnitude that leaves us breathless. At the same time, we have each other — and a strong sense of shared mission. Please know how much I appreciate your notes of support and your gifts to the Sisters Emergency Fund. In closing, let me leave you with the words of our quintessential "CaritasNow" ambassador, Sr. Melissa Waters, OP (please click link to watch video).

Donna M. Carroll
Dominican University