It’s been a year—and what a year it’s been. March 2021 marked the anniversary of Trinity’s move to remote learning in the midst of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Trinity has been adapting and evolving, inching closer and closer to a return to normal life.
Colleges around the country have faced COVID-19 outbreaks and public health crises as they too navigate the difficult decisions around returning to campus, balancing safety with budgetary concerns and other factors. The New York Times reports nearly 400,000 positive COVID-19 cases at colleges since July 2020, with more than 31,000 of them in Texas alone.
But at Trinity, where more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered to students, our positivity rate has remained lower than Bexar County’s, typically by leaps and bounds. Until the winter storm forced unprotected exposures, Trinity had hovered at a less-than-1% positivity rate over the last year.
Trinity’s success isn’t sheer luck: It’s due to an unwavering commitment to put the students first. “Even as staff and faculty faced their own personal hardships and challenges, there was a universal, shared enthusiasm for re-imagining how Trinity could deliver on its mission safely, without sacrificing our value of enduring excellence,” says Tess Coody-Anders ’93, vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing and leader of Trinity’s Nerve Center. “The transformation of our campus, classrooms, common spaces, programs, and activities is a testament to Trinity’s ability to be nimble, creative, and collaborative in service of our students.”
So, how did we transform the Trinity experience in the face of crisis? A, B, C for yourself.
All numbers are as of March 1, 2021.
Once Trinity moved to remote learning in Spring 2020, Trinity’s Information Technology Services department (ITS) worked overtime to ensure all students, faculty, and staff were equipped with laptops and WiFi access wherever they were logging in around the world.
But ITS needed to find a more stable, long-term solution for the fall to ensure students at home had an equal share of the Trinity experience compared with students on campus. ITS teamed up with the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching, Academic Affairs, and the President’s Task Force on Teaching and Learning to completely re-imagine Trinity’s classrooms.
ITS ended up equipping more than 60 classrooms with new technology that allowed faculty to teach in-person and remotely at the same time. Classes are stocked with videoconferencing units and tripod cameras with microphones, while professors are mic’d up with personal lavaliers for quality audio.
“This is no longer a temporary Band-Aid—this is a paradigm shift,” says Katie Troyer, Ph.D., assistant director of the Collaborative. “We’re trying to build our classes with remote students at the forefront to make things more equitable.”
Tiger Network, Trinity’s livestreaming video platform, brought virtual events to life for Trinity’s community.
Over the past year, Tiger Network delivered important campus updates from administration, hosted music performances from various ensembles, streamed milestone moments such as commencement ceremonies, and broadcasted the return of athletics in Spring 2021.
Watch Tiger Network at trinity.edu/live.
Collaborative for Learning and Teaching
The Collaborative for Learning and Teaching is a braintrust for Trinity faculty, sharing best practices for effective teaching and learning.
Who better to lead faculty through the transition to remote learning? Once Trinity announced its plans to go remote in Spring 2021, the Collaborative partnered with ITS to shift Trinity’s classrooms toward new models of learning and instruction they’d need to survive—and thrive—in the COVID-19 era. After just a week of dawn-to-dusk, hair-on-fire work, the Collaborative launched a website filled with the best remote teaching practices and spent spring break training faculty how to use the new technology that would become a staple of life over the course of the year.
In other words, just having fewer people around. Trinity de-densified campus, allowing only about 960 students to live on campus in the fall, as opposed to more than 2,000 in a typical semester.
Eighteen Sports Seasons Re-imagined
Football in February? It’s not the Super Bowl—it’s 2021 Tiger Football.
Last year, spring sports faced devastating cancellations to their seasons while fall athletics were delayed, with no guarantee of when—or if—they’d return.
All 18 Tiger sports were back in action in Spring 2021, thanks to frequent COVID-19 testing, strict socializing rules, and workouts in “practice pods” of just a handful of student-athletes at a time, to limit their exposure to each other. Despite compromises such as shortened seasons and empty stands, student-athletes were grateful for the opportunity to play.
More than 150 of them, to be clear. Once the pandemic became a global disaster and borders began closing around the world, faculty and staff in Trinity’s Center for International Engagement worked tirelessly to bring home students studying abroad who otherwise might have been stranded in those countries for an undetermined amount of time. Once everyone was back in the U.S., the Center shifted its focus to helping international students navigate the ever-changing travel policies, whether they stayed on campus or returned to their home countries.
153 students evacuated from 52 countries within 48 hours
To Tigers living on or traveling to campus, the ProtecTU HealthCheck is as ingrained in their morning lives as brushing their teeth or eating breakfast. The simple, online questionnaire preemptively screens students, faculty, and staff for potential COVID-19 symptoms or exposure risk. Passing the questionnaire awards Tigers with a green clearance badge to use for the day, while failing raises a flag for Trinity’s Clinic Team to reach out and make a more thorough assessment.
Bringing competition to Trinity’s famous adirondack chairs, Student Life set up Hammock Grove and other outdoor spots for students to take a “paws.”
Better known as Murchison Hall in normal times, this residence hall acts as a base camp for COVID-19 operations at Trinity. The COVID-19 Clinic Team of nurses and physicians use the ground floor for testing and operations. The rest of the hall is dedicated to managing the ebb and flow of students in isolation or quarantine.
Judd Student Emergency Fund
The Raymond Judd Student Emergency Fund, named in honor of the Rev. Raymond Judd ’56, Chaplain Emeritus, was created to help students facing emergency financial need.
“Life doesn’t stop when you come to school,” says Trinity Chaplain Alex Serna-Wallender ’08, M’09. “There are these unexpected moments, these unforeseen realities that can’t be planned for.” With students now scattered around the globe, some are missing the built-in structures for technology, food, and housing that living on campus provided. “If the basic necessities of life aren’t cared for, we can’t expect students to persist in the classroom and be successful in the larger mission of why they are here at Trinity,” Serna-Wallender says.
While the fund has provided assistance to students over the past two decades, distribution ramped up during the pandemic. Students requested aid for expenses related to remote learning, medical costs, job loss, transportation, and basic necessities such as food and housing. Donors stepped up to meet this increased need, with nearly 700 gifts made to the fund since March 2020.
$160,103 distributed since March 2020, helping 383 students
Keeping Tigers Informed
You’ve got questions, and Trinity has answers. From the get-go, Trinity prioritized frequent and thorough communication with parents, students, faculty, and staff to navigate uncharted territory for all.
Trinity launched its COVID-19 website in March 2020, paired with live webinars, social media updates, video messages from administration, advice about managing new learning and working environments, new and amended policies—and a lot of emails. The website contains the most up-to-date info about Trinity’s COVID-19 response, including a daily dashboard.
Trinity partnered with local labs, including Avero Diagnostics and Community Labs, to conduct and process baseline, on-demand, and randomized COVID-19 tests. These partnerships allowed Trinity to expand its reach to include mass testing of all faculty, staff, and students multiple times each semester, and to increase surveillance testing to 500-1,000 tests per week.
Even mandatory face coverings couldn’t mask the excitement of students returning to campus in Fall 2020.
Trinity formed a cross-department team, dubbed the Nerve Center, in May 2020 to act as the central group responsible for COVID-19 planning and operations. Instead of asking what they do, it might be better to ask what they don’t do! The team’s purview includes monitoring higher education best practices and public health trends, planning various scenarios for campus reopening, creating testing, tracing, and treatment procedures, and managing COVID-19 operations, education, and communication.
Other Duties as Assigned
It’s a phrase tacked to the end of every job description, but this year it was more important than ever. For example, Marc Powell, Trinity’s head athletic trainer, oversaw the University’s robust testing program, while Ryan Hodge in the Center for the Sciences and Innovation fabricated each plexiglass partition on campus.
Trinity’s Health and Wellness Working Group launched the ProtecTU public health campaign in Summer 2020. The campaign centers around a pledge that the health of the individual is dependent on the actions of everyone—essentially, we’re all in this together.
Signage and promotional materials emphasized the five campaign pillars of hand washing, staying home when showing COVID-19 symptoms, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and sanitizing spaces and surfaces.
As the year progressed, the ProtecTU campaign adapted to focus on sharing the latest evidence-based guidance on how to prevent the spread of the disease. The ProtecTU team also worked to create spaces where students could safely socialize and enjoy fresh air.
Trinity’s dedicated care team ensured students in quarantine had all their needs met during this trying time. Trinity staff helped students communicate with their professors, relayed information to worried parents, and coordinated daily cross-campus services, including:
- Medical check-ins and medication deliveries
- Hot meal deliveries
- Trash pickup
- Laundry services
- Library and bookstore orders
- Designated “fresh air breaks”
My daughter was sick with COVID-19 and isolated in her dorm. Anything she needed, from meals to over-the-counter meds to snacks—they were right on it. My daughter felt very supported, and that is worth a lot to me.
Students who returned to campus in Fall 2020 enjoyed the single life—single rooms, that is. To decrease risk of exposure, students lived by themselves in Fall 2020, with the option to add a suitemate in Spring 2021.
Tigers took 6 feet apart to heart with socially distanced living and learning spaces.
Test, Trace, and Treat
The fundamental principle of Trinity’s reopening plan relies on approaching campus as we would a small town. This means aggressive plans for testing, contact tracing, and treatment of all Tigers who live, work, or learn on campus. Trinity conducted baseline and mass tests multiple times each semester for all students, faculty, and staff on campus as well as randomly sampled weekly surveillance testing and on-demand tests for symptomatic or exposed individuals.
And if one of those tests came back positive? You couldn’t be in better hands. Trinity’s Health Services practitioners, alongside a team of nurses and physicians, would quickly jump into action to trace and quarantine any exposed Tigers and develop a personalized treatment plan for the affected Tiger.
17,264 COVID-19 tests have been administered on campus to students, faculty, and staff
From parking lots to grassy spots, Tigers took to unusual locations to distance themselves for in-person classes.
In January, Trinity was approved to be a vaccination site for University faculty, staff, and students. Distribution began for faculty, staff, and students in April.
In 2020, Trinity’s New Student Orientation (NSO) and Welcome Week looked different.
After a move-in spread out over two days, students experienced all the usual staples from NSO, just in a virtual space. Welcome Week was full of movie nights, a student-produced Zoom play, virtual escape rooms, Drag Queen Bingo with Alyssa Edwards from RuPaul’s Drag Race, a pair of performing mentalists on YouTube live, an interactive murder-mystery event, and even a Trinity-themed trivia night.
At Trinity, experiential learning is more than words on a whiteboard: It’s a spirit of collaboration and enterprise that transcends limitations—which 2020 was full of.
Last summer, Trinity students pursued hands-on experiences in undergraduate research, entrepreneurship, and internships. Students conducted research in their backyards, built businesses at their dining tables, and interned remotely at organizations all around the world.
Nearly 150 students engaged in experiential learning during Summer 2020, mentored by 67 faculty members across 27 academic departments.
Trinity faculty have shown creativity, resilience, and adaptability over the past year. Given just two weeks to overhaul their syllabi, faculty adapted their classrooms to a completely remote environment, from uploading chemistry labs to YouTube to building virtual spaces for student music performances.
Zoom, well, zoomed to popularity, becoming a household name almost instantly. The video conferencing platform became the setting for more than 143,000 virtual meetings created by Trinity faculty, staff, and students since March 2020.
61,441,065 minutes Trinity faculty, staff, and students have used Zoom since March 2020
1,869 times per day Tigers say, “You’re muted.”
(That’s our unofficial estimation!)