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Students, staff prepare for unusual fall semester at Utah universities

FILE -- Shoppers check out University of Utah merchandise at the Red Zone inside the University of Utah campus store in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. The Pac-12, of which Utah is a member, canceled football and all sports competitions through the end of the calendar year.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Many universities around the state are set to re-open Monday with a mix of online and some in-person classes.

Online orientation 

Typically, this time of year, new students at University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Weber State University and Dixie State University would be fresh off orientation and ready for their first day of in-person classes. This year, that’s not exactly the case.

“I haven’t met any of my professors or anybody in my cohort, nor will I,” explains Alexia Curley, a first-year grad student at the University of Utah. “Any study groups will be online.”

Curley is five years removed from her undergrad and when she initially made the decision to enroll at the U, well before coronavirus was even a thought, she was looking forward to being back in a higher education setting.

“Now, that school setting is my desk in my house,” she explains.

At the U, students in different programs will have different experiences. That’s because the university will be juggling both hybrid and online-only formats, according to Dr. Dan Reed, Vice President of Academic Affairs.

“We start Monday [then go] to all online for two weeks,” he explains. “[We] return to that mix of modalities and then go all online after Thanksgiving.”

The two week all online “circuit breaker,” as officials have called it, overlaps with the vice-presidential debate at Kingsbury Hall on October 7. 

Universities stress classroom connections

If freshmen or first-year grad students didn’t have enough to worry about with academics, there’s of course the all important extra-curricular aspect.

“We’re encouraging all of our student engagement opportunities to occur in a presence free or virtual manner,” explains Erica Anderson, Student Leadership & Involvement Director at University of Utah.

She says student organizations are still up-and-running right now, but the “club fairs” have moved online. Anderson encourages all new students to log on this fall not just for schoolwork, but also for social life.

According to her, making a couple new connections could be important to help navigate a possibly stressful time.