MISSOULA — University of Montana President Seth Bodnar is confident about UM having in-person instruction again this fall. In the meantime, he said it's a time for students to take advantage of summer classes and offerings if the pandemic has changed their plans.
"The way our faculty and staff have responded, there has been tremendous moving mid-semester," Bodnar said. "Putting over 4,000 course sections into a remote delivery format."
It's been a spring of unexpected change on the UM campus. Normally this week, seniors would be getting ready to welcome family to town for commencement. Instead, the campus has been quiet, with anticipation of what conditions will be like later this year.
In an exclusive interview with MTN News, Bodnar said summer classes will start remotely, but there's hope of in-person instruction later in the semester. And he says the school is reaching out to high school graduates, who've either had plans of attending an out-of-state institution change, or they're concerned about leaving Montana.
"Take some classes this summer. Don't tread water. Make a little progress," Bodnar said. "Because a lot of those things you can't do this summer. And that's unfortunate. But don't sit and wait. Take some classes. And then that frees up some time, gives you some flexibility later.
"You know, this global pandemic is something to take seriously. And every step that we take here at the University of Montana, we will be considering first and foremost that health and safety of our UM family and of this community."
He continued, "We're fortunate, here in the state of Montana. I think this state took good, strong aggressive actions. We've stemmed the spread of this virus. It's still a threat and we have to take it seriously. But I think we can and will be adapting the ways in which we operate. The class sizes that we have. The ways that we enable physical distancing. The way that we treat residence halls. We're adapting how we operate but all with the goal of still being able to provide that high-quality, in-person instruction for the fall."
Bodnar says the university is having active discussions now about points like contact tracing, quarantine and isolation if it's needed, and ways to incorporate remote learning where it's appropriate and efficient in classes to come.