Fall 2020 Updates

As we all continue to navigate the environment that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is our intent to put your minds at ease about the educational experience that awaits you at Niagara University.

This series of communications from our president, the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., will provide you with a wealth of information pertaining to the steps we’re taking to prepare for the safe reopening of our campus.

We fully intend to deliver outstanding in-person instruction to new and returning students for the fall 2020 semester.

The health and safety of our students will always be our top priority and we are instituting guidelines to reopen in accordance with policies and procedures established by leading health experts. In addition, through my involvement with the Restart Higher Education Task Group organized by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, I am engaged in numerous high-level discussions on the best ways to safely reopen college campuses.

You have come to know through your college search process that Niagara’s mission is driven by a deep engagement with students throughout every part of the campus experience. This is greatly enhanced by the intellectual interactions in the classroom, incredible research opportunities with faculty members, and unique academic and co-curricular events and activities. This drives The Power of Niagara University, and we intend to continue that great legacy on our campus this fall.

I look forward to soon sharing more information about the fall semester on Monteagle Ridge.

In the meantime, additional information on activating your student account, depositing, and registering for Summer Orientation can be found at next.niagara.edu. Should you have any questions, I invite you to contact your admissions counselor or submit your comments through a portal we’ve created for new Niagara families at www.niagara.edu/AskNU.

As I mentioned in my previous message, we expect a full reopening of our beautiful campus at the end of August. We are working closely with government officials, including the New York State Department of Health, to identify and implement all public health requirements to protect the safety and health of the university community – our students, faculty, staff, and administration.

Although best practices continue to evolve at this time, we have plans in place to offer numerous hand-sanitizing stations across campus; low-density classes that are conducive to maintaining appropriate social distancing; and the frequent cleaning and sanitizing of shared learning spaces. In addition, we are prepared to implement precautionary measures such as wearing masks, screening for fevers, and contact tracing.

One of the reasons that you have chosen NU is for our 170-acre, low-density campus in a serene suburban setting, a location that also presents us with a significant advantage as we prepare to reopen. It’s important to note that our commitment to small class sizes has prepared us well for meeting even the most stringent public health requirements. Last fall, for example, a majority (60%) of our undergraduate classes enrolled fewer than 20 students, and 85% of our course offerings had fewer than 30 students per class. 

Moreover, our provost and faculty are developing scenarios to accommodate further social distancing, if necessary, such as offering classes earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon and into the evening. Saturday and hybrid (a combination of face-to-face and online) offerings could enter the equation, but are not part of our current plans for the fall of 2020. True to the Niagara experience, we will do whatever we can, while abiding by safety protocols, to preserve in-person engagement.

Academic advisement is also a distinguishing feature of the Niagara experience and the process for fall registration will soon occur. We will get our new first-year students off to a great start, as graduating in four years is the expected outcome at Niagara University – and that has not changed.

Please never hesitate to connect with your dedicated admissions counselor if you have any questions or concerns. You are also welcome to submit comments through an online portal we created for our new Niagara family members at www.niagara.edu/AskNU.

Data tells us that 83% of freshman residents regularly participate in high-impact co-curricular activities, compared to 57% of commuters. As we say at NU, where you live will change your life.

Our summer and fall plans are well underway for in-person teaching and learning, research and laboratory opportunities with our faculty, and students living in our residence halls. To ensure the safety of everyone, we are closely following the New York state guidelines set forth by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and implementing best practices prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Our Office of Residence Life is diligently preparing for your arrival, and working to integrate both practical and state-of-the-art measures to ensure the health and safety of every member of our campus community:

  • Expanding availability of single rooms.
  • Enhancing the extent and frequency of cleaning, especially for high-touch surfaces.
  • Increasing the availability of soap and hand sanitizer.
  • Becoming the first college or university in the country to provide students with Spry Pure virus-blocking pillows.
  • Instituting protocols for routine health monitoring, symptom identification, and rapid intervention.
  • Reducing density and capacity of communal spaces (e.g., restrooms, lounges, etc.).
  • Using face masks and testing one-way travel in common spaces (e.g., corridors, stairwells, etc.).
  • Limiting capacity in elevators.
  • Developing an educational campaign on health and wellness practices.
  • Establishing creative social and educational programming that promotes connection and involvement while prioritizing health and safety.
  • Making adjustments to fall move-in to promote social distancing.

Similarly, our dining areas will undergo the following changes:

  • Adjusting the dining schedule and physical layout of these areas to reduce capacity and promote social distancing.
  • Enhancing the extent and frequency of cleaning, especially for high-touch surfaces.
  • Changing food stations from self-serve to full-serve.
  • Offering options for takeout meals.

I hope you are finding my ongoing messages beneficial to you during this unprecedented time. As always, please let us know whatever is on your mind by visiting www.niagara.edu/AskNU.