Students, faculty, and staff began trickling into the Fuller Arts Center early Tuesday afternoon to find a seat in the packed auditorium for Springfield College’s All College Meeting held by President Mary Beth Cooper.
During the meeting, there was a promising perception of normalcy as the annual get together finally took place in person, face-to-face, for the first time since 2019.
The first item on Cooper’s agenda, which happened to be the most anticipated topic, was discussing the school’s policies and guidelines to limit the ongoing threat of the coronavirus disease. In compliance with Springfield’s city-wide mandate that was put into effect on Monday, masks must continue to be worn inside by everyone – regardless of vaccination status – and must also be worn outside when social distancing of six feet or more is unable to be maintained.
“COVID-19 remains frontline, and our teams are working hard to remain one step ahead of the virus as much as we can,” offered Cooper. “As of last week, 91% of our students and 95% of our employees are fully vaccinated. Our masking policy was modified in response to the mandate by the city of Springfield. It’s not ideal and it feels like a step back, but staying in compliance with the city mandate is essential and reflects the service to others aspect of our mission.”
President Cooper then brought forth Bridget Belgiovine (Vice Chair, Springfield College Board of Trustees), Eileen Cyr (President, Faculty Senate), Paige Moran (Co-chair, Staff Council), and Arianna Susi (President, Student Government Association) to give their perspectives on the start of the academic year and what they each have in store for students.
Cyr shared some special thoughts with the audience about how to push through the 15-week gauntlet that classes tend to be, saying, “Don’t worry about falling down. Fall down, get back up, and make sure we’re all helping each other [get back up as well]. We’re going to keep moving forward, and we’re going to keep learning from every moment that we experience. I’m really excited about this year, and I hope everybody else is too.”
Dr. Calvin Hill (Vice President, Inclusion and Community Engagement) was the last of five speakers, not including Cooper, to take the podium. Dr. Hill spoke with great passion about the continuous push for the inclusion and integration of BIPOC students on Alden Street.
“We are stronger as a campus community when all individuals here feel safe and secure,” Hill asserted. “I believe we must celebrate and acknowledge our many differences. We need to be a campus where our first perspectives are accepted, valued, and indeed embedded in all we do.”
Cooper followed Dr. Hill’s strong segment with quite the surprise.
She announced the launching of a campaign that has been unraveling sneakily behind the scenes over the course of the past few years.
“This is the big secret, I’m going to launch it right here,” Cooper began. “Since 2018, Springfield College has been in a silent phase of our first large scale fundraising campaign in more than a dozen years. This fall, we will launch that campaign publicly, having raised to date more than 33 million dollars of a 50 million dollar goal.”
Cooper went on to publicize that there are four priorities of the campaign, all designed to support the school’s core needs and new ventures.
“The annual fund (1), which provides critical operational support, scholarships and endowments support to ensure access to affordable Springfield College education (2), programs and services that create bridging experiences for students, faculty and staff (3), and finally, the feature capitol project, our new health sciences center (4),” stated Cooper.
The meeting came to a close after the annual R. William Cheney Award was presented, by President Cooper herself, to Genevieve Szulc. Szulc received – along with the award – a standing ovation and an overwhelming flurry of cheers from the Fuller Arts Center crowd as she walked down the aisle to accept her award.
It was yet another successful All College Meeting for president Cooper and company, acting as the signalling for the official kickoff of the 2021-2022 school year.