Back to School, In Person

UW–Madison cautiously plans for a “new normal” this fall.

Students walk along a colorful tree-lined sidewalk outside Bascom Hall in fall

“Our sense of community is stronger than the pandemic,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. Bryce Richter

Bascom Hill swarming with students. Camp Randall full of fans. Classrooms and labs teeming with activity.

University officials are increasingly optimistic that many once-common campus sights soon will return. While the pandemic is not over, it’s time to prepare for life after COVID-19, Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the campus community in late March.

“Our students should plan to be in Madison in the fall,” Blank said in a blog post. “Our dining facilities and our academic and research resources will all be open, and our residence halls will be fully occupied.”

Not everything will be the same, of course. “It’s a new normal, not our old normal,” she said.

In February, interim UW System president Tommy Thompson ’63, JD’66 directed campuses to aim for at least 75 percent of all classes being in person in fall 2021. UW–Madison officials say they expect to surpass that goal.

Plans are underway for nearly all of the UW–Madison courses that were offered in person in the fall of 2019 to return to in-person instruction in fall 2021. There will be a smaller number of hybrid and online classes, similar to what the university has offered in the past, and others will integrate technology more directly into an in-person learning experience.

There are still many unknowns, Blank cautioned. Concerns about public health will continue to be top of mind.

“One thing that we’ve learned during this year is that our sense of community is stronger than the pandemic,” Blank said. “Just as we made multiple changes on campus to adjust to the challenges of the past year, we will do the work needed to facilitate our return.”

Published in the Summer 2021 issue

Tags: administration, Student life, Teaching and learning

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