CMU takes proactive approach in pandemic efforts

Stephanie Motter

I’ve enjoyed the privilege to develop incredible relationships with countless businesses and organizations as Monument Health has grown and become more deeply ingrained in Western Colorado. Count Colorado Mesa University among those organizations.

Through my service as a CMU trustee, I’ve been able to witness the thoughtful and proactive leadership that places students at the center of decision-making. The response to coronavirus pandemic was no exception. Not only did CMU graduate nursing students early to help with hospital efforts, the CMU Foundation also created a relief fund for students who might not have been able to continue their education. Now, the university has created a clear path forward to reopening the campus for fall semester.

I don’t have to tell you how impactful the nationwide shutdown in response to the pandemic has been to our economy. Practically overnight, jobs disappeared along with the part-time sources of income that allowed students to attend classes and pay student loans. Many students faced the reality they might not be able to the return in the fall or even continue their education because of the financial burden.

The CMU Foundation created the Maverick Relief Fund within weeks of the shutdown to help students through micro grants. The community rallied, nearly $325,000 was raised and grants have helped 115 students who would not have otherwise been able to continue their education.

Monument Health also made meaningful decisions to support CMU students we employ as interns and “wellness warriors.” We’re proud to continue to keep Mavs on the payroll even when tough financial decisions had to be made because of the downturn.

Although CMU will join with countless businesses and nonprofits in Mesa County in experiencing the financial effects of the pandemic, trustees unanimously voted not to raise tuition, fees or housing rates for the 2020-21 school year. We made this decision knowing the same students receiving help through the Maverick Relief Fund would likely see it as another obstacle to finishing their education. By voting for the freeze, it was our goal to remove any barriers that would preclude any students from returning, especially first-generation, low-income and non-traditional students.

As we look forward to recovery, CMU has been a national leader and the first institution in Colorado to announce in-person learning would resume in the fall by following sound science and medical best practices.

Although online learning in the spring offered a fine short-term alternative to closure, many students struggled without face-to-face instruction. Many more were unable to finish the semester. CMU President Tim Foster and his management team knew returning in the fall was the best option. They assembled a team of public health officials, epidemiologists, doctors and medical experts to begin working toward that end.

The initiative — titled Safe Together, Strong Together — involves three objectives: training, prevention and screening. The initiative takes all of these elements into consideration as policies and guidelines are tested and implemented on a small scale this summer. To ensure success this fall, the final phase includes comprehensive screening practices established in coordination with Mesa County Public Health and local hospital partners. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the team at CMU has thoughtfully and tirelessly worked to create a clear path forward for in-person learning this fall.

COVID-19 is likely not going away, meaning we’ll have to  reopen and operate smartly and safely in this new reality at work, home and school.

CMU remains a bright spot in our community and a leader in paving the way for our new normal. It’s been an honor to play a small role in these efforts. It’s my hope the work being done at CMU will help other universities as well as businesses, nonprofits and school districts make sound decisions.