Message from Chancellor Sartarelli: Commencement, Fall 2021 and Other Updates

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Dear Seahawk Community: 

This weekend, UNCW will celebrate commencement for the Class of 2021 with in-person and virtual ceremony options. We expect 2,183 undergraduates, 593 master’s and 31 doctoral students to graduate, and I offer each one of these Seahawks my personal congratulations on their success. Visit We Are UNCW Class of 2021 to learn more about several star students, including Sydney Batchelder ’21, the very first graduate of UNCW’s Ph.D. in Psychology program. 

To support the health of our campus and the broader community, all graduates, guests and staff will be required to wear cloth face coverings or masks and observe other safety-related protocols while attending in-person ceremonies. Please visit the commencement site for details and updates, and review all health and safety guidelines for our in-person ceremonies by visiting the commencement FAQ page. Graduates and guests who have not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19 have an opportunity to obtain the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at our on-campus clinic. The vaccines are free and no appointment is necessary. The clinic will be open 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, May 6, in the Burney Center and 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday, May 7, in the Student Health Center in DePaolo Hall. Graduates and their families also can have a COVID-19 test at the MAC gym today, Thursday and Friday, 8:30-11:15 a.m. and 1:30-4:15 p.m.  

As a campus community, we have much to celebrate in many key areas. Please see the updates below for additional information. 

COVID-19 Update 

In May 2020, when we mapped out our plans for this academic year, we knew the pandemic would place heavy demands on our entire campus community to be flexible, patient and resilient, and we pulled together as only Seahawks can. It was a difficult year, and yet, we made it through the challenges together. As of May 4, we recorded 1,376 positive cases among students, 68 among faculty and staff, and 6 among contractors, according to our data dashboard. These numbers are remarkably low, given how easily COVID-19 spreads, and they reflect the dedication that every Seahawk contributed to keeping our community safe. Thank youall of youfor sustaining the university during a year none of us is likely to forget. 

Starting next week, we will move our campus COVID-19 testing and vaccination operations from various campus locations back to the Student Health Center in DePaolo Hall. We will continue to offer these services through the summer and into the fall, depending on the pandemic’s circumstances. The university is pleased to offer free vaccines – no appointments required – to members of the community. See the “Updates” section of Best for the Nest for the latest information on COVID-19 and contact with questions. 

Fall 2021 Semester 

In the fall, we plan to bring back many great UNCW traditions – modified as necessary to accommodate any COVID-19 guidance that may be in place at the time – and we are going to keep key services that will enhance the UNCW experience for our students. Nearly 68% of our classes will be taught in person in the fall, about 24% will be taught online and the remainder are shaping up as hybrid courses. Students appreciate online options, which help them balance their academic, internship and community engagement schedules. We also will continue to offer our fully online accelerated programs, such as the R.N.-to-B.S.N., which are a convenient and accessible option for working professionals.  

During the pandemic, we expanded Move-In over several days, making it easier for students and their families to work it into their schedules. We will take that approach again in the fall, beginning on Aug. 13 with our newest students and continuing for about a week, ending with our returning students. We will have a lot to celebrate in the fall. We will open two new residence halls and a dining hall, and we look forward to seeing our campus alive with the energy that our students bring to UNCW. Student Affairs already is planning out six weeks of fun welcome activities to bring back the Seahawk spirit that makes our campus like no other. 

Based on current guidance from state and federal health agencies, we are planning to conduct COVID-19 return-to-campus testing for students living on campus and/or taking in-person courses. We also are planning to conduct surveillance testing among residential students next fall. Students who provide proof to Student Health that they are fully vaccinated will be exempt from return-to-campus testing and surveillance testing, offering Seahawks another great reason to consider getting vaccinated. The Student Health Center also plans to offer vaccines on campus in the fall in accordance with state and federal guidelines. Based on current guidance from the UNC System, UNCW does not plan to mandate vaccines for faculty, staff or students. Please see this message from the UNC System for more information.  

Return to Campus for Employees  

To best prepare our campus for the fall semester and based on operational needs, we will begin a phased return to on-site work for employees currently teleworking. Starting June 14, divisions can begin a phased return to on-site operations with many staff returning to campus by July 6. Some employees may not return to campus until early August (no later than the start of the academic year on Aug. 9). Supervisors are encouraged to use discretion and provide flexibility for employees with extenuating circumstances, during this phased return to campus, given the lingering impacts of the pandemic.  

Divisions can identify the priority areas for staff to return and coordinate those efforts through their divisional business officers and the Return to Campus Operations Workgroup chaired by Human Resources. Although our campus is transitioning away from the special circumstances that prompted widespread usage of teleworking, we are reviewing our standard teleworking policy to determine how we may incorporate lessons learned from this past year into future campus operations. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks. 

Parking and Transportation would like to remind faculty and staff on parking permit payroll deduction that no payroll deduction will occur for the months of June and July. Those who opted-out of the current academic year permit may also park for free in June and July to assist with the return to campus. Academic year 2021-22 permit registration will begin in June, with permits active on August 1. Stay tuned for more information on the new early parking permit registration process. 

Renovation and Expansion of Cultural Centers 

We have started the process of expanding our cultural centers, with the Mohin-Scholz LGBTQIA Resource Office moving from a 500-square-foot space to a 1,365-square-foot space this past year. Plans are underway to transition the Upperman African American Cultural Center from 1,630 to 2,660 square feet and Centro Hispano from 1,030 to 2,198 square feet. All three centers will remain in the Fisher University Union; the larger spaces will support educational missions and programmatic goals. 

Recent Recognition 

At UNCW, we rightfully pride ourselves on providing students with an experience like no other. The national recognition the university routinely receives reflects the quality of the programs and services available. In April, UNCW became one of only five colleges and universities nationwide to be named a 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee. D.C. Virgo, a year-round K-8 school operated by UNCW, and Wrightsville Beach Elementary, a community partner, are among 27 U.S. schools recognized this year. The university is also one of only three institutions to receive the 2021 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Internationalization. Our Class of 2021 graduates will go out into the world with the knowledge that their degrees represent excellence on a global scale. 

CAA Champions 

Congratulations to the men’s tennis team on earning their seventh Colonial Athletic Association championship this past weekend! Best wishes for continued success in the NCAA tournament this weekend against the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. 

Monitor Campus Inboxes  

As we all were reminded throughout the pandemic – things change, sometimes quickly. Between now and the fall, please continue to monitor your campus inboxes and the university homepage for new information as it develops. Students, please consider sharing any updates with your parents/families to help keep them informed. I hope all of you start making plans now for a great fall semester at UNCW. 

Go Seahawks! 

Jose V. Sartarelli