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SLU Successfully Completes Academic Year Amid Pandemic

Saint Louis University has successfully wrapped up its 2020-2021 academic year — one that brought unprecedented challenges due to a global pandemic — without having to suspend its commitment to mostly in-person classes, entirely in-person labs and on-campus living. 

Students and families follow public health protocols during the first day of fall move-in. Photo by Douglas GarfieldStudents and families follow public health protocols during the first day of fall move-in. Photo by Douglas Garfield

“Every member of our Saint Louis University community should be proud of all we have accomplished this past year, much of which many thought impossible a year ago,” said University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. “The pandemic tested us, and we pulled together and rose to the challenges as One SLU.” 

Pestello continued: “I have heard from many students and parents about how well SLU communicated with them and how positive it was to them that we kept our campus open and taught primarily in person.”

But why was SLU able to keep its campus open at a time when other colleges across the country were being forced to shelter in place, suspend in-person classes or move completely online? 

Among many other factors, University officials point to a decision early in the crisis to engage SLU’s experts and solicit them to lead the University’s response to COVID-19, including three uniquely qualified faculty members: 

The three experts agree SLU was well positioned to succeed in the fight against COVID-19 as a Jesuit research university with medical, nursing, physician assistant, and public health schools and programs, as well as its own physician practice. 

“We have expertise at Saint Louis University that is just not available at other universities,” said Rebmann, who also coordinated weekly meetings of area college officials and local health department leaders. 

“And we worked together as a team to address what we needed,” added Charney, who helped organize similar sessions among the region’s health systems. “We used our own strengths to support each other, which I think was awesome.” 

And one of those strengths was the commitment of students to do their part. Beyond complying with SLU’s stringent public health safeguards, students contributed in many other ways. Chief among them:

“There were many students throughout the University who helped provide whatever support we needed,” said Horton, who also helped organized vaccine clinics for parishioners from area churches and local refugees, among others.

Responding as OneSLU 

In keeping with the OneSLU spirit, winning the battle against COVID-19 required the hard work and dedication of every member of the University community. Key efforts included: 

By the Numbers 

Planning for Fall 2021  

With broad vaccine availability, SLU is planning for as normal a fall semester as possible, operating largely face to face, with full classrooms and labs, as well as in-person events and near-capacity campus housing. 

Working groups of faculty, staff and students have been tasked with developing recommendations for a variety of key decisions, including a possible vaccine requirement for University community members and “return-to-work” protocols.

As recommendations are made and accepted, University officials say they expect to update the SLU community with additional information periodically throughout this summer.

Learn More about SLU's Fall 2021 Plans