COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Spring Semester Unlike Any Other

Allied and mental health college site plan

A rare sight: An empty campus in March after students and faculty moved to remote learning.

What started as a little-known coronavirus in December emerged as a worldwide threat by March, triggering economic unrest, necessitat- ing the cancelation of sporting events, activities and large gatherings, and introducing the world to the concept of “social distancing.”

For George Fox students and people around the world, life had changed overnight. With Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s March 23 order to “Stay Home, Save Lives,” the state mandated that citizens stay home except for essential work, outdoor exercise, or to purchase necessary food and supplies. Organizations that relied on in-person interaction either had to close or find a new way to conduct business.

“So many in our community stepped up in very tangible ways to demonstrate the love of Christ to our students and those impacted by this event.”

At George Fox, the mandate required a shift in the way education was delivered. Remote learning became the new reality in late March, as students were asked to vacate campus as a safety precaution after the spring break holiday. Beyond academics, Juniors Abroad trips were postponed, NCAA competition at all levels was shut down – including the Sweet 16 round of the Division III Women’s Basketball Tournament, of which George Fox was a part – and spring commencement celebrations were moved to a virtual format.

As university leadership worked to navigate an ever-changing landscape, it focused on innovation to meet the needs of students and deliver the institution’s Be Known promise in new ways. Students without computers were loaned Chromebooks. Professors, career coaches, campus pastors, tutors, librarians, counselors and others created new ways to connect with students remotely. The Bruin Community Pantry food bank remained open with enhanced safety protocols. Online Bible studies and activities were organized. And, in April, the George Fox Gives campaign raised more than $139,000 to meet the needs of financially vulnerable students affected by the coronavirus.

In the community, the university’s engineering department 3D-printed face shields to distribute to local healthcare workers; the nursing department donated personal protective equipment to Friendsview Retirement Community; and a group of students created a website where busy doctors and nurses could sign up for free services like grocery shopping, dog walking and yard work.

“I’ve been very proud of our faculty and staff – and our entire university community – for how they responded to this crisis, the likes of which we had not seen in our lifetime,” George Fox President Robin Baker says. “So many in our community stepped up in very tangible ways to demonstrate the love of Christ to our students and those impacted by this event.”

At semester’s end, the university announced that it will be ready to welcome students back in the fall, if allowed to do so by government officials, resuming in-person classes with enhanced safety measures. “We are not blind to the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Baker says, “but we are committed to finding a safe way to provide the in-person undergraduate campus experience that is so valuable to the transformative education we provide.”