Arcadia’s Pandemic Response

Caitlin Burns

Male Arcadia University student walks by Easton Pond with mask on
Arcadia University took a values-based, community-focused, strategic approach in responding to the disruptions that have been brought by COVID-19 since early 2020. Each initiative enacted and measure taken placed students and those most vulnerable in our community at the center, with University units and leadership setting an example of steady, unwavering strength and vision in the face of challenges. Throughout these initiatives, the University has prioritized keeping students and families informed, supported, engaged, healthy, and prepared for academic success. These values and priorities continue to guide Arcadia’s ongoing work.

Early Action Mobilizes a Community

In January, well before the first documented cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S., Arcadia took immediate steps to protect the University community. As the situation progressed, the University made the swift decision to cancel the South Korea Preview and then postpone travel for students scheduled to study on the 2020 Preview and Global Field Study courses

As a global community, the mood was of sadness and grief as staff and faculty overseas encountered COVID-19 in lockdown before their U.S. colleagues. The College of Global Studies (TCGS) swiftly mobilized a mass-scale return home of hundreds of students studying abroad as international locations went into lockdown. Arcadia staff in-country jumped into action, working diligently with partner institutions to move the remainder of the international courses, cultural exchange, and internships online. 

Coordinating Crisis Response

As spring break 2020 approached, significant shifts occurred hourly and prompted the University to advance to the next response level. Arcadia was one of the first institutions in the region to make the necessary decision that all academic courses, experiences, and business operations would move online for the rest of the spring 2020 semester. This swift action provided our community the time to pivot and support our faculty as they created quality learning experiences to finish the spring semester courses. 

While academic continuity remained a key priority, Arcadia took steps to care for our entire community’s well-being and minimize possible exposure to the virus. A centralized COVID-19 leadership team and emergency personnel continued to meet daily, monitor the situation locally and globally, and update the University community regularly. 

Pivoting to Become All-Modes Ready 

Intaglio press created by Arcadia University professor Jennifer Manzella

Personal-sized Intaglio press mailed by Manzella to students.

Arcadia remained committed to student and employee safety, from academic preparedness to community engagement. With the launch of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring in June, the University solidified its dedication to an All-Modes Ready approach for the fall semester by coordinating with countless faculty, teaching staff, and Digital Learning Services (DLS) to redesign hundreds of courses so that they could be taught in-person or remotely, such as the creation of individualized art tools by the Art and Design Department like the personal presses crafted and mailed by Jennifer Manzella (shown right), adjunct professor of Visual and Fine Arts.  Over the summer and through the fall semester, faculty and teaching staff continued their redesign efforts as DLS endeavored to expand the University’s online tools so that students could engage with faculty, staff, and their peers. 

Some graduate programs were able to return to campus over the summer to engage in redesigned hands-on experiences. Physician assistant and physical therapy students returned to campus in July and continued through the fall semester for on-campus “immersions” to hone their hands-on skills in-person with faculty. Students worked in pairs as part of pods of 10 students with the same instructor each week, following public health guidelines. The campus experience met program goals so that the students graduate prepared for clinical practice in a timely manner. Additionally, forensic science students returned to campus to safely complete necessary lab requirements to stay on-track for graduation. 

While study abroad was forced to move online in the spring and summer of 2020, TCGS was able to send students abroad in the fall to England through programs with the London Center, London School of Economics, Oxford University, and Manchester University; and to Scotland with programs at Edinburgh University, St. Andrews University, and Stirling University. In addition to its international programs, TCGS also launched Arcadia Abroad Online, which offered remote learning and internship opportunities with virtual cultural exchange events through the Intern Philly and Virtual Global Program.

As we head into the spring 2021 semester, the University has approved supplemental programming and some all-modes courses, which will be taught both in-person and online, to support the campus’s phased reopening. 

Engaging Outside the Classroom

The Department of Athletics and Recreation saw seasons cut short, except for eSports, which has been competing remotely. While all fall sports were postponed or canceled, the Middle Atlantic Conference announced tentative plans for winter sports in a manner that prioritized the health and well-being of student-athletes, coaches, campuses, and local communities.

Arcadia University Student Government Organization meets over Zoom

Student Government Organization (SGO) Zoom meeting during the fall 2020 semester.

The Office of Sponsored Research formed a task force and worked proactively with faculty members to return to campus safely to re-engage in their research programs.

The Office of Student Affairs continued to engage students through a variety of programs, including the launch of the UKnighted Communities of Interest. Student Government Organization (SGO) moved online, working with clubs to ensure students were represented during informational and learning discussions. Throughout the semester, SGO worked with administrators to develop educational programs that helped students understand the University’s measures during the pandemic. Additionally, SGO approved three new clubs to encourage student engagement outside the virtual classroom.

As the pandemic continued, the Arcadia community rallied to support first responders, hospitals, shelters, and other organizations by donating surplus materials (shown right), handmade masks, and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) throughout the region. Additionally, TCGS provided housing at its Princess Elizabeth House in London to medical students from Whittington Hospital when they were pulled to duty early to help combat the virus.

Arcadia University facilities team member packs PPE kits

Facilities, Maintenance, and Housekeeping team member packing PPE kits.

As the community worked to find a new normal, the Knights for Nutrition Food Pantry recognized the need to stay open during this turbulent time. Working with Student Affairs and Metz Dining Services, the committee ensured that the pantry was able to support the students who remained on campus and those in the surrounding community with fresh foods, hygiene supplies, and nonperishable items. Also, the CARES Act Grant review team awarded CARES funding to more than 700 students and families.

Health, Safety, and Support

Student Health Services (SHS) helped keep students at the center of care, while the University formed a COVID task force to lead decisions for campus facilities, which was led by Public Health experts on campus. Over the summer, SHS worked with departments and offices to develop the Health and Safety Plan, which is updated as information becomes available and situations evolve. 

Arcadia University surveillance testing facility
With the partial reopening of spring 2021, which brings approximately 1,000 students back to campus, SHS has continued to drive student testing procedures. In December, SHS opened its first surveillance testing facility in the University Commons (shown left) for students that will continue through the spring. Students approved to be on campus as commuters or residents will be required to get tested once a week as part of surveillance testing. Faculty and staff that are approved to return to campus will also go through regular testing. Should a student or faculty member receive a positive diagnosis, SHS, in conjunction with Athletics, has developed its own contact tracing team on campus to limit the spread of the virus to the Arcadia community.

Throughout the nine months since learning and working went online, the University kept the community informed and connected through frequent messaging and web presence. Friday Forums helped supplement faculty and staff collaboration, while adapted events like Grad-AWAY-tion and the Living Our Values Experience (LOVE) Pilot Teach-Ins fostered a virtual community. 

With an ongoing coordinated web presence, the Covid-19 pages assembled information about the various departments, events, and housing, as well as the overall status of campus into the COVID19 webpages. With the COVID Dashboard on the Arcadia website, the community can track testing and results through daily updates.

As Arcadia moves into a spring semester with students on campus, University community members are ready and excited to face the challenges ahead and keep Arcadia a terrific place to live, learn, and work. Any Arcadia community member (students and employees) who tested positive must report that information on the Arcadia self-disclosure form. Any COVID-specific questions can be directed to

For more information about Arcadia’s efforts during the pandemic, go to

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