Happy first day of classes of the Fall 2020 semester! I want to welcome you (back) to campus and hope that you have settled into your new home after move-in. This year has been and will continue to be an unprecedented one due to the global pandemic. As our Vice President Rose Pascarell wrote in a recent communication, COVID-19 will have an impact on the semester, but should not define it. As a result of the pandemic, we have made changes to our residential occupancy, staffing, and engagement efforts to prioritize your health and safety and the health and safety of the student and professional staff living and working in the residence halls. While these changes will require a period of adjustment, our core priorities remain the same and we are committed to supporting you and providing a living environment that is as safe as possible while fostering your connections and success.
The experience may look and feel a bit different, but our Housing & Residence Life (HRL) staff is eager to connect with you this year. To help you transition (back) to campus, I wanted to share our updated staffing and engagement plans within the residence halls.
Community Directors – we have 13 Community Directors (CD) living on campus and serving in a 24/7/365 on-call rotation. These professional staff members engage with residents, supervise student staff, and are available to answer questions and connect with you. Each one of our residential communities is overseen by one of these directors. To find yours, please visit: https://housing.gmu.edu/about/contact-housing-staff.
Community Assistants – we have 93 Community Assistants (CAs) living in the residence halls. . They are extensively trained student staff who are available to support residents, work the community desks, and help maintain the health and safety of the halls through an on-call rotation. To reach a CA, don’t hesitate to call one of our 24/7 desks in either Eisenhower or Piedmont Halls.
VLC Mentors – we have 94 VLC Mentors serving as “virtual Resident Assistants.” Every residential student and every student in a Virtual Learning Community (VLC) was assigned a VLC Mentor. The VLC Mentors are trained to provide 1:1 support to students through our virtual “Knock & Talks” and community hours. They will also engage with you in creative ways through weekly traditions and virtual gatherings to help you meet others in your community and to have some fun. You have all been added to a group in the Mason360 App (http://mason360.gmu.edu) with other students in your hall and/or your VLC to start meeting each other and your VLC Mentor. In fact, VLC Mentors have already reached out to all residential and VLC students via Mason360 and sent an email as well as hosted their first meetings this past weekend.
Housekeeping & Maintenance Staff – we have dedicated teams to maintain the cleanliness of the halls and provide you with maintenance support as needed. Because our housekeeping staff have increased the frequency of cleaning, you will see them, so please don’t hesitate to say “hi.” They will even be cleaning your doors which is why you don’t see your name on your door this year! If you need something fixed within your space, please put in a maintenance request through the housing portal and a member of the maintenance team will come to fix the problem.
In addition to the changes in our staffing structure and the reduction in occupancy, we have had to adjust the availability of common spaces to prioritize your safety following recommendations from local health authorities. Although these spaces will remain closed for the foreseeable future, we have designed a virtual engagement plan that our VLC Mentors will execute through Mason360 to connect you with each other and our staff. I encourage you to visit the Mason360 page to see a wide array of in person and virtual events planned by both Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) and departments across campus. This is a great way to get connected to other students on campus!
This year will require that we all remember the privilege and responsibilities of living in community with others. Please familiarize yourself with all the new COVID-19 related policies located in the residential handbook. They have been implemented to support the safety and wellbeing of the entire community. Violations of these policies may result in removal and disciplinary action through our conduct process.
Living in community means your actions impact those around you within the halls. I ask that you continue to follow posted signage reminding you to wear a face covering, complete the COVID Health Check, wash your hands frequently, maintain social distancing, be diligent in upholding our guest policy, and if you feel sick, stay inside your room and contact Student Health Services for support. We are all in this together!
Whether you are joining us for your first semester or returning to live on campus, it is my hope that you feel welcomed and supported. The Housing & Residence Life staff is happy to welcome you (back) and we look forward to engaging with you soon.
Dr. Chris Holland
Assistant Dean/Chief Housing Officer