Town hall meeting updates to prepare for spring semester


Katie Pulvermacher

Screenshot of Chancellor Andrew Leavitt during Town Hall

Katie Pulvermacher, News Editor

Discussing topics dealing with COVID-19, mental health and spring classes during his recent town hall meeting, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said he trusts UW Oshkosh’s pandemic plan will help ensure a successful spring semester.

“We’ve done a very good job as an institution in terms of managing the issues surrounding COVID-19,” Leavitt said. “We’ll do everything we can to keep the university functioning as high level as possible.”

COVID-19 rates and strategies
UWO’s emergency operation committee met weekly throughout the J-term to analyze data and confer with public health experts and continue to make recommendations to Leavitt on the best ways to operate during this pandemic.

“We’re confident that we can handle just about anything this virus throws at us,” UWO Police Chief Kurt Leibold said. “Our goal is always to maintain safe operations here at the university for our students and staff.”

Leibold said UWO’s strategy for the spring semester is built on four pillars: quarantine and isolation, testing, vaccinations and masks.

More than 70% of students overall  are vaccinated, while students living in residence halls, as well as faculty and staff, have a vaccination rate of over 80%.

Is there a chance spring semester will go remote?
“The trend everyone is counting on is that each successive variant is a little weaker than the previous in terms of its impact on people’s health,” Leavitt said. “[With] great guidance from the CDC, it’s very unlikely we will go remote based on this current variant.”

Leibold said the operation committee has been monitoring other UW schools and East Coast schools that start earlier than UWO. The trend is a surge of positive cases, which drops soon after.

“The students have done a miraculous job thus far in terms of their level of compliance and their willingness to make some sacrifices in order to stay safe and stay face-to-face in class,” Leavitt said. “We’re looking forward to the students coming back this week and having the full campus again.”

Any questions regarding the spring semester or concerns, email   to be connected to an expert to answer the question directly.

Masks on campus
Masks are back for just about every building on campus. The only exceptions are the personal spaces of the residence halls.

N95 masks are available for students, faculty and staff available for pickup in Albee Hall if wanted for extra protection.

Proper care is important for keeping a N95 respirator in good condition. Use this link to learn about proper care:

COVID-19 testing, quarantining and missing classes
Albee Hall will continue to be the UWO campus testing site. Self-testing stations are available at access campuses.

NCAA athletes will be following the same rules they had last semester, which is testing three times a week during competition and quarantining for close contact.

Isolation and quarantine continues to be at Gruenhagen Conference Center.

Students residing in residence halls who are unvaccinated are no longer required to get tested weekly.

“The Omicron variant is so contagious,” Leibold said. “If we test [students in the residence halls] weekly, we’ll probably miss that they’ve already contacted it anyway. We’re asking our students who  are symptomatic to come get tested right away and take on a little more personal responsibility.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who test positive isolate for five days after testing.

“Our success is based on the willingness of our students and staff to conform to the mandates and look out for each other,” Leibold said.

If a student needs to miss class because they tested positive or due to any other circumstance, the Dean of Students Office can send faculty an email notifying them of the student’s absence through Out of Class Letters. However, the student needs to follow up with each faculty member to keep up with and make up classwork.

Out of Class Letters will only be given for students who need to miss three or more consecutive days from class.

Mental and physical health
It is important to stay healthy, both mentally and physically to have a successful semester.

“The culture of care at UWO is something that permeates all of our campuses,” said Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Art Munin. “We’re an institution that believes in holistic wraparound services that are committed to helping students find the best success they can.”

The start of the pandemic brought a light to students’ mental health.

“Students have always had mental health challenges throughout the years,” Counseling Center Director Sandra Cox said. “We’ve just gained a greater awareness for it [through the pandemic], which is a really great thing because as we gain an awareness for it, we also gain an importance of how important wellness and mental health is to our success in life.”

Cox said the Counseling Center is there to support students and view their mental health in a positive way. The center is based around a flourish model, function well and feel good.

Individual and group counseling, wellness workshops, biofeedback, mindfulness, animal assisted therapy and more are all available to students. To get counseling when the Counseling Center is closed, call their number and select number two to connect to a crisis counselor 24/7.

“We know through various peer-reviewed studies that our mental health is strongly tied to our physical health,” Director of Student Recreation and Wellness  Nathan Scott said.

Personal training, intramural sports, club sports, activities and a variety of facilities including the indoor pool at Albee Hall and the Rec Plex are all available to students for their physical activity needs. Physical activity not only improves sleep quality, reduces anxiety and improves brain function, but is also a great way to connect socially with peers who enjoy the same activities.

The Outdoor Adventure Center puts on events throughout the year, including ski trips, snowboarding, camping, kayaking and more. Read the Nurtured by nature article by the American Psychology Association, which Scott recommends to learn more on the outdoors helping mental health and mental well being.

Renovation and reconstruction around campus
The College of Education and Human Services will be renovated with construction taking between 16 and 18 months. The six-story office building faculty are now being relocated.

“This $27-million phase of the project will provide much needed mechanical upgrades to the building and further transform it into the modern center for teacher education and UWO course delivery we have long sought,” Leavitt said in an article by  the News Bureau.

This April, the city of Oshkosh is going to resurface Algoma Boulevard from Congress Avenue to Wisconsin Street. Tentatively, most of the work will be done in the summer and slightly into next fall. New light fixtures will also be implemented for students to safely cross roads at night.

The outdoor patio behind Albee Hall will get an upgrade. All three campuses will be bringing in resources to create and update outdoor spaces.