September 3, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Earlier this spring, we decided to postpone our spring 2020 commencement and hold it at the conclusion of fall 2020 semester, on Dec.19, 2020 to protect the health and safety of our students, their families, and our campus community, due to the unforeseen factors of the coronavirus.

This summer, a collective decision by the Montana University System was made to start fall 2020 semester three weeks early and conclude before the Thanksgiving holiday to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially since travel tends to increase during this time. As a result of the change in our fall semester dates and to align with the new timeline, the commencement celebration will now take place on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 at MetraPark.

To ensure we continue to put the health and safety of everyone first, we will hold two commencement celebration ceremonies on Nov. 21.

The first commencement celebration ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and will include graduates of City College and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

The second ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. and include graduates of the College of Education, the College of Business, and the College of Health Professions and Sciences.

To limit the number of large gatherings, convocations will not occur this year.

Please help us get the word out to students. It is vital that we know if they plan to attend our fall 2020 commencement ceremonies. They need to RSVP here no later than Oct. 16, 2020. Graduates from summer 2019, fall 2019, spring 2020, summer 2020, and fall-2020 degree candidates are invited to participate in the Nov. 21 commencement.

More details will be forthcoming as they are currently being formulated. Also check the commencement webpage for updates.

We look forward to celebrating these milestones with our students this fall.

Sincerely,

Melinda Arnold

August 5, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

I am pleased to share some great news with you today. Following recommendations from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities’ (NWCCU) Seven Year Mission Fulfillment and Sustainability Evaluation of MSU Billings which occurred in 2018, we have­­ recently received a glowing report from the NWCCU’s virtual visit this past April, commending the university for turning the ship around in such a short amount of time.

For the past two years, many of you have worked tirelessly toward achieving the recommendations set forth by the NWCCU, which were to develop meaningful strategic plan metrics, continually update and revise job descriptions to accurately reflect the job duties of each employee, and to develop a plan to monitor internal and external environments to inform and guide our strategic direction, including a review and revision of our mission, core themes, core objectives, goals or intended goals of programs and services, and indicators of achievement. As a result, we have achieved the top recommendations from the NWCCU, which we should all be very proud of.

The NWCCU's peer reviewer, Associate Provost for Accreditation, Academic Planning, and Assessment Bernadette Jungblut from Central Washington University, conducted a virtual MSUB campus visit this April. She reported her findings back to the NWCCU with the following statement: “MSUB has completed a tremendous amount of work in a very short time and is to be highly commended for its efforts. During the virtual site visit, it was made abundantly clear that MSUB faculty, staff, and administrators really do put ‘Students First.’ That statement is not just the title of MSUB’s very strong, well-developed Strategic Plan 2019-2026, it is the embodiment of the entire institution.”

This great news was recently shared with our interim Chancellor Groseth, who expressed his gratitude for the daily hard work of MSUB’s faculty and staff resulting in this glowing report, and added that this really does assure current and prospective students and the public that MSUB is a first-rate institution in which they can have every confidence.

This was an enormous undertaking for MSUB and incredible achievements have been made. We should all be proud of these accomplishments and continue our work to move this institution in the right direction to be ready for the future. 

Sincerely,

Melinda Arnold

July 31, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

As promised, we are releasing the additional guidance and details on our face covering requirement. This additional information follows the provided guidelines from the Commissioner of Higher Education to the MUS system to assist the development of our own campus-specific face covering practices and protocols.

The additional face covering guidelines addresses the following areas:
Overview of the face covering requirement and purpose
Face covering exceptions
Accommodations (exemption)
Campus community accountability
Campus locations that carry disposable face coverings
Student and employee face covering requirement training and awareness
Face coverings in the classroom

You can access the complete guidelines in the Appendix section of the MSUB Back to Business Fall 2020 Action Plan.

Thank you for your support in keeping our campus community a safe and healthy place to be. Wearing a face covering reduces the community spread of COVID-19 and we must ensure we are following all the recommended Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health and safety guidelines to ensure we have a safe and healthy fall semester on campus.

There may be instances where members of our campus community have unique circumstances excluding them from wearing a face covering. To obtain a university accommodation/exemption for face coverings, employees should first notify their supervisor of their circumstance and then contact Human Resources at employment@msubillings.edu or call 406-657-2278. Human Resources will work with employees and their supervisors on a case-by-case basis to determine the best accommodation for them and their department needs.

With this in mind, note that you may see individuals on campus not wearing a face covering or wearing a face shield instead of a cloth face covering. Please do not immediately assume they are noncompliant but may have a personal and confidential medical exemption. If you choose to approach individuals not wearing a face covering, please do so kindly and respectfully.

We still need volunteers to help assemble our ‘Jacket Safety Kits this Tuesday, Aug. 4. Please sign up for a 30-minute shift. Remember to wear your face covering!

We are in this together, Yellowjackets.

Stay safe and well,

Melinda Arnold

July 21, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, effective 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, face coverings/masks will be required for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to MSUB’s university and City College campuses. Face coverings are to be worn indoors and wherever social distancing cannot be maintained. See the full protocol here. A ready-to-print, "Face Covering Required," sign is available for download and should be placed in all public areas starting this Thursday.

This announcement follows guidelines issued last week by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education after a recommendation from the Montana University System Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force. Wearing a face covering is one more thing we can do to combat the virus, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and staying home when experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

By wearing face coverings, we protect ourselves and others—many of whom may be more vulnerable to the virus or who live with and/or care for others who are. We understand there will be exceptions for wearing a face covering and they are listed below.

Exceptions

The following exceptions apply to students, employees, and visitors regarding face coverings:

  • when alone in an office, enclosed study area, or other space where permitted by official notice;
  • when inside campus residence hall rooms or apartments; however, face coverings are still required in common areas such as hallways, common restrooms and when visiting other rooms;
  • when working or spending time outdoors (e.g. walking, exercising) and at least a six-foot distance can be consistently and reliably maintained;
  • Persons engaged in an activity that makes wearing a face covering impractical or unsafe, such as strenuous physical exercise;
  • in instances or spaces (such as welding labs, nursing labs, etc.) in which other requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) make it either impractical or unsafe to wear an additional face covering;
  • when alone in a vehicle or utility vehicle used for MSUB business, however, face coverings are required in vehicles used for MSUB business when there is more than one person inside the vehicle; and
  • when an accommodation is necessary as indicated by a medical professional and granted by express written permission of the University.
  • Children under the age of five and those who cannot physically remove a face covering without assistance, or those who have requested and received a necessary accommodation are not required to wear face coverings. All children between the ages of two and four, however, are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. Children under the age of two should not wear a face covering.

Employees, please contact Human Resources should you need special accommodations regarding wearing a face covering at employment@msubillings.edu. Students on university campus should contact Disability Support Services at tcarey@msubillings.edu and at City College campus, contact greg.gerard@msubillings.edu.

Note that this update provides general guidance with regard to face coverings. More detailed information will be released on July 31 outlining specific employee and student training regarding the face covering requirement.

Now more than ever, our campus community needs to unite and work to slow the spread of COVID-19. All campus community members and visitors of the university and City College campuses will be expected to implement and monitor their own health and safety behaviors. To be successful, this requires the cooperation of all.

Please read more about our fall plans. The full details about MSUB's face covering requirement can also be found there.

Thank you again for your collaboration and cooperation. We want to make sure MSUB is a safe place for everyone.

Be well,

Melinda Arnold

July 15, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

After months of hard work by the members of our MSUB Back to Business Taskforce, we are finally ready to unveil our Back to Business Fall 2020 Action Plan to you and the public. I urge you to take the time to carefully read it to familiarize yourself with the health and safety protocols we have intentionally included to ensure that our students, faculty, and staff are as safe as possible while on our university and City College campus.

Our plan can be found here.

Keep in mind that due to the uncertain nature of the pandemic, our plan may need to shift accordingly. The plan will be revised as needed to ensure the continuous health and safety of our campus community. There is a PDF version of the plan available via download from the web-version of the plan, however, please refer to the web-version for forthcoming revisions.

Overarching themes of the plan applicable to all areas of university and City College campus are as follows:

  • Social Distancing will be strongly encouraged whenever possible. MSUB will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on maintaining six-feet distance between individuals.
  • Mask-wearing is strongly encouraged for all students, faculty, and staff while on campus, even when social distancing is possible. In situations and circumstances where social distancing is not possible, mask-wearing is expected. This policy is subject to change pending the forthcoming mask policy from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and subsequent Board of Regents action.
    • All members and visitors of the university and City College campus will be expected to implement and monitor their own health and safety behaviors which will require the cooperation of all.
  • Hand-hygiene is strongly encouraged. Students, faculty, and staff should utilize safe hand-washing practices and use hand sanitizer whenever possible per the CDC guidelines. Hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout both campuses.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 and self-monitoring: Students, faculty, and staff familiarity with symptoms of COVID-19 is key to help reduce spread of the virus. Everyone should become familiar with the symptoms described by the CDC and to self-monitor daily.
    • MSUB strongly encourages every member of campus community to assess themselves for symptoms and to personally check their temperature daily before coming to campus. Individuals who have a fever or exhibit symptoms should not come to work or class and should immediately contact their health care provider.
  • Public Health Testing & Contact Tracing protocols: MSUB has been in frequent communication with RiverStone Health regarding monitoring, testing and tracing efforts as well as advised quarantine and isolation protocols, and will continue to follow the guidance from local, state, and federal health officials. RiverStone Health manages all instances of contact tracing when needed, as required by Montana law.
  • Enhanced campus cleaning and sanitizing protocols: Facilities Services will continue their regular cleaning activities throughout both campuses and enhance the disinfecting of public spaces including washrooms, classrooms, laboratories, hallways, handrails, elevators, corridors, and common study spaces. Each department has been equipped with a “Cleaning Caddy” consisting of disinfecting wipes, spray, and hand sanitizer to ensure the proper and frequent disinfecting of offices and public spaces within each respective department. In addition, every student, faculty, and staff member will receive a personal safety kit containing:
    • 1 reusable disinfectant bottle, prefilled and labeled
    • 1 reusable personal face mask
    • 1 8-oz refillable bottle of hand sanitizer
    • Personal care and community safety information and instructions for product use
    • Carrying bag
  • Campus Events: Event occupancy is set at 50 percent for each venue on campus to allow for appropriate social distancing following the protocol set by the Governor for Phase 2. See the Student Engagement section for more information.

Health and safety protocols have been created for in-person classes. Comprehensive plans for individual classes such as configuration, seating charts, attendance policies, foot traffic, personal sanitization, etc., will be in place. Faculty will work with their students directly to ensure customized accommodations for those who require them are in place, as well as for students who must potentially self-isolate or quarantine.

The following protocols apply to all areas of academics:

  • Students will receive education during orientation emphasizing the health and safety expectations MSUB has of them while on university or City College campus.
  • Classroom occupancy will allow for social distancing. Disinfectants will be available in each classroom to wipe down desks and other high-traffic areas between classes.
  • All in-person classes will have assigned seating and attendance will be taken for contact tracing purposes if necessary.
  • Faculty will develop backup plans or partner with a “teaching buddy” who can take over their classes if they become ill.
  • Faculty have developed plans for each in-person class for fall semester to transition to online learning, if necessary.

See Academics section of plan for more details.

Again, please take time to review our plan and familiarize yourself with our protocols so we can ensure we all have an enjoyable and safe fall semester.

We are united in our “new normal,” and I look forward to seeing everyone this fall.

Be well,

Melinda Arnold