Providence University College is looking forward to the possibility of welcoming students back to campus this fall.

Dr. Nicholas Greco is Associate Professor of Communications & Media and Registrar at Providence. He says they’re anticipating a full return to in-person instruction for 2021/2022.

"We're hoping to welcome students back to residence in the fall, and we're hoping to provide in-person instruction in the fall as well," says Dr. Greco. "This is what we do best. Engaging with students face-to-face in the classroom. We enjoy that relationship we have with students when we are engaged with them in the classroom. We get to see their faces and we get to communicate with them."

Providence College in Otterburne. (Supplied)

Dr. Greco says that over the past year, Providence navigated the many challenges presented by the global pandemic as best it could.

"This has been a terribly challenging year with all sorts of guidelines from Manitoba Public Health and so on," shares Dr. Greco. "Education is our primary focus, we had in-person classes in September with physical distancing and various sanitation processes in place, and then when Manitoba Public Health had some further restrictions, we needed to move from in-person classes to completely online, and so many students were unable to meet with us together physically in class, but we kept our vibrant offerings going through the fall and into the winter, allowing students to connect to our classes remotely."

While Zoom has enabled instruction to continue throughout the pandemic, Dr. Greco notes it’s not the same.

"You've probably had this experience where you've been on Zoom or on some sort of electronic platform, and somebody is muted, and it takes another minute to get that communication going," says Dr. Greco. "When you're in the classroom, you don't have to worry about such problems. We're just so happy this possibility is coming upon us."

Of course, being forced to go online has also opened up new opportunities for the Otterburne-based University College.

"We've had students from all over the world who have connected with us during this time," says Dr. Greco. "We've had students from Asia who were unable to travel during this year of pandemic. We've been able to accommodate that by allowing them to connect remotely to our classes. And so, if there are those students who are unable to travel to Manitoba, unable to get to campus or perhaps end up falling ill because of the pandemic, we will accommodate them. They'll be able to connect with us remotely. We've set up all our technology for students to connect with us electronically, so we won't be shutting that down just yet. We'll make sure we are accessible to all students in this coming school year."

While the pandemic continues, Dr. Greco says Providence continues to follow all provincial health guidelines.

"We are always reviewing our processes and procedures, waiting for the province to open things up for us," shares Dr. Greco. "Unless someone tells us otherwise, we're looking pretty positively towards what we might call a regular offering in the fall."

There’s another reason Providence is looking forward to welcoming students back onto campus this fall.

"We have a brand-new residence building," he says. "It opened in January of last year and we've had very few students living in it. There are more than 30 students living on campus right now, and we have capacity for so much more than that."

This summer will find some activity returning to the University College campus.

"We're excited to be able to welcome students back onto campus, offering a couple of classes in the summer, in person, as long as Manitoba Public Health allows," says Dr. Greco. "What we're most excited about is summer TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, May 3rd into the first week of June."

Dr. Greco explains that last year TESOL was put on hold due to the pandemic, so it’s wonderful to bring it back for this summer. However, there may be a race to register for the summer TESOL classes.

"We still have limits imposed by Manitoba Public Health," cautions Dr. Greco. "Our limit would be 25 students. If we end up having more students than 25, that's a great problem to have, but we won't be able to have those students take part in the program."

Elsewhere on campus, offerings will be limited this summer. At Providence Seminary, there will be many modular one-week intensive courses running completely remotely over Zoom.
Looking to the fall, Dr. Greco expresses his optimism.

"We are very encouraged by the rollout of vaccines, we can't wait for students to come back," shares Dr. Greco. "We're thankful God has brought us to this place that we can see light at the end of the tunnel and we can plan and look forward to having students back with us. Because that's really the whole reason we're here -- to have students here, to educate them so they can go out and make a difference in the world."


-- Written by Steinbachonline