people working out in the Rec Center on stair climbers, without masks

Two years later: Silver linings found, light at end of pandemic tunnel

Two years ago, the Grand Valley community reacted swiftly and effectively when responding to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This week marks the anniversary in 2020 when most students moved out of their campus living centers, classes were held remotely and only essential staff came to work.

And today, as students return from spring break, Grand Valley is at Alert Level 1. The revised mask policy requires face masks be worn properly in the classroom and certain other campus spaces. Masks are optional in building hallways, dining areas, exercise facilities and other common spaces. 

graphic of masks are optional, kindness is not
Masks are required in classrooms and several other campus spaces.
masks are optional, kindness is not graphic
Lakers will be supported for choosing to wear a mask in spaces where it is optional.
University Communications

Reflecting on the past two years, campus leaders said the community has proved itself resilient and adaptable. President Philomena V. Mantella expressed her appreciation to all Lakers.

"Like spring, there is a light at the end of this tunnel," Mantella said. "We are certainly in a better place than two years ago, when our community members had to respond quickly to take care of themselves and their families.  

"We have been through a collective experience unlike any other. As a community, we looked out for each other, showed resilience and adaptability, and showed we are ready for whatever comes our way. Thank you. I am grateful for your dedication to this university."

Aaron Haight, acting associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, said she remembered walking through living centers in March 2020 with Mantella. "We ran into students who were staying for various reasons and many families moving their students home," Haight said. "It was surreal and emotional."

small child in back of car with tailgate open watching someone load the car with belongings
In this March 16, 2020, photo, students and families pack up belonging to move out of living centers.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

Chris Plouff, interim provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, said faculty and staff members put in countless hours training and developing new technologies and alternate approaches to in-person classes.

"Their efforts were truly inspiring," Plouff said. "Our students are also to be commended for adapting to a new learning environment and making the best of a quickly changing, uncertain situation."

Haight said she has tendencies to look for the silver linings and the past two years have presented many: housing staff who never left campus, counseling staff who provided virtual sessions, recreation/wellness staff who embraced Zoom early to offer fitness classes.

"I'm so grateful for our Student Affairs colleagues and campus partners," she said. "This experience did provide the opportunity to really look at how we serve students and how we can do it better, moving forward."

VAT begins to shift responsibilities

Greg Sanial, vice president for Finance and Administration and director of the Virus Action Team, said VAT will dissolve many of its duties and transfer others to campus departments on April 30.

"Given the shift from pandemic to endemic management that is happening in our area, continuing the VAT isn’t supported by the case numbers," Sanial said. "The VAT is looking at all of its current processes, procedures and responsibilities and identifying those that need to be continued as the university, county, state and nation shift to an endemic management framework.  

"Those responsibilities that may need to continue (for instance, symptomatic testing) will be transferred to more appropriate areas for a sustainable capability."