SAU Offers Free Course to First-Year Students, "College in the Time of COVID"


More than 650 students who will attend St. Ambrose University for the first time this year can get a head start on their SAU careers through a free one-credit, four-week summer course covering a global issue few collegians have studied before them.

The course for incoming first-year class and new transfer students is called "College in the Time of COVID," offering lessons from a wide range of fields and disciplines. It began on Monday, June 22, and will continue through Friday, July 17.

The course began with a week of required lessons to introduce students to the university's learning management system, its grading policies, and such important student services as tutoring and accessibility resources. They also will learn SAU's plans and policies for mitigating the potential spread of the coronavirus when the academic year officially begins on Aug. 17.

The following three weeks respectively will explore topics surrounding the Science of Pandemics; the Economics, History and Policies of Pandemics; and the Social and Behavioral Impact of Pandemics. Students choose a few pre-recorded lectures and presentations from among several offered each week, as SAU faculty and staff examine the impact of the coronavirus and other historic pandemics.

The "College in the Time of COVID" concept was developed within the SAU College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), and informed by the expertise of the college's Master of Public Health degree program.

Sandra Cassady, PhD, dean of CHHS and the university's vice president for strategic initiatives, said faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business also readily offered assistance and knowledge to build this course.

"We have over 30 members of our faculty and staff who raised their hand to participate in some way shape or form," Cassady said. "Many are excited about the topics and look forward to participating."


Unit offerings include: "Scientific Modeling of Virus Spread," taught by Associate Professor of Engineering and Physics Susa Stonedahl, PhD; "The Epidemiology of COVID-19" taught by Colleen Doak, PhD, a licensed epidemiologist and associate professor in the Master of Public Health program; "Pandemics in Western History," team-taught by five educators in the SAU History Department; and "How to Learn and Work at Home and in New Settings," taught by Master of Speech-Language Pathology Associate Professor Rachael Suddarth, PhD.

Equally timely topics will be explored by faculty from the Master of Physician Assistant Studies, Master of Social Work, and Doctor of Occupational Therapy programs, as well as the School of Education, the SAU Library, and undergraduate departments of Accounting, Kinesiology, Marketing, Philosophy, and Theology.

"We are thrilled to be part of a course that supports incoming students as they enter a new chapter of their lives in the midst of a pandemic," said Erica Thomas, DHEd, an assistant professor in the Kinesiology Department who organized the course with Kate Horberg, program coordinator for the Master of Public Health program.
"By exposing students to an array of topics, all linked to COVID-19 and public health, we hope to prepare them for a healthy, successful start to their college experience during this unique time in history," Thomas said.

She said the course will provide a significant benefit to incoming students, as they work through SAU's temporary "new normal," which will include hybrid classes, along with requirements for wearing masks, social distancing and daily health monitoring.

"As a parent of recent college students, knowing St. Ambrose has the knowledge and capacity to put this together and that we are preparing for possible different turns in the future would make me a bit more comfortable," Cassady added.

Faculty in the Master of Public Health program have been instrumental in sharing their first-hand knowledge and expertise, while experts in many other departments are making contributions on the pandemic's impact on their field and discipline.

"Participating in this class is a great way for our new students to connect with faculty from the majors and programs of interest to them," Cassady said.

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