Joliet, Ill. – When University of St. Francis students transitioned to online coursework in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the change was clearly an unanticipated one. On-campus, face-to-face instruction was quickly replaced with off-campus, virtual instruction, and students were challenged with navigating the ins and outs of distance learning. In an effort to ensure that his art majors felt supported throughout their transition to this new learning environment, USF art professor Michael “Chester” Alamo-Costello, MFA, created personalized care packages that he mailed and delivered to students as a way to show his support and concern for them. 

“The packages consisted of an art, design or photography book, comics and some snacks. The contents of each care package was slightly different. For instance, I bought and passed on a photography book to a student concentrating in photography, while a student who plays a sport on campus would get an art book and a book related to another one of their athletic interests,” Alamo-Costello said.

Although the gesture was performed with the needs of his students in mind, Alamo-Costello said that there was more to it than just that.

“In all honesty, this was as much or probably more-so for me. The students have been patient and exemplary in this time of crisis. I needed to thank them for staying focused. Having taught at USF for more than 20 years, I feel very fortunate to continually work with quality young people,” he said.

In addition to the care packages, a series of non-credit summer projects have been organized for students as a way to keep them engaged with their studies.

“These activities help to keep our community connected. Many students are still isolated, and an item to work on appears to be a constructive outlet. Throughout the summer, via Zoom, we are meeting weekly to look at progress of projects and prepare for their return in August,” Alamo-Costello said.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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