USF Planning to Resume In-Person Courses and Campus Life This Fall

Joliet, Ill. – Summer courses at the University of St. Francis (USF) opened in an online-only format this week as a continuation of the university’s response to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. With just over 90 days before fall classes begin, USF officials are working on plans to safely welcome the school community back to campus this fall.

Two task forces, one focused on academics and the other focused on co-curricular and campus life, are currently researching and planning for what a return to campus in the fall might look like. While details for those plans are continuing to come together and will be shared throughout the summer months, USF President Arvid C. Johnson, Ph.D., wants to let current and prospective students know that Joliet’s only four-year university is preparing for a return to campus in the fall.

“It is our goal and hope to welcome students, alumni, employees and the entire USF community back to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. We are currently planning for a number of contingencies for fall classes, all that include a primary focus on continuing to offer our students a world-class educational experience rooted in Franciscan values and that takes place in a safe and healthy environment. While guidelines established by the State and local health officials will ultimately determine if and when college and university campuses in Illinois can open, we are working diligently to be prepared for re-opening campus when that official determination is announced,” Johnson said.

To make USF’s spring even more unique, the university is in the midst of celebrating its centennial. Most events to date have been rescheduled, while others such as commencement have been transitioned to a successful virtual format. Regardless, Johnson is confident that the USF community will continue to make the most of a truly unique year.

“As our centennial year continues, the response of our USF community reminds me of the important roles that resiliency, dedication, determination, and faith have played in shaping our 100-year history. I am both proud of and inspired by how we, as a university community, continue to navigate this challenge and know that our successors will one day look back with pride and inspiration, as well,” Johnson said.

Updated information on USF’s plans for the fall and its ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at the university’s website, stfrancis.edu/emergency-alerts.

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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 stfrancis.edu.

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

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USF Receives National Endowment for the Humanities Foundation Grant Worth Close to $35,000

Joliet, Ill. – For nearly 100 years, the University of St. Francis (USF) has provided high-quality academic programs built upon the pursuit of knowledge, a respect for people, and a desire to serve others. USF is dedicated to cultivating the humanistic engagement of the great issues of the human experience and fostering growth in students’ world-views and wisdom, developing citizens who can ask informed questions and foster social justice and equality through a deeper understanding of human histories and cultures. Now with funding provided by a grant worth close to $35,000 through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Foundation, USF will be able to strengthen its efforts to cultivate humanistic engagement of students through its new USF Pathways project.

The USF Pathways planning project will result in a program that integrates the humanities into USF students’ general education requirements. The planning project proposes to refocus general education requirements to include four different pathways/choices to fulfill several humanities and non-humanities curricular requirements. Each pathway will require six courses, including existing, revised, and new options that thematically link humanities and non-humanities general education requirements and incorporate the university’s mission.

“There were three things that we wanted to do.  First, we wanted to help bring some coherence to the general education program.  The students had reported that they had trouble seeing the coherence of the general education as they fulfilled their general education requirements.  So we thought that we could link some of the required courses using themes and that might help give some unity to the courses that they are required to take,” said Dan Hauser, Ph.D., professor of theology and one of the grant’s contributing writers.

“Second,” Hauser continued, “we wanted to set up an interdisciplinary dialogue between courses.  Each pathway would be made up of Foundations I and II; two courses in the humanities and two in other disciplines, for six total courses. All courses would meet general education requirements and so that there would be no extra required courses.”

“Finally, each pathway would have a capstone and the work would be recorded in portfolium, an e-portfolio.  Thus would help us to better assess the kinds and types of learning our students are doing in their general education courses. Here we could better assess communication and critical thinking outcomes,” Hauser concluded.

Grant acquisition efforts were led by Hauser and Debra Workman, Ph.D., associate professor of history. Hauser will now oversee the planning project and report monthly to appropriate USF committees. Four faculty members from both humanities and non-humanities departments, including Hauser and Workman, as well as Beth McDermott, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and Stephen Morrissette, Ph.D., professor of business administration, will implement the project. Work on the yearlong planning efforts will begin this summer, with academic implementation anticipation for fall 2021.

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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 stfrancis.edu.

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

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Abby Kieffer ’17

Alumni Spotlight: Abby Kieffer ’17

female headshotUSF College of Education alumna leads her classroom through the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping students engaged and entertained.

With her USF degree in Elementary Education backing her, Abby Kieffer ’17 has gone on to a job she loves: a middle school math and English teacher at St. Dominic School in Bolingbrook, Illinois. While she loves working in class with students, she has needed to adapt her teaching style and coursework as schools across Illinois moved classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this strong Saint was up for the task.

“It has definitely been a challenge to adapt to teaching online. However, I have a wonderful principal and coworkers that have made the transition smooth. Our students are fantastic, and we all know that this is a learning experience for everyone,” she said

Though the transition was difficult, it confirmed in Abby how important in-class teaching is for a lot of students and how much she misses being there in-person for their daily growth.

“I miss seeing my students every day, and not being able to see them has made it tough. We have found ways around it with weekly class meetings and I co-run our Quiz Bowl Club (which is like a Scholastic Bowl) with our associate pastor. We started to use Kahoot to do this over Google Meet and the students love it,” Abby noted.

Passionate about education, Abby is working toward a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Differentiation at the American College of Education.

“I will be finished with my classes this August and I am so excited! It is so awesome to further myself in this way and continue to learn and grow,” she said.

We are so proud of her!

Returning to USF

This past academic year, Abby also participated in the Student Alumni Mentoring (SAM) program and is looking forward to participating in the future. She said, “I would like to do this again and hopefully be able to give more of myself into the program to benefit my mentee and myself.”

Abby loves to come back to USF when she can. She said, “I haven’t attended too many alumni events, but anytime I can visit my alma mater is a great experience. I like to come back to visit professors when I can. I enjoyed coming back to see the Vocal Jazz Ensemble perform (I was a part of this for two years).”

We hope to see her around campus again soon!

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USF’s Sheetz Continues Development of Talent Management Knowledge with ATD Scholarship

Joliet, Ill. – The past four years for Carol Sheetz, talent coordinator for the University of St. Francis (USF), have been filled with a variety of educational and professional experiences, all at Joliet’s only four-year university.

Sheetz transferred to USF in fall 2016 as an adult learner with two associate degrees. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Sheetz joined the USF Human Resources Department in June 2017. She completed her undergraduate studies eleven months later when she earned her Bachelor of Science in business administration through USF in May 2018. Sheetz continued her education and earned her Master of Science in training and development at USF in December 2019. Now, an opportunity she learned of through her academic programs at USF has resulted in Sheetz earning a scholarship through the Association for Talent Development (ATD). The scholarship provides Sheetz with complimentary admission to the organization’s next annual international conference.

“In January, I was notified that I was the recipient of the 2020 ATD Student Scholarship to receive complimentary registration to the 2020 ATD International Conference & Exposition in May in Denver, Colorado.  Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, ATD will honor my scholarship at the 2021 ATD International Conference & Exposition in Los Angeles,” Sheetz said.

Sheetz values her association with ATD and regularly turns to the organization for talent management guidance.

“In my role at USF, my particular areas of interest in the employee life cycle include recruitment, onboarding, and development. Employee engagement is also crucial. As a member of ATD, I have access to resources on each of these topics written by subject matter experts as well as resources especially developed for the higher education community.  ATD is an amazing site with incredible resources, so I applied for the scholarship because I wanted the opportunity to attend the ATD International Conference & Exposition where I could meet and network with other talent development professionals, listen to keynote speakers, and take part in learning sessions in person,” she said.

Sheetz, who earned her degrees as an adult student, touts the benefits that USF’s online programs offer adults.

“The online programs were exactly what I was looking for as an adult learner who worked full-time, because they allowed me the flexibility to set my own evening and weekend schedule for completing my coursework.  I am self-motivated and have good time management skills, so online learning is a great fit for me as an adult student,” she said.

About the Association for Talent Development

According to the Association for Talent Development website, “ATD is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees around the world. Our members and customers are professionals who help others achieve their full potential by improving their knowledge, skills, and abilities in the workplace.” Visit td.org to learn more about the organization.

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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 stfrancis.edu.

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

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Virtual Rehearsal for USF Choirs Welcomes Renowned Composer Elaine Hagenberg

Joliet, Ill. – As the University of St. Francis (USF) continues its administration of courses in an online format this spring semester in response to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the important role played by technology is clear. However, the use of technology is not limited to just the classroom. USF’s Schola Cantorum and Claritas Master Chorale are using virtual meetings as a way to rehearse. Recently, renowned composer Elaine Hagenberg joined one of these rehearsals.

“This activity was one of many that have been created as a means to create meaningful experience to replace choir rehearsals canceled in light of COVID-19,” said Paul Laprade, USF Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities.

During the session, Hagenberg discussed the art of singing, composing, choral music, careers in music, aesthetics, music publishing, and many other topics. According to Laprade, Hagenberg was an obvious choice to invite as a guest for the one-hour session. 

“Schola was acquainted with Hagenberg’s music, having sung her fine arrangement of ‘Wexford Carol’ for our last Christmas in the Motherhouse concert in early December,” Laprade said.

Laprade also said that Hagenberg’s path to where she is today would resonate with the members of his choirs.

“Elaine only decided to start composing six years ago, after earning her degree and then raising her family of four.  I felt she was a fine example of someone whose career trajectory was not linear, but who explored many directions before finding her true place–our students can learn that success is often found in an unexpected place during one’s life search,” Laprade added.

Although nothing can fully replace in-person rehearsals, Laprade believes there is a positive aspect to how his students are responding to current challenges.

“Our students have been learning a great deal about the arts and real world applications in these moments. The experience this opportunity presented was a rich success for our class,” he 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 stfrancis.edu.

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

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University of St. Francis Admissions Policies Respond to COVID Challenges

In one of several moves prompted by the COVID-19 crisis, the University of St. Francis has temporarily relaxed its admissions policy to become a test-optional school.

“USF will not require students to supply results from an SAT or ACT test as part of admissions this year. We know quite a few students had their testing dates cancelled, and the crisis has totally upended the traditional high school senior year for many students,” said Eric Wignall, vice president of admissions at the university.

“It makes sense that we respond with an alternative pathway and open the door as wide as we can to otherwise-qualified students who want to earn a college degree at St. Francis,” he said.

Students can still submit test scores as part of the college admissions process, which may qualify them for additional scholarship funding, but they are not required to do so.  The university requires high school graduates to have above average grades in a college preparatory curriculum, and some programs – like Nursing – have higher entry standards.

“USF is a community of learners with a focus on supporting our students. It’s part of the mission of the school,” Wignall said. “Opening new pathways for people to come here, on-campus or online to begin or finish a college degree—that’s why we are here.  It just makes sense.”

“We also know that most students are challenged by the cost of tuition.  Quite a few high school students tell us they are changing their college plans as a result of the crisis, looking for more financial aid and planning on attending a college closer to home,” Wignall said.  “We have quickly responded to those concerns.”

Wignall described the university’s increased scholarships available to both traditional and transfer students coming from community colleges or the military.

Another new program this year is the Will County Access Initiative, created for lower income, high achieving local students. “The Access Grant is a full-tuition scholarship for students who can live at home and commute USF.  It covers all of their tuition, and living at home saves even more money.  It’s a sizable investment in the students who need our support the most,” Wignall said.

The Will County Access Initiative was announced just weeks before the Illinois stay-at-home order went into effect. Aimed at Will County’s diverse high school graduates, the scholarship was supported by the USF’s Board of Trustees and several donors.

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Test optional university