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,

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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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Alumni Spotlight: Leticia Garcia ’13

Alumni Spotlight: Leticia Garcia ’13

female nurse with full protective gearThe outstanding LCON alumna is using her USF education in the fight against COVID-19.

We are thankful for nursing alumna Leticia Garcia, BSN ’13 and the work she is doing in the fight against COVID-19. Here’s what she has to say:

I graduated from USF in May 2013. I work in Labor and Delivery at Silver Cross Hospital, my dream job since I delivered my daughter at Silver Cross 11 years ago.

Due to the COVID-19 situation, patients are only allowed to have one visitor on our unit. As their nurse I have to take the place of their mom, their sister, or their best friend. It’s sad that during such a special moment grandparents and siblings can’t come visit. Our waiting rooms are empty. Everything keeps changing day by day.

female nurse standing in hospital hallwayIt’s hard to take it all in, but as a nurse you have to stay strong for your patients and reassure them everything will be ok and “normal” soon, even though you yourself have no idea what’s to come.

Patients and their one visitor are to wear face masks at all times. Imagine that, delivering a baby when it’s already difficult to breath and now with a mask over your face. Nurses, OBs and staff have to wear an N-95 mask, a second mask over it, and a face shield during all deliveries—how impersonal! I just hope I can make my patients’ experiences the safest and most memorable with these circumstances. They are the reason why I became an OB nurse.

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!

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

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

USF Helps to Address Needs in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Joliet, Ill. – While the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges that have impacted the globe, it has also inspired individuals and organizations to step forward to provide aid and assistance in a variety of ways as society navigates these uncertain times. The University of St. Francis (USF) is one of many area organizations to step forward in an effort to provide materials and equipment for front line professionals leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jessica Monu, Assistant Professor in USF’s Recreation and Sport Management Department, recently put together a sewing group through her church to make masks for essential employees in a variety of medical settings after finding out a relative was one of those professionals in need.

“Many front line professionals are working without masks. My aunt, who works in the hospice field, was one of those professionals until I made and sent her several. Not only can we help minimize the spread of COVID-19 through self-isolating and following the State’s ‘stay-at-home’ order, but we can also help by making masks to protect these front line professionals,” she said.

Monu’s sewing group continues to make masks with double-layered cotton fabric with elastic cords. Collectively, the group has made and donated over 500 masks and anticipates keeping up this pace as long as they have the materials to do so. To date, masks have been delivered to Good Samaritan Hospital; Edwards Hospital; Rezin Orthopedics; Edward Hines, Jr., VA Hospital; Optimal Case Management; Riverside Village; and DuPage Care Center. Masks have also been given to several area emergency medical technicians.

While making masks is one way assistance is being provided, donating personal protective equipment is another as USF’s Leach College of Nursing also recently donated a variety of masks to Silver Cross Hospital, which was in need of supplies.

“We checked with both hospitals in the Joliet area and learned that Silver Cross was in need of masks. We were able to gather and donate several N95 and R95 masks, 300 procedural masks, 200 procedural masks with face shields to help address their need,” said Jennifer Wills-Savoia, Teaching Instructor/Clinical Simulation & Learning Specialist in USF’s Leach College of Nursing.

USF Director of Community and Government Relations Dave DiLorenzo added that these are just two of many examples of USF serving the community.

“As an institution rooted in Franciscan values, we place a high priority on service and compassion. Given the many challenges we are all facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, living these values through our actions is extremely important,” DiLorenzo 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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