I have had the privilege to develop incredible relationships and get acquainted with countless organizations, employers, and businesses in the community as Monument Health has grown and become more deeply ingrained in Western Colorado.
Colorado Mesa University has been one of those organizations. Through my service as a trustee, I’ve been able to witness firsthand the thoughtful and proactive leadership which places its students at the center of decision-making. Their response to COVID-19 was no exception. Not only did they graduate nursing students early to help with the hospital efforts, the institution created a relief fund for students who may not have been able to continue their education, and now, they have created a clear path forward as we look toward the fall.
I don’t have to tell you how impactful the nationwide shutdown has been to our economy. Practically overnight, jobs disappeared along with the part-time sources of income which allowed students to attend classes and pay their monthly student loans. Many students faced the reality that they may not be able to return in the fall or even to continue their education because of the financial burden. The Maverick Relief Fund was created within weeks of the shutdown by the CMU Foundation to come alongside students through micro grants. The community has rallied, $324,149.44 dollars have been raised, and the grants have helped 115 students—students who would not have otherwise been able to continue their education.
Monument Health was also able to make meaningful decisions to that end to support CMU students whom we employ as interns and “wellness warriors.” We are proud to continue to keep Mavs on the payroll even when tough financial decisions had to be made due to the downturn.
Although CMU will see financial impacts along with countless businesses and nonprofits across the county, the trustees unanimously voted not to raise tuition, fees, or housing rates for the 2020-21 school year. We made this decision knowing the same students who are receiving help through the Maverick Relief Fund would likely see it as another obstacle to return and finish their education. By voting for the freeze, it was our goal to remove barriers that would preclude any students from returning, especially first generation, low income and non-traditional students.
As we look forward toward recovery, CMU has been a national leader and the first institution in Colorado to announce in-person learning would resume in the fall by using sound science and medical best practices. Although on-line learning in the spring was a fine short-term alternative to deal with national school closures, many students struggled without face-to-face instruction, and many more were unable to finish the semester. President Foster and his management team knew returning in the fall was the best option. They thoughtfully pulled together a team of public health officials, epidemiologists, doctors, and medical experts to begin working toward that end.
The initiative titled Safe Together, Strong Together is centered around three objectives: training, prevention, and testing and screening. The initiative takes all of these elements into consideration as policies and guidelines are actively being tested and implemented on a small scale this summer. In order to ensure success this fall, the final phase includes comprehensive testing and screening practices, which are being procured and established in coordination with Mesa County Public Health and our local hospital partners. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the team at CMU has thoughtfully and tirelessly worked to create a clear path forward for in-person learning this fall.
COVID-19 is likely not going away. We have to begin to reopen and operate smartly and safely in this new reality—at work, at home, and at school. CMU has been a bright spot in our community and a leader paving the way for our new normal. It’s been an honor to play a small role in these efforts, and it’s my hope that the work being done by its leadership will also help other businesses, non-profits, universities, and school districts make sound decisions as we live in this new reality.