UNCW Chancellor welcomes students back to campus as fall semester begins

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Students are returning back to campus for the start of the fall semester with a combination of in-person and online classes.

Students are urged to get the COVID-19 vaccine and those who do not will have to undergo weekly testing.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Jose Sartarelli issued the following statement welcoming students, staff and faculty back to campus.

Dear Campus Community:

It is my great pleasure to welcome our new and returning students as well as our faculty and staff to campus for the fall 2021 semester.

This time of year marks the start of a journey of discovery for our first-year students; a new beginning for faculty and staff members committed to our mission of teaching, research and service; and a fresh start for all of us following the challenges of the past year and a half. We are looking forward to returning to classrooms, laboratories, fall performances, art shows, UNCW sports and much more! Campus events have been planned, and will continue, following CDC and public health guidance.

Our campus has been bustling with activity to kick off the 2021-22 academic year. First-year and transfer students, as well as their parents, experienced what it is like to be a part of the Seahawk community as volunteers helped with Move-In on Aug. 13-14. New students took part in UNCWelcome activities designed to help with their transition to their new home and learn about the many resources available to ensure their success at UNCW.

I want to take a moment to thank our staff and faculty for their hard work. They have dedicated long hours to launch as familiar a fall as possible. Together, we will continue to navigate this pandemic, and each decision will be made with the well-being of our Seahawks and the broader community in mind. For official information from UNCW, please monitor your campus inboxes, the UNCW homepage and Best for the Nest throughout the year for updates to our COVID-19 protocols.

We will need your help to make this semester a success. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to get vaccinated, please do so. It is the best way to reduce the impact that the pandemic will continue to have on our campus and in our community. Also, please remember to wear your masks indoors except in your individual offices or assigned residential spaces, wash your hands often and, above all, be patient and kind. Be aware that New Hanover County, home of UNCW’s main campus, has implemented an indoor mask mandate that takes effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 20. As a reminder, unvaccinated, residential students; face-to-face students who reside off-campus; and faculty and staff will be required to participate in weekly surveillance testing, beginning Aug. 23. Students, staff and faculty who present proof of vaccination are not subject to weekly surveillance testing.

Thanks to the great success of many students, faculty and staff, UNCW has transitioned from a stellar regional university to a nationally ranked research institution. We are one of only three UNC System schools recognized among the 100 best public national universities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Earlier this year, we launched Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW, and thanks to the generosity of thousands of alumni, students, employees and donors, we are moving ever closer to our goal to raise at least $100 million in philanthropic support for scholarships, professorships, programs and other university priorities. Over the past few years, we have undertaken about $450 million in campus construction, dedicating our newest Student Housing Village on Monday, Aug. 16. Coming soon – a new dining hall, a film studies building, a coastal engineering building and, in the future, renovation of Randall Library. We have also launched several new, innovative academic programs, including our latest undergraduate degrees in cybersecurity and intelligent systems engineering.*

We are in a period of continued growth at UNCW, not just in programs, facilities and enrollment, but also in our way of thinking about how we can create a campus climate that is more inclusive, diverse and equitable so that every Seahawk will feel they belong and are valued. Know that your voices matter here. We are committed to doing the difficult, sometimes uncomfortable work of facing our history to build a hopeful future, challenging the persistent inequities that remain. Let’s all continue working together to create a college experience like no other at UNCW.

Our “Doctoral University: High Research Activity” designation has created opportunities for the university to build upon research across campus, expand our undergraduate research experiences, and grow our graduate and doctoral programs. New faces have joined the university’s leadership team. Provost Jamie Winebrake, who arrived at UNCW last year, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lowell Davis, who came to us three months ago, are innovative leaders. Their expertise will be invaluable to the university’s future.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge our faculty, staff and student leadership: Faculty Senate president, Nathan Grove (Department of Chemistry); the Staff Senate chair, Adam Clark (Business Affairs) and immediate past chair, Susan Smith (Student Affairs); and Student Government Association president, Robert Fensom. All these Seahawks will provide critical leadership and insight throughout the year ahead. I look forward to collaborating with them to help advance our collective goals.

One of our biggest goals in 2021-22 will involve crafting a new strategic plan to guide the next phase of UNCW’s growth. With support from Andy Mauk, associate provost for Institutional Research & Planning, Provost Winebrake, Nathan Grove and Susan Smith are co-chairing the comprehensive committee that is working collaboratively on this effort. When they request your input on strategic planning later this year, I encourage you to share your hopes and dreams for the university’s future with them.

In the coming days, you will receive another message focused on campus and personal safety, including various resources for you to refer to throughout the academic year. Students, when you attend off-campus events and activities in the weeks to come, please remember to make healthy choices. Follow local health and safety requirements. Wear your face covering indoors, wash your hands often and, as always, represent our university community to the best of your ability.

We are looking forward to a good semester at UNCW.

Go Seahawks!

Jose V. Sartarelli

* These programs are slated to start in fall 2022, pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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