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Dear Faculty and Staff,

As we get deeper into our second week of remote instruction, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the tremendous pivot that all of you have made over the last two weeks. While there have been glitches and wrinkles that are still being worked out, it is safe to say that this unplanned transition has gone about as smoothly as we could have hoped, due primarily to your creativity and hard work. In this time of rapid change, I have heard President Gestring and her cabinet repeatedly laud your care of our students at our daily planning meetings, and I want you to know that your extraordinary efforts have not gone unnoticed.

This is uncharted ground for all of us, and everyone is making important decisions on the fly. As you do that, I want to stress one underlying principle: do the right thing for our students. Some of them are facing enormous financial pressures. Others cannot reliably connect to the internet. Still others find themselves in unique personal situations that are difficult to address within established policies and procedures. Please be as creative and flexible as you can in finding ways for them to complete your courses without compromising academic integrity. Your extra effort may be exactly what they need right now to stay in school and on track to graduate.

Like our students, you are not in this alone. Please work with your chairs and deans on academic questions, feeling free to reach out directly to me if needed. For students facing financial obstacles, please contact Scott Pohlson, vice president of enrollment, marketing and university relations (Scott.Pohlson@usd.edu), who can help identify both university and USD Foundation resources that are being collected for this purpose. The staff in Student Services (deanofstudents@usd.edu) is also standing by to help students facing other personal challenges.

These are challenging times, but there are also things worth celebrating. You will soon receive an email from Academic Affairs announcing Virtual IdeaFest 2020. Starting April 7, I would encourage you to visit the IdeaFest website, where you will be able to access student abstracts, recorded presentations and more. This is a positive reminder for all of us of the amazing things that our students are able to accomplish because of the time and energy that you invest in them. Take some time from mastering that latest D2L function to enjoy their success.

Thanks for all that you do to make the University of South Dakota such a special place.

Dr. Kurt Hackemer
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of History