On a quiet Saturday morning, RSU President Larry Rice announced plans to resume classes and normal university operations for the fall 2020 semester. This comes three days after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt released the state’s “Open Up and Recover Safely” plan.
In an email to all student, Rice stated it is RSU’s intentions “to return to in-person educational operations on all three campuses, including traditional instruction and residential life this fall.” Rice acknowledged the “uncertainty and significant hardship” that members of the university and that community have felt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rice outlined that “adapting class schedules, utilizing the continued practice of social distancing, and extensive cleaning of buildings and residence halls” will be part of the university’s reopening plans. These are similar to other strategies adopted by other universities governed by the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents.
This announcement has been welcomed by many students who have found relief in sharing their frustrations about online classes through social media such as TikTok.
“The thing I enjoy about college the most is the campus atmosphere and I’ll be really thankful to see my friends, go to events, and continue life this fall,” said RSU student Nathaniel Morgan.
This sentiment has been shared by many RSU students who have found themselves in a semester that has been rocked by continuous change.
“I am all in favor of it,” said RSU student Indy McNutt who expressed a skeptical optimism about the announcement. “I’m not holding my breathe because the decision made could change six times between now and August.”
In his email, Rice stated his pride in the RSU community. “I am proud of how our RSU family has come together to rise to these challenges, and I look forward to the day when we will all be together again, safely, this fall,” said Rice.
Gallery: Students Return To Campus for First Day
RSU Announces #HealthyHillcats and Required Masks
Earlier this past week, RSU finalized plans for the fall semester. As a part of its coronavirus response plans, RSU will require masks, end their fall semester online, and reduced dining capacity. This is a part of their #HealthyHillcat social campaign.
“We are less than a month away from the beginning of the fall semester and each passing day is a mixture of hopeful anticipation and new unexpected challenges. This year will look very different,” said RSU President Larry Rice
RSU joins a growing list of Oklahoma colleges requiring face coverings for the fall semester. Since June 30, RSU employees have been required to wear masks according to a new employee policy.
Students will be expected “to wear a mask inside University buildings and outdoors on campus when a social distance of at least six feet is not possible.”
RSU has moved forward with a recommendation to end their in-person semester early and finish online. Following Thanksgiving, RSU will transition to one week of online instruction and continue online for finals week.
While no decisions to change class schedules have been announced, the university’s webpage for the coronavirus resources suggests modifying upperclassmen courses for hybrid and online delivery is an option.
Dining facilities at RSU will operate a reduced capacity and are encouraging take-out options.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Editor’s note: this story was updated at 8:56 a.m. on July 20, 2020 to include a statement by RSU President Larry Rice.
Allied Health Degree Becomes Fastest Growing Program at RSU
It is a story 29 years in the making and involves an Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame inductee. Brian Coley serves as the lead instructor for the Allied Health, B.S., program. Last year, Coley approached the School of Professional Studies with an idea to expand RSU’s offerings of health science degrees.
Coley spoke to School of Professional Studies Dean Susan Willis, and together, they worked to establish an allied health program that will prepare RSU students for a variety of healthcare careers and graduate degrees.
“I’m at a part of my career where I want to work with and teach students before they go onto their master’s,” described Coley. The allied health program offers options in athletic training, physical therapy, and occupational therapy and currently has over 90 declared students.
Licensure in Oklahoma as an athletic trainer requires individuals to possess a bachelor’s degree. However, an increasing number of athletic training positions are requiring master’s degrees. This is where Coley saw an opportunity.
“9% of our high schools [in Oklahoma] have certified athletics trainers,” said Coley. The demand for them is increasing. Over the next eight years, the United States Labor of Bureau Statistics expects the profession to grow by 19%.
Currently, only three Oklahoma universities offer a graduate degree in athletic training. Coley explained the curriculum for RSU’s allied health program aligns with the prerequisite courses for Oklahoma State University, University of Tulsa, and University of Central Oklahoma.
Courses RSU students will take include: Biomechanics, Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, and Methods of Strength and Conditioning. Coley explained longterm plans to eventually embed a strength and conditioning certification into the degree. “We want to make sure they’re prepared,” said Coley, “there is a shortage in physical therapy.”
Mya Hilderbrand, a junior studying allied health, described her experiences in the program. “I took a sports medicine class in high school and really enjoyed it…. when I came to RSU they only had a fitness management degree, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
“Then, my sophomore year I heard RSU adopted the allied health program, and it offered the exact degree I wanted. So far, the program has been amazing. Professor Coley, the main director of the program, has done an amazing job.
“He is extremely informative and prefers to do a lot of hands-on activities, which important for this field of work. He also cares a great deal about his students and offers any help they may need,” said Hilderbrand.
Allied health students can expect a hands-on experience with opportunities for field experience. Whether a student is “in a clinic, on the sideline” or helping at the Hillcat Fun Run, they will have the opportunity to practice their skills. The end goal is students to “walk into their first [graduate] class, and they’re ready to go,” said Coley.
Students interested in the Allied Health, B.S., program should visit the Department of Health Sciences website or consult their academic advisor.