Chancellor Henry delivers virtual address as spring 2021 semester begins next week

Chancellor Donna P. Henry prepared the campus for the Spring 2021 semester by virtually updating UVA Wise staff and faculty on the College’s continued health and safety plans for the COVID-19 pandemic, the enrollment outlook, and the upcoming early retirement of more than two-dozen employees.

Before Henry began her State-of-the-College address, she spoke to campus about the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and how the aftermath has gripped the nation. She said restoring the People’s House are tasks that await the nation, and she urged the College to reach out to students in coming days and weeks.

“As educators, we have our own tasks at hand,” Henry said. “Since we work with young people in various capacities, I believe that UVA Wise can be a force for good. I ask that we dedicate our work to rebuild and restore a sense of hope and optimism in the hearts and minds of the young people we serve and interact with daily, and I hope we can do that in classrooms, in athletics, in the halls of our buildings, and in the lectures and talks we host.”

As students prepare to return to class in coming days, Henry asked staff and faculty to be prepared for their questions, their disappointment, and even their anger.

“We should continue to lean into them, to inspire and to equip them with the knowledge and the skills to face a complex and changing world and to be the force for a better and kinder world,” Henry added.

On the COVID-19 issue, Henry thanked employees for their hard work to keep the campus and its students as safe as possible during in the fall semester. The region has positivity rates of 29.2 percent in Norton and 25.6 percent in Wise County over the recent 14-day period. UVA Wise has a 3 percent positivity rate in return to campus testing this month. There are no positive prevalence tests recorded so far this year.

The College will continue its testing of 7.5 percent of staff, faculty, and students each week during the spring semester. College employees and those with existing medical conditions will be eligible for vaccinations later in the spring as the Virginia Department of Health has outlined.

“It wasn’t easy, there were a few bumps, but we were able to maintain instruction and I believe we will come out of the pandemic a better institution of higher learning,” Henry said. “Given the success in the fall, at this time, we plan to proceed with our plan of on campus operations and classes. We have to be extra vigilant and compliant with safety guidelines. However, I also want to emphasize the need for great flexibility in accommodating staff, supervisors and colleagues as we all seek to be cautious.”

Other items in Henry’s address include:

  • A national search to replace the retiring vice chancellor for finance and administration and the vice chancellor for student affairs, both are retiring later this spring.
  • The athletic director will, as a NCAA best practice, report directly to the chancellor.
  • Joe Kiser is promoted to associate vice chancellor for finance and administration.
  • A new nursing department chair will be announced soon, and Ben Mays has been appointed chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

In enrollment matters, Henry said UVA Wise is on pace to match or exceed historic new enrollment for the spring semester. In addition, enrollment in the Appalachian Regional Commission area continues to grow.

In athletics, the College will be busy as all sports play in the spring semester, and testing of athletes will continue.

Henry ended her address by touting the generosity of UVA Wise employees in helping the local food bank and Smiddy’s Cupboard. She briefed the campus on the success of the Honor the Future Campaign. As of now, the College has raised $61,216,739 of the campaign goal of $100 million.

The spring semester begins the week of Jan. 18.