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April 1 Weekly Meeting With USU President Noelle Cockett

Tom Williams here with Utah State University President Noelle Cockett. President Cockett, thanks for taking some time again with us today.NC: My pleasure, always great to share news of Utah State with the UPR audience.

TW: Of course, the statewide mask mandate is likely to end on April 10. Any changes on mask requirements on USU campuses?


NC: We will still be requiring masks on our USU campuses and centers. And they'll be required in USU buildings and also in USU vehicles when there's more than one person. And while we know that people are getting tired of the masks, we also know that masks have been an incredibly important tool for us to reduce that risk of infection. Even as people are getting vaccinated, there's, you know, a lot of information that we need to continue with the mask. Because people who do get the vaccination can still be infected, maybe not as severe of symptoms, but because they can be infected, they can still pass the virus. 

So, we want to finish spring semester strong. We don't want to have to go to remote. We want to continue to plan the activities and events that our students and faculty and staff have organized. We want to continue with our in-person graduation ceremony for the 2021 class. We want to have those graduates be able to invite their two guests and see them in person. All of these things are contingent on us keeping the infection rate low and we believe masks are that really, really important tool. So will we, you know, reduce the need to mask? Oh, I'm absolutely sure. But not on April 10.

TW: It's been about a year, of course, right, since COVID really hit? As you look back, what's the top thing or couple of top things that you think about?

NC: You know, I think it's how people came together to develop the solution. I mean, you know, we were kind of chuckling there the other day, that it was about the 14th of March when we heard from the governor he wanted all of the public higher ed institutions to go to remote learning. And so we spent, you know, we dismissed class Thursday, Friday, Monday to get ready. We were having multiple meetings. But, you know, the CDC had not come out with their guidelines on social distancing and masks. What they were telling us was sanitize, right? So we're all in the Champ Hall, you know, no masks, because we didn't know about them, and sitting right next to each other, but the room just reeked of alcohol and hand sanitizer. So as each, you know, bit of information came, we got the best people on it, we developed processes, policies, procedures, and it's the heart, I think, of what a university can do when given, you know, a direction. We made it happen and we made it happen with success. 

So it's a thank you to all our staff and our faculty, our community, and our students. You know, keeping that overarching goal, to keep our education, our research and our outreach going, even though the delivery of all of those things was altered. And I see that light at the end of the tunnel just gets brighter and brighter. And I'm confident that we're coming out of it, and we're going to be as strong as ever. And that is a terrific feeling.

TW: Anything else you'd like to say today?

NC: Well, we're open. We're having classes, we see more and more activities, but safely delivered. Summer's a little quiet around here. We'll continue to have a whole array of online classes as we normally do, as well as with some smaller classes here on campus. And then fall, while we may still have masks, even more activities, more people in the classroom, more people on campus, it's gonna feel great. 

TW: We’ve been talking with the Utah State University President Noelle Cockett. President Cockett, great to have you with us as always, thank you so much.

NC: Yes, my pleasure.

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.