The challenges of mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic on a thriving urban campus are immense, and the Illinois Institute of Technology community has responded with a level of commitment and grace befitting a world-class university. On September 8 we welcomed students for the fall 2020 semester, nearly six months after the pandemic shifted our courses online. Many of our students moved into Mies Campus housing during the week of August 17, and our student body began two weeks of online coursework before beginning a hybrid academic program of on-campus and online studies. This semester we enrolled 514 new first-year students hailing from 33 states and 22 countries, with 32 percent of the class coming from underrepresented groups, 31 percent female, and 10 percent international.
Our dedicated faculty are teaching and conducting research remotely and in person, and the university has invested heavily in advanced learning platforms to make the educational experience seamless for students. While many of our essential employees who provide student services have been on campus throughout the pandemic, we have implemented a staggered return to campus for remaining staff that follows the state- and city-recommended occupancy rate. We have enacted random testing for COVID-19 within our community, and a robust COVID-19 educational program—including signage across campus, videos, a COVID-19 website, and regular university communication. We also optimized the building mechanical systems to ensure fresh air intake and circulation. As Illinois Tech is averaging a 1 percent infection rate since the start of the fall term, it is clear that we are taking this situation seriously.
Members of our community played an important role in fighting COVID-19. When Illinois faced a major shortage of viral transport medium for COVID-19 tests, officials turned to Illinois Tech to help secure the state’s testing supply. Faculty members joined together to donate to South Side food pantries that were in need of assistance. Also, alumni with the Illinois National Guard, Ford Motor Company, and a new startup, Opal, worked on projects to provide Chicago’s first drive-thru community-based testing site for COVID-19, personal protective equipment for first responders, and improved handwashing essentials.
I’m also pleased to share that in October, the Board of Trustees, led by Chairman Michael P. Galvin (LAW ‘78), voted unanimously on our $500 million fundraising campaign goal, which
will become the most substantial campaign in our university’s history. To date, our community of alumni and friends has already committed more than $300 million during the leadership phase of this campaign. For this to happen at a time when so many institutions are struggling is more affirmation that our strategic goals are clear and strong, and that our community is ready to pitch in and support our vision for Chicago’s tech rise.
Even as our world continues to experience unprecedented times, what has also continued here at Illinois Tech is our sense of community and “we are all in this together” attitude. I am proud of our university community for rallying together to continue teaching, learning, researching, working, and persevering despite the special challenges we have been facing. Through our alumni, faculty, and staff, we inspire students, and through our commitment to quality education, we chart a positive course for the future.
Alan W. Cramb