USC Upstate Announces “Spartan Safe Start” for Fall 2020

May 26, 2020 at 4:39 pm

Plan Calls for Safety Protocols and Expanded Options for Students

The University of South Carolina Upstate has announced its plan for a return to campus in August, as leaders continue to study data and trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Spartan Safe Start” plan places the health and safety of the campus community first, outlining an adaptable approach for welcoming students, faculty and staff back to campus. It details new options for teaching and learning that aim to provide a balance between a desire for on-campus learning and engagement while limiting the spread of the virus.

“Our primary goal is to provide the college experience that students and their families expect and deserve, while keeping the health and safety of students, faculty and staff as our highest priority,” said Interim Chancellor Derham Cole. “This thoughtful, data-driven plan provides choices for those who will need to be on campus while creating a critical sense of community for new freshmen and transfer students who may experience the university for the first time through blended and hybrid learning models. We will be intentional in reducing density in gathering spaces, including classrooms and residence halls. We will adapt to evolving health and safety standards, and we will continue to offer the personalized, student-centric experience for which this university has become known.”

USC Upstate’s Fall term will begin on time, on August 20. The “Spartan Safe Start” plan allows for increases or decreases in an on-campus presence in response to various benchmarks. The benchmarks will be developed by a COVID-19 Response Team led by Mary Bucher, APRN, director of Health Services, and comprised of representatives from across campus.

The plan calls for faculty to prepare courses in blended delivery modes, accommodating both students whose progression toward a degree depends on in-person classes as well as those who will choose to participate in remote learning. Cole says the university is investing in the technologies that will enable students to participate in synchronous, virtual instruction and that many classrooms will be upfitted over the summer.

“This type of virtual instruction allows faculty and students to interact in a classroom setting in real time,” said Cole. “A professor may lead a class with fewer students in the room, but with others engaging remotely. Technologies have progressed such that we can simulate closely what we think of as traditional classroom learning.”

Cole says that in addition to classroom innovations, USC Upstate will offer new ways to access student services that can be key to ensuring academic success. The university will increase the availability of “telehealth services” as well as “teleadvising,” “telefitness,” and even “teleleadership development.”

“It is crucial for our students and families to know that we can offer the same level of support we always have, that our dedication to preparing students for success upon graduation does not waver despite the challenges before us,” Cole explained. “As one of the top talent developers in the region, we understand that we have an obligation to our students and to the corporate and community leaders who hire so many of them. USC Upstate has very high placement rates in fields like nursing, education and business. We’re critical to the economic health of the Upstate region, now more than ever.”

Corporate and community partnerships have been integral to USC Upstate’s ability to deliver on its promise to students and employers. As a regional comprehensive, the university has unique opportunities to develop curriculum in direct response to employer need. One of those employers, the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, partnered with the university over the summer to provide a much-needed COVID testing site for the community, and hospital leaders say they will continue to support the university’s highly-regarded Mary Black School of Nursing, as well as working with campus health officials on testing, contact tracing, and caring for students and faculty who may become ill.

“Our connection with USC Upstate is long and deep,” said David Church, vice president of Oncology and Support Services for the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System and a member of the Spartanburg County Commission on Higher Education. “We share a commitment to serve the communities of the Upstate, and value the respective roles each plays in contributing to the region’s high quality of life. That relationship may be more important now than ever.” 

USC Upstate is well underway on campaigns to promote best practices and protocols for social distancing and other measures to limit transmissibility of the virus. University staff will return to campus in phases beginning on June 1, with supervisors having received training in how to ensure health and safety best practices in their departments.

“The resilience that our faculty, staff and students demonstrated this past spring shows that we can do anything to meet a challenge,” said David Schecter, USC Upstate’s new provost. “Students have so much to gain by continuing their studies with us this fall and reaching for that degree. We are so proud of them and cannot wait to welcome them back. Our passion for student success is second to none.”

“Our goal is to return to normal campus operations as soon as conditions permit,” added Cole. “At USC Upstate, we are ready for whatever circumstances await us in the fall, and to provide educational excellence in the safest manner possible.”

The “Spartan Safe Start” plan has been posted on the university website and shared with members of the campus community, and will be updated regularly. For more information about the plan, please visit:

Questions regarding Fall enrollment, financial aid, and housing may be directed to the Enrollment Services teams, Counselors and advisors are standing by, and virtual appointments are available on request.

USC Upstate will host a series of virtual Town Halls over the summer to address questions students and parents may have about returning to campus or remote learning options. Information about how to participate in the Town Hall meetings will be forthcoming.