Montemorelos University (MU), a Seventh-day Adventist institution in Mexico overseen by the Inter-American Division (IAD), reported to its board at IAD year-end meetings the adjustments and strategies put in place after the school closed its campus at the start of the pandemic in April 2020 and transitioned to online classes for nearly a year.
At the meeting in early November 2021, board members were grouped in several different rooms to listen to MU professors speaking on aspects of the pandemic and how it has affected the school since March 2020.
Carlos Marcelo Moroni, head of the psychology department, said that students have had to deal with change and the death of family members during the pandemic. “Given that the school has a ‘guaranteed education initiative’ for every student to finish their studies once they enroll, many have not interrupted their studies because of lack of financial support from their parents or family members,” Moroni said. For example, if the primary source of financial support for a student, such as a parent or a grandparent, died from COVID-19, then the university would pay that student’s tuition so he or she can finish, he said.
So far, the university is taking care of 115 students who have faced challenges with financial difficulties, university leaders said.
The suspension of clinical practices in hospitals and institutions throughout the state of Nuevo Leon disrupted the requirements for psychology students, Moroni said. Plans were adjusted to coordinate the students’ clinical practice hours through the department’s family care center on campus. Leaders worked to adapt the social service hours required for the degree, he added. Professors also coordinated with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and organized some virtual appointments with people.
“Students were quick to adapt to online classes, and that allowed us to connect to so many more students uninterrupted with the technological advances the university invested in,” Moroni said. “Now we are finding that students are having difficulties in transitioning back to the classroom setting.”
According to Moroni, the pandemic seemed to add some walls and some difficulties at first. “Today, however, we find ourselves with still a few challenges, but we have found some bridges that unite us with our students and in further service to the church.”
University administrators reported that 2,791 students are enrolled in this school year. The campus is housing 450 students who returned to the campus in Montemorelos, and plans are for all students to return at the start of the second semester in January 2022. University leaders reported that strict measures have been ongoing on campus, including social distancing guidelines, coordination of meal delivery to students, and improved technological advances on campus, among others.
“We were the first university in Mexico with most of its students vaccinated, [as soon as] state officials offered to provide that service,” MU president Ismael Castillo said. “Our general assemblies are taking place with social distancing measures, and we are expecting to transition into having all of our students back at the start of the year ,” he said.
After less income coming in from several directions and extensive losses for many months, university administrators said that at the end of September, things were looking more positive financially.
Part of the school’s expansion plan includes a new research center on campus that is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2022.
Board members also voted on the institutional development plan of the university for the years 2021 to 2026, which encompasses a philosophical, strategic, operational, and evaluation framework derived from Scripture and inspired counsel.
MU leaders said that the university has an educational commitment that follows its vision statement and a series of institutional goals and work plans for each program, residence hall, cafeteria, and support area. The final version of the comprehensive institutional plan will be voted on in May 2022.